Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters

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.

81KzoFlZKnL.jpgJapanese 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



292673Grandpa 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.

292673Depiction 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.

292673I 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.

292673The 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.

292673 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.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters

  1. Natalie Aguirre says:

    Interesting about the robotic pet. And how interesting that the story is about Satoshi moving back to Japan rather than trying to adjust in the U.S. That is a different twist on the story.

  2. I love baseball, and I think the perspective of viewing the sport from Japan rather than the United States is intriguing. I’ll definitely give this one a try. Thanks for bringing it to our attention for MMGM, Greg!

  3. Danielle Hammelef says:

    My grandpa has a robotic cat that he keeps with him. If he leaves it alone too long, it meows for attention. Pet it and it purrs. This is apparently a tool well-known to gereatric care givers. Anything Japan has me wanting to read it. I love the culture (my best friend is Japanese) and the food is my favorite.

  4. I keep telling my daughters that my next dog will be an Aibo, and they give me all kinds of grief. It was interesting to see the robotic seal portrayed. This book had a lot of interesting levels to it.

  5. This book has an interesting twist that we don’t read frequently in books — Satoshi coming to America and then returning home and having a time adjusting. I really think I’d enjoy reading this book — and the robotic pet is an interesting idea. My son has returned to India twice after we adopted him at age 13. He is so Americanized, that he relates more to the students studying/traveling abroad. He has an accent in both English and Tamil. His culture doesn’t know what to make of him and ask him — what language do you speak. But, he was a young adult when he visited — even took computer classes there for 6 months.

  6. I love stories about grandparents and grandkids. The robotic seal sounds very interesting. And the fact that it’s Japan that has such a thing doesn’t surprise me!

  7. Jenni says:

    This sounds like an interesting twist on the kid moving to a new place trope. Love that it’s set in Japan. And robotic pets! So cool!

  8. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This sounds like such a great book! I’ve read books about people from other countries having trouble fitting in in America, but I haven’t seen books about people not fitting in after moving back from America to somewhere else. Also, the idea of a robotic seal as a companion for older people sounded familiar, so I Googled it, and such a robot (called Paro) was actually developed in Japan several decades ago! Thanks for the great review!

  9. This does sound like a truly different take on an age-old problem. Thanks for the heads up. I will look for this one. You know I can’t resist a baseball book.

  10. Sue Heavenrich says:

    I’m always game for a new baseball story! This looks fun.

  11. Stephanie@Fairday's Blog says:

    I hadn’t heard of this one before- but it sure sounds good. I like the premise and the twists sound fun and interesting. I have a lot of students who love baseball books, so this seems like one they will like. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

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