Shakespeare Bats Cleanup

Poetry helps a jock get well -- and get the girl.

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Not applicable

Making out, kissing with tongue, getting to second base all mentioned.

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Office supply stores mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that many types of poetry are discussed and modeled, perhaps prompting some readers to try some of their own. The power of words and writing to help us deal with life is shown (not to mention that writing poetry gets Kevin a terrific girlfriend!).

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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?


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.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Ron Koertge
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:August 16, 2004
Number of pages:116

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byPieater March 18, 2010
age 10+


It's a sweet, light read. Enjoyable but not touching. I would recommend it to anyone between ten and fourteen.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
age 0+

This is a must read for boys and girls

This book is filled with real life events of a tween or middle schooler.... every one knows how it feels to not be able to play a sport they love to play because they have a injury or health issue, in this case the young boy is on the baseball team and then gets told he has mono and won't be able to play... while he is recuperating he switched to poetry and figures out he really likes releasing his feelings in that way.... This is a must read for anyone, parents, grandparents, boy or girls


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