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What's the story?
Michael, an unusually talented 12-year-old pitcher on his Little League team, has a lot going on at home that only his best friend Manny and the kindly lady upstairs in his apartment building, Mrs. C., know about. Born in Cuba, Michael lost his mother to cancer when he was very young. His father brought Michael and his brother Carlos to America with the hope of seeing Michael pitch in the Little League World Series. Now his father is dead too, and and he and Carlos are trying to keep it a secret until Carlos, just months shy of his 18th birthday, can legally assume custody of Michael. But Children's Services are getting suspicious, and a rival coach and player have accused Michael of being older than he claims, causing him to be suspended until he can find proof. Something needs to go right -- and soon.
Is it any good?
Even with all life's hardships and heartbreak, this book reaffirms that it's still a beautiful world. It sounds like a classic setup at first: poor, orphaned, but surprisingly cheerful and well-adjusted boy triumphs -- with the help of family love and good friends -- over insurmountable odds, including the devious, mean rich coach of the rival team and his spoiled son. It's a cliché from start to finish, right? So why doesn't it feel that way?
Partly, it's because sportswriter Mike Lupica's muscular prose shines on the ballfield. Partly, it's because the author knows that a truly satisfying ending has nothing to do with winning a ballgame. And, partly, it's because clichés get used a lot because they work. It's precisely the familiarity, the predictability, and the lack of realism that make this so affecting.
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