Double Title Baseball Novels for Fans and Non-Fans


Rajani LaRocca’s “So Ado About Baseball” begins with the line “Baseball is magic” and is narrated in successive episodes by the crazy Trish shooting and Ben, who used to shoot but now plays first base. In addition to the wonders of the game, readers will encounter magical delights such as fairy dust, Fountain of Youth, Books of Power, and lightly poisoned snacks. In other words, a story that has a lot to offer those less interested in baseball.

Trish, whose family is Native American, has just arrived in town and can’t wait to make friends who share her dual love for baseball and math. Presented in white, Ben plays baseball for the first time since a traumatic game two years ago, followed by the death of his grandmother, Beth, who became his inspiration as a baseball player.

I’m a “math kid” too, and both he and Trish are the recipients of a mysterious gift: a math puzzle book. Except for a single puzzle, the books are empty; when one is solved, the other is revealed. Having math puzzles in a book about baseball, by far the happiest sport, seems completely organic.

Trish and Ben grapple with magic puzzles, baseball season, and some non-magical challenges with their parents. Trish’s mother is the chief of cardiology at Boston General Hospital and never finds time to attend the games, while Ben’s father is such an enthusiastic coach that Ben feels pressured to perform. Trish also struggles with a secret that could change how her friends and loved ones feel about her.

The title of the book, of course, hints at a Shakespearean connection, taking a thread from LaRocca’s accompanying novel “The Midsummer Mayhem.” Periodically, three strangers appear: Rob, Luna and Mr. O – mysterious figures who may or may not have an impact on the games. Shakespeare buffs will get to know Robin Goodfellow, Moth, and Oberon for their machinations in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with a little help from “Much Ado About Nothing.” While these classic Elizabethan comedies provide layers of anticipation and resonance for adults, younger readers unfamiliar with Shakespeare may be stunned by the magical characters.

But the books we read as children are much more than just the fun of the moment. They occupy a privileged place in our memories, so most of us can remember our favorite childhood stories and poems half a century later. Children who enjoy “So Ado About Baseball” may experience the opposite of adults’ reaction: When they encounter Shakespeare later in life, they may feel a pang of recognition. (I’ve read this somewhere before.) For book lovers, this feeling is as welcome as a chance meeting with an old friend.

The plague of first-person narrative that has crept in over the decades from adult and young adult literature to mid-range novels, including these two titles, often results in intermediate protagonists whose self-awareness challenges credibility. Children have complex thoughts and deep emotions, and the authors understandably want to portray them as more intelligent than most adults admit. But there’s a difference between feeling something and being able to express it, and the trick is to create heroes whose motivations are as effective as adults who have had years of therapy.


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