Batter up! It’s another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!
I’ve read at least a dozen books the past ten years about the new kid at school. The story usually begins after the family has moved to a new state and community. Next comes school with the main character facing many challenges. POP FLIES, ROBO-PETS, and OTHER DISASTERS puts a unique twist on this plot line.
Japanese thirteen-year-old Satoshi Matsumoto has lived in Atlanta the past three years. His dad was transferred there for a temporary work position. Satoshi loves baseball and had become a star on his Atlanta middle-school baseball team. Now that Dad’s work is complete the family moves back to rural Japan. The story begins here and this is the twist that makes this plot shine,
Satoshi feels like a stranger in Japan and his classmates don’t like this new Americanized version of the boy they knew from elementary school. Playing on the school’s baseball team should help—or will it? A huge mistake in a game leads to deeper trouble.
The first person POV is relayed through Satoshi. He has a special needs sister and a Grandfather with challenges of his own. It’s an eye-opening view of life in Japan with the popular sport of baseball as a backdrop. Don’t worry if you aren’t a fan of the sport. There’s plenty going on outside the playing field including broken friendships and family worries. A compelling story for girls and boys.
PAGE COUNT: 208 BOOK BIRTHDAY: March 3, 2020
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT
POP FLIES, ROBO-PETS, and OTHER DISASTERS by Suzanne Kamata
Grandpa and Satoshi have a special bond with their love of baseball. Grandpa has memory issues and keeps a motorized pet near his side as a companion. Many special moments between a boy and his ailing Grandpa.
Depiction of life in Japan is an element readers will enjoy. Of course there’s a look at school, but also trips to the mall and barber shop (bozu cut!). Both similar and very different from what kids experience in America.
I hadn’t come across the use of a robotic pet to help with the mental health of seniors. For Grandpa it is a robotic seal keeping him company. An interesting and revealing plot point.
The baseball games aren’t a slow inning by inning calling of plays. They move swiftly to the outs and hits that make a difference to keep readers engaged.
The 36 chapters are short and perfect as a read aloud in the classroom or at home when you have just a spare ten minutes to fill.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From her author website)
Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children.
Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including Real Simple, Brain, Child, Cicada, and The Japan Times. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival, and winner of a SCBWI Magazine Merit Award.
I received a copy of the book to prepare this critique. Feel free to comment below.