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Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature)
With a girls softball competition as the setting, Wolff probes into issues of racial prejudice, illegitimacy, and life in a small town. It is 1949 and Aki and her family have returned to town after spending several years in a Japanese internment camp. Also new in town is Shirley, "aka Shazam," whose father was killed during the war. The story of the annual baseball competition, Shazam's attack on Aki and all that surrounds it, is told through the mouths of each of the team members. It is fascinating, and readers are quickly pulled into the story. The grammar and vocabulary shift with the speaker, which sometimes makes the reading difficult, but the effort is worth it. 1998, Scholastic, $16.95. Ages 11 up.
CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1998)
Effective use of multiple perspectives serves both to tell the story and tie theme into structure of this unusual and provocative novel set in 1949. The annual softball game each May between the sixth grade girls of Barlow and Bear Creek Ridge is the biggest event of the year in the two communities. But that year, 1949, something terrible happens during the game, and as the novel begins the girls from both teams have agreed to each tell their own parts of a story that stretches back to the start of the school year and farther in order to try to make sense of what happened. Each of the teams had a new player at the start of the school year. In Bear Creek Ridge, it is Aki, whose family has just returned to the community after years away, most of them spent in a Japanese American internment camp. The new player in Barlow is Shazam, an odd, out-of-synch girl who, it turns out, has been shuttled from place to place ever since her father was killed in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The players on the two teams number more than 20, and Virigina Euwer Wolff has made them each part of a narrative in which the whole transcends the individual voice as the girls piece together why Shazam viciously attacked Aki at the game. At the same time, the individual lives of the various girls are distinct, and in addition to exploring issues of race and prejudice, the narrative portrays the barriers between rich and poor among the many girls as well. Rich period details, such as the arrival of the first refrigerator for one girl and her family, heighten the reading experience of the novel. Younger readers may find it difficult to tell the many players apart despite these distinctions in their lives. There is a roster for each team at the beginning of the book and each speaker is clearly identified, but it is difficult to always remember which team she is on. What readers may discover as the narrative progresses, however, is that it doesn't really matter. They are all part of a larger community that is woven out of the truth of their collective voice. Honor Books, CCBC Newbery Award CCBC categories: Fiction for Children. 1998, Scholastic, 230 pages, $16.95. Ages 10-14.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1998)
In Bear Creek Ridge and Barlow, two small Oregon towns, everyone is looking forward to the Bat 6 girls' softball game of 1949. Both towns make plans to cheer the sixth graders on, all in the name of good, clean fun. This simple, small-town portrait of Americana is shattered, however, when a racial incident occurs at the 50th annual game: One player, Shirley, whose father was killed at Pearl Harbor, slams her elbow into the face of Aki, a Japanese-American. It brings the game to a halt, and inspires the townspeople to debate and examine what exactly has gone wrong in the years since WW II ended. Guilt hangs over both towns: Could anyone have prevented the incident? Shirley had not concealed her hatred of "Japs," yet no one had believed that such a troubled girl would act on her feelings. Through the first-person narrations of the 21 girls of the two teams, the story emerges, and while few of the voices are truly distinct, their emotions and perspectives ring true. Wolff (Make Lemonade, 1993, etc.) is especially deft in creating a transforming, bittersweet post-war atmosphere and winning portraits of members of the communities who support, respect, and encourage their young girls, but come to question their own roles in the tragedy. 1998, Scholastic, $16.95. © 1998 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Wolff's (Make Lemonade) ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful novel explores prejudice via a baseball game between the sixth grade girls of Bear Creek Ridge and Barlow Road Grade Schools on May 28, 1949. "Now that it's over, we are telling. We voted to, it's fairer than not," begins Tootie, the catcher for Bear Creek Ridge, in what appears to be the start of a series of flashback testimonials. But not all of the 21 girls' accounts adhere to this format, and readers never discover whom the girls are addressing. Some of the characters speak only a few times, and since readers never get to know them, their voices run together in a miscellany. The actual conflict--when Shazam, whose father died at Pearl Harbor, in a run to first base, assaults Aki, the Japanese first baseman--occurs more than halfway through the book. The most distinct voices