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Koertge, Ron. Shakespeare bats cleanup.

Candlewick. 116p. c2003. 0-7636-2116-1. $15.99. J

In the back cover information on the author, Koertge says that he loves baseball and poetry--and that he was at a game once, writing a poem, when he saw a boy whose father was lecturing him on the finer points of baseball while the boy was scribbling on a piece of paper--this gave him the idea for Shakespeare Bats Cleanup. Amazingly, this book is a poetry novel about a 14-year-old boy who loves baseball. It is actually a series of poems, each with a title, but the poems link together to tell a longer narrative. For our purposes, we will say this is YA fiction and review it here. Kevin is the narrator, the baseball player, the writer of poems. The latter surprises even him, but what happens is that he can't play baseball because he has mono and he starts reading a book on poetry his father has lying around. A combination of delight in words and poetry forms has him experimenting with haiku, sonnets, free verse, the ballad, and other styles first as entertainment and then slowly to express his innermost feelings. And he has a lot of these feelings because his mother died recently and he is still grieving for her. He and his father are close, but can't really talk about what they are feeling, so poetry becomes an essential outlet of expression.

The story isn't all seriousness, however, because Kevin frequently turns to humor and fun as relief and because he essentially is a typical 14-year-old who wants to have a girlfriend, and who wants to be a star baseball player. So we have such poetry here as: "But Baseball and Sex?" "Guys are always asking, "Did you get/ to first base with her?"/ So boys are the players and girls are,/what, the diamond?"....

Teachers facing middle-school boys who wouldn't be caught dead reading poetry might find Koertge a life-saving ally in convincing boys that poetry can be full of life (lives like theirs) and accessible.
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Author:Rosser, Claire
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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