Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge

In 2006, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge hit the shelves in libraries and stores. No, it's not about William Shakespeare. Instead, it tells the story of 14-year old Kevin Boland, a talented first baseman sidelined by mono. While sitting out a good part of the season, Kevin starts writing poetry - about baseball, about girls, about his dead mom. The whole story is told in poems - some free verse and some in forms, ranging from haiku to a sonnet to a pantoum and more, some using rhyme, some not.

This spring brings the release of Shakespeare Makes The Playoffs, which picks up a bit later in baseball season. Kevin and Mira are still going out, although Kevin is starting to question that relationship a bit - Mira doesn't "get" him or his poetry, whereas a new girl he's met (named Amy) sure does. Not only that, she writes poems with and for Kevin. What's a guy to do?

I won't tell you what Kevin does, exactly, but I will tell you a bit more about Kevin. Kevin is dealing with lots of issues that are familiar to normal guys. There's school, of course. And sports - in this case, baseball, which is Kevin's driving passion. Kevin also has to deal with his father, an unhappy widower who has started to develop an interest in dating, and he has to figure out what to do about Mira. At least he's got a cool English teacher - a guy he calls Mr. B. In a poem called "Mr. B.", Kevin writes about Mr. B, who climbs mountains in places like Tibet and loves the work of Emily Dickinson. The poem ends with excellent advice about the appreciation of poetry:

When somebody in the back row asks him, "What does
this poem mean?" he says, "Don't worry so much
about what it means. Pretend poetry is chili
and you're starving. Would you ask what chili means?
Just eat it up."

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs is written in poems - free verse and forms, just like the earlier book - which means that the "chapters" are short - sometimes only a page long. But being poetry means that they are full of images and terrific language and that they move the story along at a good pace.

Definitely a book for guys who like baseball and poetry. And the book doesn't exactly advertise that it's a book of poems, making it the perfect one to grab if you're not sure you want anyone nicknaming you "Shakespeare".


Becker said...

Between the review & the interview, I'm inspired...I'm also getting anxious for baseball season to start! I've seen Shakespeare Bats Cleanup around the library, of course, but never picked it up. Thanks for getting me to take it home!

Anonymous said...

I think you're gonna like it a lot. This is not a negative criticism, but I'm not positive that his MC reads as being actually 14 - he seems as if he could be a bit older, even.