Monday, March 10, 2008

Linda Sue Park is Keeping Score

Non Fiction Monday has been temporarily interrupted by 15 inches of snow (see pictures at A Year of Reading) we now return you to your previously scheduled blog. If you wish to see Non Fiction Monday, please go here.

In keeping with the accidental theme of baseball here at Literate Lives, Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park uses the lost art of scoring a baseball game as the catalyst for a story of growing up, baseball, and war tragedy set in 1950s Brooklyn.

It's great when award winning authors go a completely different direction when writing a book. A Single Shard by Park is one of my all time favorite Newbery winners. I was very excited to see this new title from her on my library shelf.

A Single Shard takes place in ancient Korea. Keeping Score is set in 1950s Brooklyn, a time when baseball really was America's past time and the people of New York had three teams to cheer for, the dreaded Yankees, the Giants and the favorite of Maggie-o and her brother, the Dodgers, affectionately known as Dem Bums.

Maggie's full name is Margaret Olivia which her father, a Yankees fan, shortens to Maggie-o a form of DiMaggio, one of his favorite players. Maggie's father is a firefighter who is now stationed at a desk job due to an injury. Maggie continues her friendship with the guys at her father's old station which is just down the block. When a new guy, Jim, reports for duty at the station Maggie strikes up a friendship with him even if he is a fan of the Giants. Both are baseball lovers and even though Maggie isn't allowed to play (she's a girl, it's the 1950s) she knows as much about the game as any of the boys on her block. Jim teaches her to keep the score sheet while listening to games on the radio. Maggie is instantly hooked by the "secret code" of the baseball score book even if it means she has to listen to the Giants.

When Jim gets drafted and sent to Korea, Maggie writes him faithfully and he responds faithfully until a battlefield incident leaves him with battle fatigue syndrome and he stops communicating with everybody. In all honesty, this is the part of the story where things bogged down for me a bit. Not that I need for everything to end happy and wonderful, the whole story just seemed to drag through this part. It comes out the other side in fine form, and the end of Keeping Score is realistic and satisfying.

I really liked the portrayal of 1950s America with its innocence and love of baseball. I loved the multicultural community that was Brooklyn. Maggie's dad is Italian and her mom is a first generation Irish immigrant. Park creates this setting so the reader can get lost in it, and wish for a time when kids could be free to walk to the corner store and buy some good candy for a dime, or spend time with friends in the park without adult supervision all of the time. Overall, I liked this book and will recommend it to my better fourth grade readers and all fifth grade readers.

I may even brush up on my baseball scoring this summer as I watch my Cleveland Indians, another "wait 'til next year" team just like Dem Bums!

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