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Free Friday – on Monday!! Never Blame the Umpire by Gene Fehler

BN.com Synopsis

Eleven-year-old Kate loves baseball, tennis, and writing poetry, but struggles to find joy when tragedy strikes her close-knit family.

Publishers Weekly

A summer baseball league and creative writing class, combined with a church community and family traditions like Friday night movies and popcorn, provide middle-school narrator Kate with supportive mentors, friends, and rituals while she faces devastating loss. Present-tense narration offers a sense of immediacy as Kate learns of her mother’s cancer and, later, prepares for her death. Kate’s poems, inspired by a variety of “starter activities,” give voice to her rage, confusion, and doubt. They also chronicle her changing perspective on what’s important: while an early poem documents her disappointment that her parents missed her game-winning hit, a later one asks: “Why? It isn’t fair. Isn’t there/ a way to stop death?” In describing her faith in God’s love and the peace she’s attained as she faces death, Kate’s mother equates acceptance of God’s plan with a baseball player’s acceptance of an umpire’s call. While this analogy may feel simplistic and spark readers to ask more questions about why bad things happen to good people, the overarching message that love is stronger than death prevails in Fehler’s (Beanball) tender, engaging story. Ages 9-12. (Mar.)

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