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Plunked by Michael Northrop
labandbooks
proseandkahn
plunked
247 p. Scholastic Press, March, 2012.  9780545297141. (Chosen to review for InfoLinkNJ) 


Introspective sixth-grader Jack Mogens is all about baseball. He plays Little League, watches Major League Baseball and collects baseball cards with his dad. He’s a solid player, but by no means a star and he’s willing to hustle to secure a spot in the starting line-up. He’s competitive, but not cutthroat, unlike his former best friend who’s the team’s second best pitcher and who earned the nickname, Malfoy.

His thrill at earning that starting spot ends when he’s beaned by a wild pitch at bat during the first game of the season and is sent to hospital. The good news is that it was just a mild concussion. The bad news is that thanks to a near-miss courtesy of Malfoy at the next practice, Jack is now afraid of inside pitches. Rather than admit his fears to his friends, parents or coaches, Jack lies about a wrist injury to get out of playing the next game. He gets away with it. But he knows it's just a temporary reprieve. He's going to have to quit the team, he thinks, rather than admit to his fears.

There’s plenty of baseball action to keep hungry sports fans interested, but there’s much more offered here- well-developed characters, realistic tween dialogue and social dynamics, a thoughtful narrator, humor, and an interesting exploration of the psychology of the game. I just love me a smart sports novel, especially one that delves into the psychology of the game a la Matt de la Peña or Mick Cochrane. It also reminded me of another excellent book I read a few years ago, Beanball by Gene Fehler, a novel in blank verse told from multiple points of view about a high school baseball player who is beaned by a pitch. Only, in this book, the boy's skull is fractured and he loses the sight in an eye. I read it back in 2008, when I purchased it for the collection at my last school. I think I will reread it. I see that the paperback cover is dramatically different. 

Back to Plunked. A must purchase for school libraries. Recommend to any reader, but will be appreciated by your die-hard sports/ baseball fans. I have the author's two previous books, Gentlemen, and Trapped, buried on TOM. Need to read them asap!