It’s still April and I’m still feeling crazy about baseball.
The first Ron Koertge book I read was Shakespeare Bats Cleanup (published by Candlewick Press in 2006). He tried several tricky writing tasks in that book and I finished it with a sense of admiration for his skill as a writer.
Koertge hit a triple. First, he wrote a verse novel that fully engaged my curiosity. Second, he employed many different forms of poetry in telling the story … and he believably had his main character, Kevin Boland, purposefully challenge himself to write a different type of poem with every entry. Third, his characters appeal to Every Reader, throwing in Kevin’s yearning to play baseball even though he’s recovering from mono, the overarching theme of mourning for his mother, and his notable interest in the females around him.
The theme of writing, being a writer, and learning to be a poet will be a strong draw for many readers. In fact, I’m sure there are middle grade and high school teachers all over the country who are using this as a supplementary poetry text.
Now the sequel has found its way to my bookshelves, just in time for baseball season. I’m certain this was on purpose. In Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs (Candlewick Press), Kevin is well, he’s once again a star on his high school baseball team, he finds his attention wandering from his adorable girlfriend to a girl who shares his attraction to poetry and writing, and his lonely dad is dating. This time Koertge hit it out of the park. Added to the qualities of the three bagger in his first book, Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs kept me up all night turning the pages. In fact (one facet of the name of this journal), I read the ending when I finished chapter two. The tension was already strong enough that I had to know what happened … and I wanted to observe the process.
Filled with humor, a strong plot and even stronger characters, Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs attains a position on my “look for awards this year” bookshelf.