Baseball Great

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Baseball Great Book Poster Image
Clunky but taut story of Little League steroids.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Josh tries to do what is right, without hurting his father.

Violence

A bloody fistfight in a bathroom. An adult goes after a child with a baseball bat but doesn't catch her.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Cookie, car, gum, sportswear, cereal, soda, drugstore brands mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teen smokes; beer, whiskey, and chewing tobacco are mentioned. The main plot revolves around a coach who is giving his young players steroids.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a story about an adult coach who gives steroids to the children on his under-14 baseball team. The main character doesn't take them and works to stop the coach. There's also a short but nasty fistfight in a public bathroom.

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What's the story?

When Josh's father, a minor-league baseball player, is cut from his team, he gets a job with an under-14 championship traveling team, and pushes Josh into joining. Despite grueling practices and some hazing, Josh is beginning to fit in. But then he is offered steroids by one of the other kids, steroids that the other players use, and that presumably come from the intense and somewhat scary coach -- who is now his father's employer.

Is it any good?

Author Tim Green is not yet a great writer, but he is a terrific storyteller. And when you have a plot this compelling it almost doesn't matter that the prose sometimes sounds like the stuff of a freshman composition class ("like biting into a ruby red apple only to find a brown worm crawling through the crisp, white fruit"). Yikes! But a few pages in and young readers won't care -- they'll be hooked by the suspenseful, ripped-from-the-headlines story, doled out in teeny chapters with artificial mini-cliffhangers at the end of each.

They also won't care that the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes (the bully, the obsessed coach, the modest boy-wonder and his sidekick, the tough teen girl reporter/detective with a heart of gold, etc.) -- because they're good stereotypes. They're satisfying. Josh is a major talent who also works harder than anyone else, and the story of his triumphs is like a realistic wish-fulfillment fantasy, a down-to-earth superhero story.

From the Book:
When he saw his home, a narrow, red two-story place with a steep roof and a sagging front porch, he breathed deep, and his heart began to slow. The previous owner had three pit bulls, and so a chain-link fence surrounded the house and its tiny front and back lawns, separating them from the close-packed neighbors on either side. The driveway ran tight to the house, and like the single, detached garage, it was just outside the fence. Josh lifted the latch, but as he pulled open the front gate, a hand appeared from nowhere, slamming it shut. The latch clanked home, and the hand spun Josh around. "What you running from?" asked Bart Wilson, the tenth-grade smoker.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the main issue raised here. Why are steroids banned? Should they be allowed? Why or why not? Since they are banned, why do athletes keep using them?

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