Saturday, June 25, 2011

A great YA summer read - Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr.

Author: Cal Ripken, Jr.
Publisher Format: Hyperion books, Listening Library (audio) 2:50 hrs, 144 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: sportsmanship in youth sports and life
Setting: Anytown USA
Genre: YA fiction
Source: public library download
Rating: 3.8 of 5
Recommended: for young and not so young readers who love baseball


I grew up in Baltimore - home of the Baltimore Orioles and world famous shortshop Cal Ripken, Jr.  So this was a no brainer for me when it popped up on the new list on the library download program.  It's a short but fun book geared to young readers who are moving from the non-competitive levels of baseball into Little League or higher organized forms of the game.

The story centers on Connor Sullivan, a talented Babe Ruth league shortstop who has great difficulty accepting his imperfections. Whenever something goes wrong--he fails to hit the ball, he drops a ball he should have fielded, etc-- an explosion is sure to follow. Even being removed from the game and threatened with suspension from further play does not seem to help him control his "hot head."  Worried about troubles at home-- his father is out of work, his mother is working double shifts to try to keep the roof over their heads, and neither seems to have much time to spare for him--Connor is ashamed to share any of those concerns with his coaches or teammates, so the internal pressure ends up escaping in Vesuvian explosions.

Enter Melissa Monroe - A GIRL - who is a reporter for the school newspaper. Is she friend or foe? Will her stories about Connor and his antics make things worse? Or will her "interviews"- allowing Connor to talk about the external pressures in his life--help Connor to understand his behavior?

This one is geared to grades 5-9, but is an enjoyable read for anyone in the family who loves the National Pastime. The baseball clich├Ęs abound, and you can smell the grass and the hot dogs, and hear the crowd roar. A perfect short, sweet, summer read.

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