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*Heat* by Mike Lupica - tweens/young readers book review
Also by Mike Lupica:

Hot Hand: Mike Lupica's Comeback Kids

Two-Minute Drill: Mike Lupica's Comeback Kids

  click here for more on Matthew Peterson's young reader fantasy *Paraworld Zero (Parallel Worlds, Book 1)*
by Mike Lupica
Ages 9-12 220 pages Philomel April 2006 Hardcover    

Twelve-year-old Michael Arroyo lies within a sharp throw from shortstop to first base of Yankee Stadium. Yet for him, this divide is greater than the distance between Havana, Cuba, and New York City. Living with his older brother, Carlos, in a poor tenement, Michael finds life closing in on him from many directions.

His preternatural ability to throw a baseball at speeds of more than eighty miles an hour has made him the star of the South Bronx All Stars. As he propels his team to the Little League World Series, a jealous rival coach questions Arroyo’s age and forces him to produce his birth certificate. This proves to be a problem; Michael fled Cuba with his father and brother, and his birth certificate is languishing in the bureaucracy of his homeland. Added to all these travails is the sudden death of their father that leaves the two Arroyo boys hiding from authorities. Against such a dire backdrop, Lupica spins a heartwarming tale of friendship and adventure that resonates deeply because it rings true.

Authority to the Arroyo boys is “Official Persons,” an amorphous mass of bureaucrats bent upon placing the fatherless brothers in a foster home. The older, albeit only slightly, Carlos becomes the father figure for young Michael, taking on multiple jobs to make ends meet, all the while encouraging Michael to fulfill the family’s collective dream of having a child play in the Little League World Series. Michael’s fellow battery mate, the stocky, loquacious catcher Manny Cabrera, helps out by coming up with excuses and plans to keep the authorities at bay. An older neighbor, Mrs. Cora, one of the few people who know that the boys’ father is dead, offers love and protection. In the background for much of the novel is el Grande, the Cuban defector and star pitcher for the New York Yankees, who is Michael’s idol and who plays a big role in the highly satisfying denouement.

Lupica paces the novel adroitly by alternating between baseball action and off-the-field incidents. The ebbs and flows of Michael’s baseball and non-baseball life offer the perfect setting for the dramatic turn of events that is both plausible and unexpected. This is a satisfying read of what strength of character and a bunch of well-meaning people, both young and old, can together achieve in combating life’s unexpected curveballs.

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  Ram Subramanian/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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