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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Okay, so I don't know much about sports but this is a honking good book.

Feinstein, John.  (2009) Change Up:  Mystery at the World Series.  New York:  Yearling.

     I am a nerd.  I have had no exciting moments on the baseball field.  After living in Chicago for fifteen years I started to become a fan of the Chicago Cubs, but mostly because I like the history of Wrigley field and the eternal underdog nature of the team.  All this is to say I don't gravitate toward sports books -- except for the ones that John Feinstein writes.  Change-Up might be a good sports book.  It might not be.  I have no idea.  But I can tell you for sure that it is a good book.  And I can tell you that you ought to read it.
     Like the other books in Feinstein's series (including Cover-Up, Vanishing Act, and Last Shot), Change-Up follows kid reporters Stevie and Susan Carol (who won a national school journalism  contest in the first book and so keep getting reporter access to huge sporting events -- in this case, the world series).  The two kid reporters are hunting for a story as usual and stumble upon what seems like a perfect one.  minor leaguer Norbert Doyle gets called up to the majors and. in an ultimate underdog moment, gets to pitch for part of an inning in an early game of the World Series and suddenly seems like he might be more than anyone thought.  But as Stevie and Susan Carol start to research his backstory, Stevie starts to discover that Norbert has some secrets and starts to worry that Susan Carol is falling for Norbert's hunky son.  Susan Carol finds out some details of Norbert's family life, but has promised to keep them secrets. 
     This book has a good engaging plot with a satisfying ending and a fair amount of discussion about journalism ethics along the way (not that your students will notice that unless you point it out).  The book is probably most ideal for middle school and up, though I could imagine a strong fourth or fifth grade reader enjoying it as well. 
     And best of all, Feinstein's books may be a good way to help students who love sports but haven't figured out that they love to read yet discover a new national pastime.

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