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Shakespeare Bats Cleanup
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What's the story?
Kevin is a great baseball player -- until he's sidelined with mono. Forced to spend weeks in bed, out of boredom he picks up a journal his father gives him and starts experimenting with writing poetry, first free verse, then various forms that he picks up from a book on poetry he finds on his father's shelves. He writes about his life, his illness, and his mother's death.
Soon he's hooked, and even when he gets well and gets back to regular life, he finds that he can't stop writing, even in the dugout. Though teased by his teammates, his love of writing is noticed by others, including a beautiful new girl in school who is attracted by the idea of a boy with brains and sensitivity.
Is it any good?
Kevin's laid-back, humorous personality gives this book a warm, light touch, even when dealing with a serious issue. Though Kevin is coping with his mother's death, by the time the book starts he's past the worst of it, and just feeling a sense of loss and a vague melancholy. But most of the book is concerned with his life, his attempts to get it back after the disease passes, and the new layers writing has added. It's a delightful confection.
Haiku, sonnet, pantoum, ballad, blank verse, sestina, rhymed couplets, and pastoral are just some of the forms Kevin tries, along with learning about rhythm, meter, and types of rhyme. The plot proceeds in the poetry, the poetry is integral to the plot, and the two together form a seamless whole that is accessible even to reluctant readers. The writing is believably that of a young teen; one can see progression in his skill, and the voice is real. It's about as well done as a novel in verse can be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about poetry. Which poem in the book was your favorite? What did you enjoy about it -- the use of form, the subject matter, both? What types of poetry do you enjoy reading and writing? Do you find some subjects better suited to certain forms of poetry than others?