Reviews for Brooklyn Nine : A Novel in Nine Innings

Booklist Reviews 2009 February #1
*Starred Review* Gratz (Samurai Shortstop, 2006) builds this novel upon a clever enough conceit--nine stories (or innings), each following the successive generations in a single family, linked by baseball and Brooklyn--and executes it with polish and precision. In the opening stories, there is something Scorsese-like (albeit with the focus on players, not gangsters)  in Gratz s treatment of early New York: a fleet-footed German immigrant helps Alexander Cartwright (credited with creating modern baseball) during a massive 1845 factory fire; a young boy meets his hero, the great King Kelly, who by age 30 is a washed-up alcoholic scraping by as a vaudeville act. The pace lags a bit in the middle innings, where a talented young girl stars in the WW II-era All-American Girls Baseball League and a card-collecting boy lives in fear of the Russians, Sputnik, and the atomic bomb. But the final two stories provide a flurry of late-inning heroics: a Little League pitcher s shot at a perfect game told with breathtaking verve; and a neat stitching-together effort to close the book. Each of the stories are outfitted with wide-ranging themes and characters that easily warrant more spacious confines, but taken together they present a sweeping diaspora of Americana, tracking the changes in a family through the generations, in society at large for more than a century and a half, and, not least, in that quintessential American pastime. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #2
After a pair of Horatio Wilkes mysteries (Something Rotten and Something Wicked), Gratz returns to the subject of his debut novel, Samurai Shortstop, with these interlinked short stories, offering snapshots of nine generations of a New York City family and their involvement with America's favorite pastime. German immigrant Felix Schneider watches the New York Knickerbockers play an early version of baseball before getting caught up in their firefighting efforts (1845). Louis Schneider plays baseball between Civil War battles and finds a kindred spirit, surprisingly, in a Confederate uniform (1864). Walter, whose father has changed their surname to the less Jewish-sounding Snider, rails against the prejudices within baseball against Jews and African Americans (1908). Kat Flint, a professional women's league ball player, greets the end of the war with mixed feelings (1945). Michael Flint pitches a perfect Little League game (1981). And Snider Flint plays the detective with an interesting piece of sports memorabilia (2002). With an impressively cohesive mix of sports, historical fiction, and family history, Gratz has crafted a wonderful baseball book that is more than the sum of its parts. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 January #2
Nearly nine generations span the years from Alexander Cartwright's 1840s Knickerbocker Base Ball days to the present, and Gratz places a young character from a fictional family of Brooklynites in each, threading their stories together with the development of the American bat and ball game. Abner Doubleday makes a very brief appearance at a Union Army camp (even as the author discredits the myth that Doubleday founded modern baseball). An eager batboy from the Brooklyn Superbas persuades a talented Negro player to come to a tryout as an American Indian--and loses his love for his team when it's clear that no one on the team will give Cyclone "Smoky" Joe Williams (later described as the best pitcher in any league) a chance to play. John Kiernan, the legendary journalist and facts man, lends a hand to a young numbers runner following a Brooklyn Robins game in the 1930s. The fictional voice is sure and engaging, polished without being slick--an entertaining and compelling look at the deep roots of our national pastime. (author's notes) (Historical fiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 March #3

The love of baseball links nine generations of the Schneider/Snider/Flint family in this story collection that tracks the national pastime from the 1840s to the present day. It's an ambitious work of research, weaving authentic details about the evolution of the sport into stories about nine fictional young people with baseball in their DNA. Louis Schneider carries his father's treasured souvenir baseball into battle during the Civil War (Abner Doubleday makes a cameo), trading it for an original Louisville Slugger from a wounded rebel. The bat then plays a role in his son's misplaced worship of a fading legend. Another descendant has his illusions shattered when the hometown team is unmasked as racist. Girls are represented, too: one leaves Brooklyn to play for the Grand Rapids Chicks during World War II. These are not sports stories so much as historical fiction built around a theme, and though billed as a "novel in nine innings," there's no real narrative tension pulling the reader forward. But baseball fans will find satisfying glimpses of the game as it has been played in its various incarnations. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 March

Gr 7-10--In loosely connected chapters, Gratz examines how one Brooklyn family is affected by the game of baseball. Ten-year-old German immigrant Felix Schneider arrives in America in the mid-19th century and uses his speed to good advantage both on the ball field and as a runner delivering the goods his uncle, a cloth cutter, produces. His fortunes and his family's take a turn for the worse, however, when his legs are badly injured in the great Manhattan fire of 1845 (where he encounters volunteer firefighter Alexander Cartwright, the father of modern baseball). Subsequent "innings" deal with Felix's son, Louis, who has compassion for a Confederate soldier because of their shared love of baseball; Walter Snider, a Brooklyn Superbas batboy who secures a tryout for legendary Negro Leagues star Cyclone Joe Williams and discovers the ugliness of anti-Semitism and racial prejudice; and Jimmy Flint, a 10-year-old in 1957, who worries about the class bully, Sputnik, nuclear annihilation--and the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn. Curiously, the author passes over the team's glory years from the late 1940s to the mid-'50s. For the working-class Schneider/Snider family, baseball is an important part of their history, but it does little to mitigate the gritty reality of their lives. Economic uncertainty, prejudice, and the threat of violence are ever-present concerns, and the accurate, tough-minded depiction of these issues is the novel's greatest strength.--Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT

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