Reviews for King of the Mound : My Summer With Satchel Paige

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #2
Twelve-year-old Nick should be grateful to have escaped polio's snare with only a leg brace, but that's hard, especially when he feels the disease has taken him from being the best young pitcher in Bismarck, North Dakota, to the sidelines of the home team where his washed-up dad is the catcher. But things quickly change for the better with the arrival of the celebrated Satchel Paige, who agrees to pitch for the integrated Bismarck team. Satchel is witty, confident, and gifted, and he encourages Nick to follow his dreams, no matter what people say about his bum leg. More historical fiction than biography, this brings the ugly realities of segregated baseball to young readers along with a riveting tale of friendship. Especially heartwarming is Nick, who has suffered great loss yet resists bitterness and still knows how to enjoy life's simple pleasures. Firmly steeped in the history and culture of the upper Midwest in the mid-1930s, this story is for everyone, but particularly lovers of the game. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
Twelve-year-old Nick is a talented pitcher until polio strikes. His speedy recovery and return to baseball--aided by time spent with real-life pitcher Satchel Paige--feel unrealistic. The story, set in the 1930s when Paige and other black ballplayers were barred from Major League teams, smoothly comingles fact and fiction. Baseball fans will recognize several historic players in this readable narrative.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 November #2
A boy takes first steps on the road to physical and emotional recovery from a bout with polio, thanks to help from a solid new friend and a baseball hero. After a year in the hospital, Nick gets a harsh welcome home from his embittered widower father. The onus of being a "cripple" is eased by the unfaltering friendliness offered by his baseball-loving neighbor Emma and the news that the owner of the local semipro team, the Bismarck Churchills, has not only signed up more talented "colored boys" but enticed the great Satchel Paige to return for the 1935 season. As his father is the team's catcher, Nick is enlisted to sell programs and generally make himself useful--which allows him to witness Satch leading a spectacular integrated team to a minor league world championship win. Along the way Nick also watches the renowned pitcher respond with dignity to racial hatred (including an encounter with a "cracker cop"). Absorbing both advice ("Ain't no man can avoid being born average, but there ain't no man got to be common") and some of Satch's prized "deer oil," he quickly sheds his leg brace and regains his own pitching skills. Tooke sticks closely to historical records, with the addition of a few extra Paige exploits and aphorisms, and though Nick's recovery seems a little too easy, the fictional overlay offers a comfortably predictable "hard work brings just rewards" arc. Nourishing fare for Matt Christopher graduates. (Sports fiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2012 February

Gr 4-7--Pitch-perfect pacing is just one of the high points of this novel. It is 1935, and Nick, who used to be the best pitcher in his youth league, is returning home to Bismarck after having spent the last year in the polio ward of the Mayo Clinic. His father, the catcher for the semipro Bismarck Churchills, sees Nick's brace as evidence that he is a cripple who will never amount to anything. Hired to do odd jobs around the stadium, Nick meets the great Satchel Paige, who has agreed to join the integrated team for the summer. He befriends Nick and helps him to realize that the only thing holding him back is his fear of failing. More than Paige's words, though, it's seeing the athlete transcend injustice on a daily basis that convinces Nick that he has the power to shape his future. As readers watch Nick's slow but steady development over 18 chapters (the top and bottom of each inning), there is plenty of sports action, and Tooke brings to life the excitement of the Bismarck team's incredible summer, when they barnstormed the countryside and ended up winning the semiprofessional national tournament. Tooke admirably conveys Paige's larger-than-life personality, and a historical note will give readers new appreciation of just how much the man accomplished during his career. An excellent combination of historical fiction and sports fiction.--Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

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VOYA Reviews 2012 February
Following a year of hospitalization due to polio, Nick fears that his life may never return to normal. He was the best pitcher in his local baseball league, possessing pinpoint control and amassing many strikeouts.  Now, weakened by polio, he wears a leg brace and thinks his pitching days are over.  His father, a catcher for a semi-pro team, gets Nick a job selling programs at the games.  For the 1935 season, the team has added Negro League star Satchel Paige to pack the stadium for every game, and Paige delivers in a big way.  Nick and Satchel form an unlikely friendship as the team encounters Jim Crow laws and unabashed racial hatred while on a barnstorming tour.  In the span of one very memorable summer, Satchel teaches Nick to overcome his perceived limitations and to look at his life differently This historical sports novel is a quick read that will appeal to readers of either gender.  Sports fans will enjoy the 1930s-era baseball facts sprinkled throughout, as well as the realistic depiction of baseball action.  Other readers will appreciate the innocent romance that occurs between Nick and his young neighbor, as well as between their widowed parents.  The emphasis on Jim Crow laws and Negro League baseball make this a valuable classroom resource--it would pair well with Kadir Nelson's We Are the Ship (Hyperion, 2008/VOYA April 2008). This book is recommended for upper elementary to middle school-aged readers, particularly those with an interest in baseball.--Sherrie Williams 4Q 3P M Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.