Children’s Fiction of 2008: Six Innings by James Preller

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” ~Jackie Robinson

Another baseball book, also somewhat philosophical, but definitely all-boy. Earl Grubb’s Pool Supplies plays Northeast Gas & Electric in the Little League championship game, six innings of tension, hope, disappointment, and fun. Sam, the announcer for the game, has his best friend, Mike, on the Earl Grubb team, but Sam, in addition to trying to maintain his neutrality as he calls the play-by-play, is dealing with his own disappointment about not being out on the field playing in the game himself.

We get a glimpse into the lives and motivations of each of the boys on the Earl Grubb team, as well as Sam, as the author takes us through six innings of action-packed, pressure-filled Little League baseball. This story is even more baseball-intensive than Keeping Score, but if you like baseball and fiction, 2008 looks like a very good year for you. (Mike Lupica also published a baseball book this year, The Big Field, that looks good, too.) Six Innings is a little heavy on the sports details for me, and I started to skim at times only to go back and make sure I hadn’t missed any details of the boys’ thoughts and emotions and backgrounds.

I was impressed by how well Mr. Preller was able to get me involved in the six innings of a game I’m not particularly interested in and have me rooting for the Pool Supplies team while at the same time understanding how important such a game can be for all the boys and coaches involved. If you know any Little Leaguers, especially boys, Six Innings might be just the thing to get them interested in reading.

No scandals or even bad sportsmanship. A little bit of boylike crudity (slapping someone’s butt, jokes about earwax, that sort of thing), lots of baseball jargon and baseball platitudes, and mostly good clean fun.

Other reviews of Six Innings:

Ed Goldberg at Young Adult (and Kids) Books Central: “Six Innings isn’t just about baseball, although the pages are filled with the tension, action, fears and thoughts of the game and its players. There are amazing catches, exciting plays, powerful hits and strong pitching. Preller also delves into the hearts and minds of Little League players.”

Betsy’s Blog: “Along with a pretty exciting play-by-play of the game, the book lets you peek into the worries and joys of the boys playing, revealing their feelings for baseball and the off-field struggles that are on their minds.”

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