by Fred Bowen
Back Cover: Isaac is a serious pitcher. He’s got an awesome fastball and a sneaky changeup. He’s determined to pitch a perfect game: no hits, no runs, no walks, no errors. He gets close a couple of times, but when a batter gets on base, Isaac totally loses his cool on the mound and can’t get his head back in the game. Then Isaac learns about a Special Olympics Unified Sports team and meets an interesting athlete who shows him a whole new way to think about perfect.
First Sentence: One hour to game time! Isaac Burnett thought as he ran upstairs to his bedroom. And I’m pitching!
What is “perfect?” In school, it is an A+. In bowling, the 300 game is perfect. In golf, a hole in one is perfect. In baseball, it is the perfect game. The pitcher is so hot he delivers pitches the batter cannot hit. There are no walks and the fielders commit no errors. Twenty-seven straight strikeouts make for a perfect night.
Only 23 major league pitchers have thrown a perfect game, yet young Isaac is determined to throw one this season. Every game is a possibility and when something happens to ruin it, Isaac does not take it well. He is so driven, with help from his father, that anything less is failure, even when the team wins the game. To heighten matters, Isaac is determined to make the Thunderbolts, a summer traveling league that only invites the best of the best junior players. Symbolically, it is the Junior League All-Star team and Isaac wants only a perfect game more than a place on the team.
Coach Park tries to temper some of Isaac’s perfectionistic traits by asking him to help with the Special Olympics Unified Sports basketball team he coaches. Isaac reluctantly agrees, not knowing what he will find when he hits the basketball court on Sunday. The room was chaotic and undisciplined. Some kids were at one basket, some at another, one stood in the doorway, refusing to move, and there was even a girl in a wheelchair. Isaac was confused. Soon he learned traveling was allowed, as were players using crutches and wheelchairs. The basketball would often be exchanged mid-game to a lighter ball so the weaker kids could shoot successfully. It was a crazy game to those watching—or playing—for the first time.
Soon, Isaac connected with Kevin, the kid who dressed to play but never left the doorway. Kevin was soon shooting baskets and he was good, really good. With Isaac’s attention, Kevin began to blossom. He looked forward to Sundays and played in the game. Isaac began to realize what perfection really meant and it wasn’t throwing twenty seven strike balls in a row.
I loved this story. As soon as it arrived in the mail, I began reading. Granted, I like baseball stories, but this one is different from anything I have read to date. The baseball games are packed with action. Reading Perfect Game was like being at a real game. I found myself rooting for Isaac and his team. There was also a feeling of understanding when Isaac’s dad pushed his son farther than necessary when practicing at home. Dad has the answers and Isaac better listen. Dad is living vicariously through his son. He wants that perfect game maybe more than his son wants it. Dad demands help fuel Isaac’s outbursts when Isaac misses the perfect game.
The scenes with the Special Olympics Unified Basketball Team were spot on. They reminded me of the unified softball games I participated in a long time ago. Everything is mass chaos, hunting down uniforms, warming up players, finding other things the “kids” lose. It is just crazy. Then the game begins. Never have I seen players that are more determined in all my years of coaching or playing; much like the players in Perfect Game. But once the game is over, it’s over. There is no belly aching, yelling at teammates, or parents pulling their kid aside to let them know what they did wrong. You will see all those things in “normal” kid’s sports, but not in any unified league or Special Olympics Event. Helping Kevin join in, using the expert shooting skills he possessed, changed Isaac’s thinking of the Perfect Game.
Obviously, boys will love this story, but I think girls will also once the story gets to the Sunday practices with the Unified Team. Yes, it is a sports book with lots of sports scenes and riveting action. Yes, the thrill of junior baseball rings through during all of the action. Yes, it is a transformative tale that will have every reader thinking twice about perfection and its true meaning. They might even be inspired to catch a Unified game or help with a team.
Teachers will find Perfect Game is a great addition to their multicultural library. The story will generate much discussion on what is normal and perfect. The story also teaches compassion, patience, and puts the topic of giving back or helping others at the center of any discussion of the book. At its basic, Perfect Game is the perfect baseball story for this spring.
Perfect Game is an exciting story with lots of action. I could not put it down. Any kid who reads this, boy or girl, will enjoy Isaac’s determination, spunk, spirit, and transformation (I know another “s-word” belonged there). Every middle grade class should have this book on their reading list. Perfect Game is a homerun!
by Fred Bowen website Peachtree Publishers website blog Released in March 1, 2013 ISBN: 978-1-56145-625-3 144 pages Ages 7 to 12 . Copyright © 2013 by Peachtree Publishers Text: Copyright © 2013 by Fred Bowen
BOOK DONATED TO PUBLIC LIBRARY
- Special Olympics March Madness Tournament Held at Fairhaven (wytv.com)
- Springbrook to Host Special Olympics Basketball Tournament (prweb.com)
- GS Warriors host Special Olympics basketball clinic (sfgate.com)
- Dark side of a perfect game: Astros’ Philip Humber searches for new start (chron.com)
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