Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Prince of Fenway Park Julianna Baggott

The Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggott
If this book was a pitch it would be a wicked knuckleball that buckled my knees. As a reader and baseball lover all I can do is tip my head in thanks to the author for writing such a wonderful story. Its 2004 and 12 yr old Oscar feels cursed like is beloved Red Sox’s. Oscar’s parents adopted him when he was a baby and he worries they divorced after realizing he was half black. Being biracial Oscar has a hard time fitting in at school.

“What didn’t help was that just this year it seemed as if the white kids he’d been friends with in elementary school didn’t have much to say to him anymore, and there weren’t many black kids in Hingham Middle. Occasionally a Hispanic kid would ask him something in Spanish assuming he spoke it. He’d just shrug." (from ARC)

I don’t run across too many biracial characters in middle grade fiction, so I was very happy to discover this about Oscar. While reading I couldn’t help thinking about all the biracial children who may discover this story and be able to relate to Oscar’s feelings.

"There was a code for race, and the tidy letters were all lined up: Black. He’d never seen it written before. There was a spot for it on the MCAS- standardized tests- and Oscar usually left it blank. The previous year he’d lightly marked both white and black and then smudged them on purpose, which seemed the most honest answer he could give.”

Oscar going to live with his dad while his mother is away. Though Oscar visits his dad all the time he has never seen his apartment. Oscar soon discovers that his dad lives under Fenway Park, with the rest of the cursed creatures. Oscar’s dad and his three aunts are all half fairy. The creatures under Fenway Park are stuck until the Boston Red Sox curse is broken. This little bit of fantasy was unexpected and Baggott does a great job of weaving it into the story. She creates an interesting world under Fenway. The three aunts wear toe curled cleats and his dad sleeps under the pitchers mound. The cursed creatures of Fenway Park have been searching for decades for the one who would break the curse. Oscar believes he can break the 86yr old curse. With the help of his dad, two aunts and a weasel Oscar is ready to beat the curse. The author touches upon the racism that plagued baseball especially the Boston Red Sox. Oscar and his dad are walking around Fenway Park, discussing the curse.

“It started with Babe Ruth, but the Curse would have starved if it hadn’t been fed. And it was surely fed. “Who fed it?” “Too many to list. You know what they said to Jackie Robinson when he tried out? Oscar knew he read all about Red Sox history. “Not Red Sox ready. “Because they were black, they weren’t good enough for the Boston Red Sox. This is the worst time in the history of baseball on race. “Race shouldn’t mean anything. It shouldn’t be important. It shouldn’t matter.” Oscar’s father stood up and wiped his hands on his pants. Oscar wanted to say that it did matter and that it was important, but he wasn’t sure how he’d explain it if his father asked him why or how, and so he kept quiet.”

That is just one of the many paragraphs I feel in love with. When Oscar makes his way underneath Fenway Park the Red Sox’s are already down 2 games to the Yankees in the American League Championship game. When the Red Sox lose the third game Oscar must quickly put a plan into action or else he will forever be stuck underneath the baseball field. Oscar challenges auntie Fedelma to a baseball game to decide the fate of the curse. Fedelma has been doing everything in her power to stop Oscar from succeeding. The game will take place at Fenway Park at the same time the Yankees and Red Sox’s are playing game four of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium. Oscar and Fedelma go back into the past to draft future hall of famers, when they were 12. In order to win Oscar and his counsel decide they need players with big hearts and some sorrow to heal. Oscar and his counsel draft several players including Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ted Williams Bill Buckner. The process of picking was beautiful to read. You can feel the love these characters have for the game of baseball. Baggott is introducing the story of these great players to some young baseball fans. Fedelma’s draft racists and cheats, including Ty Cobb, Pinky Higgins and two of the White Sox players who threw the 1919 world series. Like most baseball stories this is about more than baseball. Its about hope, forgiveness, love, and faith. I absolutely loved The Prince of Fenway Park, every time I thought it couldn't get any better Baggott raised the bar. When Baggott slipped in a Curt Flood reference, I was like what, she's doing it. All baseball fans should know who he is. I highly recommend The Prince of Fenway Park to baseball fans of all ages. The author takes the time and care to delve into baseballs early history of racism. She simply retells the ugly truth and in doing so makes this an excellent book for readers to start a dialogue on race. Ages 9up


mbpbooks said...

Putting it on my must-read list. Thanks for the review.

Doret said...

You will enjoy it. Its a great book