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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

The Year They Won: A Tale of the Boston Red Sox
by Gerard Purciello
ages 10 and up 112 pages Brown Barn Books March 2005 Paperback    

The year is 2024 and for rabid Red Sox fans (are there any other kind?), it has been twenty long years since their beloved team won it all. For twelve-year-old Jerry “Tags” Taglia and his three friends, they have never seen their Sox win the World Series in their lifetime. In a summer filled with endless sandlot games, Tags and his cohorts cook up a clever plan to help their team. In Purciello’s incandescent debut novel, while much of baseball has remained the same in 2024 (the Red Sox still hate the Yankees, for example), technology has intervened in a telling way. Each team now has a computerized control room where the strike zone is preset and balls and strikes are called by a machine with one umpire on the field responsible only for groundouts. Tags and his friends decide to take control of the computer in a must win game for the Red Sox. Purciello is both an unabashed Sox fan and presumably a baseball purist, so he leaves the denouement deliberately vague to let the readers use their imagination as to the role played by the boys in the Sox’s victory.

Purciello’s lyrical prose (some of which may be beyond the ken of a typical ten-year-old) captures the rhythms of boyhood, where a summer day begins with endless possibilities, most of which center on baseball. Tags and his friends discover an abandoned dirt field that becomes their sandlot of dreams. In the ubiquitous sandlot games, each player is always the hero on the cusp of stardom, destined to make the big play to ensure victory for his team. As Purciello narrates:
“Nothing intruded on that summer. Not death, not illness, not untimely summer vacations. I don’t recall a grownup yelling at us in anger or even a dog barking at a mailman. Returning to school in September never became a topic. It was baseball, baseball and more baseball. From early morning to late afternoon, the four of us, four of the happiest souls in the entire universe, played, talked, and dreamed baseball.”
An idyllic world indeed! The only incubus in an azure sky is the lack of success for the Red Sox and its indefatigable slugger, Louie Cardinale. Tags wants to redress this void and when he chances to spy the computer beneath Fenway Park, a bold idea forms in his mind. What follows is a rollicking adventure (that at times may be too intense for a ten-year-old) that takes the four boys on a wild and improbable ride with an unbelievable ending.

Injured in an automobile accident when he was eighteen, Purciello is a paraplegic. You wouldn’t know that from the fast-paced narrative that is plausible in its description of young boys in summer. Purciello captures both the joy of youth and the passion that New Englanders have for the Red Sox.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Ram Subramanian/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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