belong to Shazam (who speaks in a stream-of-consciousness style, "Sneaky Japs never warned nobody they snuck behind our backs dropped bombs right in my fathers ship the Arizona he was down in it without no warning") and to Aki, whose perspective is markedly different from the other girls'. Shazam exposes much of her troubled background through her narratives, and Aki reveals some fascinating cultural details as well as provides insight into life in an internment camp. However, because readers are only acquainted with the two through a few lengthy accounts interspersed among the other 19 girls, the change in both of them (especially in Shazam) at story's end seems sudden and hollow. While readers cannot help but admire the stalwart Aki, they will likely walk away from this book trying to make sense of who these characters were and what they were trying to say. Ages 10-13. (May)
Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June 1998 (Vol. 51, No. 10))
Bat 6, an annual girl’s softball competition between rival California towns of Barlow and Bear Creek Ridge, has for decades been a source of civic pride in the two communities and an honor to the girls who play in it. The fiftieth match in 1949 ends in tragedy and shame, though, when Barlow’s center fielder, Shazam, purposely and seriously injures Ridge first baseman, Aki. Through the authentically drawn testimonies of each player on the teams, Wolff reconstructs the events which led to the assault and their hidden roots in World War II. Shazam, whose father was killed at Pearl Harbor, has been taught all her life to blame all Japanese for his death; Aki, whose family was interned in a camp during the war, has not fully reacclimated to her old community. Although the players blame themselves for ignoring a myriad of faint “signs” that Shazam is a deeply troubled child, it becomes clear that the adults in the two towns are more culpable; in their haste to return to normalcy after the war, they have swept all unpleasantness under the rug, out of their children’s sight. Although they welcome Aki’s family back to the neighborhood, they do not openly acknowledge their shame over the internment; although they pity Shazam’s widowed mother, they whisper about her “loose” morals with ill-concealed glee. This is a gripping confrontation of the war wounds suffered after armistice by those who never held, or even saw, a weapon. (Reviewed from galleys) Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 1998, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1998, Scholastic, 240p, $16.95. Grades 5-9.
Bill Mollineaux (VOYA, June 1998 (Vol. 21, No. 2))
When Wolff begins her novel with "Now that it's over, we are telling," and throughout the story has several characters rightly blaming themselves for not seeing "it," the reader is hooked and stays hooked. For forty-nine years, the women of the rural Oregon towns of Barlow and Bear Creek Ridge have held an annual softball game, originally and successfully initiated by the women to bring the arguing men of these two towns together. After all, how could they watch an entire softball game without speaking to each other? Eventually, the game came to be played by the sixth-grade girls of each town's grade school. The fiftieth anniversary game was to be very special, and it proved to be...in an unexpected way. During the year, each team receives a new player good enough to make the difference between winning and losing. For Bear Creek Ridge it is Aki Mikami, who has returned to town with her Japanese family following their World War II exile in a detention camp. Meanwhile, Shirley, better known as Shazam, comes to the Barlow team, arriving in town to live with her grandmother. Shazam turns out to be more than Captain Marvel's magic lightning; it is she who causes "it," which the twenty-one players in this game describe, each from her own perspective. Extremely slow in school and emotionally troubled, Shazam lives with her grandmother while her mother "gets back on her feet." Troubled by the fact that her father was killed at Pearl Harbor, she is filled with hatred toward the Japanese. As the story unfolds, this hatred is revealed in her reactions to seeing a six-year-old Japanese boy in the schoolyard, an elderly Japanese man visit a friend's house, Aki in a Christmas pageant, and Aki extend her hand in the preliminaries before the big game. So indelibly is December 7, 1941, burned into Shazam's mind that she chooses jersey number 7 as her uniform. Finally, as she runs to first base in the game, her festering hatred erupts as she deliberately elbows Aki in the head, seriously injuring her. Concomitantly, Wolff paints a picture of small-town America in the forties that shows its beliefs, attitudes, and values, including the effects of the G. I. Bill, having a child out of wedlock, racial and religious prejudice, and the consequences of being a conscientious objector. Two books that complement this one are Jean Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston's Farewell to Manzanar (Houghton, 1973, pb. reissue Bantam, 1983) and Ken Mochizuki's picture book Baseball Saved Us (Lee & Low, 1993). VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 1998, Scholastic, 240p., $16.95. Ages 11 to 15.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ7.W82129 Bat 1998