Reviews for Aurora County All-Stars

Booklist Reviews 2007 September #1
Those unfamiliar with Love, Ruby Lavender (2001) and Each Little Bird That Sings (2005) may have trouble keeping the characters straight in this story, set once again in a small Mississippi town. That said, baseball makes a lively focus for the novel, told by 12-year-old House Jackson, star pitcher and captain of the Aurora County All-Stars, who counts Sandy Koufax and Walt Whitman among his inspirations. House's broken arm has finally healed, allowing him to play, but his team's big game of the year is threatened by an Independence Day pageant. That's not the only thing House faces; he must confront secrets and betrayal in his hometown and also startling facts about the struggle for civil rights in baseball history. The game play and the lingo are fun, as is the rambunctious farce. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #5
Before she died, House Jackson's mother gave him this advice: "Swallow your toads early in the day, and get the hardest things over with first." This summer, House finds himself swallowing a lot of toads, the most notable of which is young Miss Frances Schotz. The year before, Frances pirouetted into House and broke his elbow, thus eliminating him from the baseball game his team plays every Fourth of July. Now Frances is staging a town pageant on the Fourth, once again threatening to deny House and his teammates their game. The ensuing compromise -- combining the pageant with the game -- involves a multitude of characters, including: a dead recluse; Walt Whitman (making an appearance through his poetry); a soap opera actor; Ruby Lavender and Comfort Snowberger from other Wiles books; a disenfranchised former baseball player; and a dog named Eudora Welty. Readers may need a scorecard to keep up with the constant parade of characters, who, except for House and Frances, come and go as quickly as a string of struggling relief pitchers. Still, Wiles's talent for chapter-ending cliffhangers (the story was first serialized in the Boston Globe), keeps the reader continually engaged. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 July #1
In Aurora County, Miss., only one baseball game matters: the annual contest between the All-Stars and the Raleigh Redbugs, scheduled this year at the same time as the once-in-a-lifetime pageant celebrating Aurora County's. Worse, Frances Schotz, the girl who broke pitcher House Jackson's elbow last year, is directing the pageant and their mamas have signed up all the other players. Already upset about witnessing the death of elderly recluse Norwood Boyd, a man somehow associated with his own dead mother, the quiet 12-year-old needs to find a way to save his team's game and placate the Mamas in spite of his weakened arm. Wiles connects all these elements with snippets of Walt Whitman, quotes from baseball greats and the historical fact of segregation to forge a poignant and humorous coming-of-age story. Parts of House's story first appeared as a serial in the Boston Globe. Although some characters appeared in previous novels, this one stands on its own, and with each iteration Aurora County becomes more real. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 July #1

Batter up! National Book Award finalist Wiles (Each Little Bird That Sings ) delivers the third book set in her fictional Aurora County--a more boy-friendly read than its predecessors, with plenty of talk about baseball and what constitutes a stalwart team. Twelve-year-old House Jackson, the Aurora County All-Stars captain and star pitcher, has slogged through the preceding year with an out-of-commission elbow. Instead of playing baseball, he's spent most of his time indoors, reading the classics to an old recluse, Mr. Norwood Rhinehart Beauregard Boyd. But when Mr. Boyd dies, House is reminded of his itch to play. Unfortunately, the All-Stars' only game of the year is scheduled for the same day as Aurora County's 200th anniversary pageant, an event directed by pesky 14-year-old Frances Shotz, the girl who broke House's elbow. After a series of minor mishaps, betrayals and bouts of miscommunication, House and Frances work out a hilarious compromise that all readers can root for. In the spirit of Ernest Thayer's poem, "Casey at the Bat," the energy during the game mounts, and sports fans will be on the edge of their seats to see which team triumphs. Quotations from Walt Whitman's poetry, baseball players and Aurora County news dispatches pepper the story and add color; Love, Ruby Lavender fans will enjoy Ruby's fortuitous cameo. A home run for Wiles. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)

[Page 54]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 October

Gr 5-9-- Wiles revisits the rural Mississippi setting of Love, Ruby Lavender (2001) and Each Little Bird That Sings (2005, both Harcourt). House Jackson, 12, lives to pitch and still mourns the death of his mother six years earlier. "Swallow your toads early in the day," she would say. Now, House's "toads" include the death of a mysterious 88-year-old neighbor, the town's bicentennial pageant, and, worst of all, Frances Shotz. The previous summer, a collision with the 14-year-old left House with a broken elbow and canceled his baseball season. Frances, who styles herself Finesse and flavors her speech with French, is the artistic director of the pageant, which threatens to cancel his team's annual July Fourth game. House sorts his way through a thicket of problems while surrounded by colorful characters, many from the earlier books (Ruby has a key role). There's a graceful air of nostalgia as children scuff along dusty roads, trailed by an old dog named Eudora Welty. Wiles's prose is keenly observant and not to be read hurriedly. This is a slow-simmering stew of friendship and betrayal, family love and loyalty, and finding oneself. At times, it threatens to get out of hand, but the author keeps things in check with down-home humor. In this moving homage to the power of words, House eventually finds a way to resolve his problems in the stirring example of his baseball hero, Sandy Koufax; Whitman's Leaves of Grass ; and his mother's voice reminding him to "listen for the symphony true."--Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

[Page 166]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.