Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Baseball Genius

Baseball Genius

Spring 2017 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Derek Jeter
Author: Tim Green
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781481468640
Hardcover Price: $16.99

New York Yankees star Derek Jeter is the co-author with Tim Green, a former NFL player and commentator, of this engaging story of a boy, of baseball and of a gift.

Middle-schooler Jalen DeLuca loves baseball and he desperately wants to come up with the money required to play on the elite travel team. But his father is barely making ends meet as the owner and cook at their local diner. Jalen's mother, a singer, left them years ago.

Jalen is biracial and bullied by a big galoot on the baseball team. But Jalen's determined not to let anything stand between him and his dream of a shot at the big leagues. So he decides to sneak onto the grounds of a nearby mansion owned by Yankee second baseman, James Yager, to steal practice balls from the batting cage so he can sell them and raise the entry fee money for the travel team.

Jalen gets caught in the act, but cuts a deal to help Yager get back to the top of his game. How? Well, Jalen is a "baseball genius." The kid has a gift for reading a pitcher, knowing what ball he's going to throw before he throws it. It's just what Yager, who is in a batting slump, needs to boost his career.

Jalen is an only child, but he has good friends helping him along the way, particularly Cat, the beautiful, rich, smart friend who always has the answer Jalen is looking for, sometimes before he even realizes it.

Short chapters, sympathetic characters and compelling writing make the book a fun read. Jalen is faced with difficult decisions throughout the story. Is he doing the right thing, making the right choices? Baseball fans will be rooting for him.

The one big problem with the book is the abrupt, cliffhanging ending. C'mon! The story is rolling and seems ripe for another chapter or two, but it ends like a ninth-inning strikeout with bases loaded. And then, like a TV show, the authors give a "sneak peek" into Baseball Genius #2: Double Play, which reveals that Jalen is in "a world of trouble." In other words, buy the next book. The only reason to forgive this stunt is that the next book will probably be worth reading, too.

Ann Oldenburg   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Ann Oldenburg, assistant director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, began her career at The Washington Post and went on to spend more than two decades with USA Today, where she covered pop culture topics. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

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