by Vince Vawter
"An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend's paper route for the month of July, he knows he'll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything.
The paper route poses challenges, but it's a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble--and puts the boy's life, as well as that of his family's devoted housekeeper, in danger."
Oh Newbery, I'll never understand you. I just checked and I have to go clear back to 1997 to find a Newbery winner or honor book that I really LOVED ( Belle Prater's Boy ) . I haven't read them all, by any means, but the ones I have read have been kind of blah. This one was good, but I didn't find anything outstanding about it. It felt like it was trying to be too many things. A book about a child with a disability. A book about sports (although that was hardly mentioned - just that the main character loved baseball and had quite an arm). A book about race relations. A book about growing up in the 60's... Now if all of those things had meshed, it would have added up to a really good story, but it was like the author all of a sudden said, "Oh, I'd better put something about race relations in here now", instead of it being seamlessly woven into the story. I enjoyed parts of this book, and it was inspiring that it had a lot to do with the author's real life, but I'm not sure how much it will get checked out in our middle school library.
Areas of concern: A handful of swear words. Scary violence towards the main character and one of his loved ones. A woman who drinks excessively and has a man other than her husband come to her house, and then she gets hit by him. A character finds out that his father isn't his biological father.
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 10+
School Library Journal - Grades 6-9