Last updated Monday, November 6, 2006

Author: Mike Lupica
Date of Publication: 2006
ISBN: 0399243011
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Nov. 2006

Synopsis: From School Libaray Journal: When Michael Arroyo is on the baseball diamond, everything feels right. He's a terrific pitcher who dreams of leading his South Bronx All-Stars to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. It's a dream he shared with his father, one they brought with them as they fled Cuba and wound up living in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Michael's ultimate dream is to play in the major leagues like his hero, El Grande, Yankee star and fellow Cuban refugee. Tragically, Papi died of a heart attack a few months back, leaving Michael and his older brother, Carlos, to struggle along on their own. Afraid of being separated, they hide the news of their father's death from everyone but a kindly neighbor, Mrs. Cora, and Michael's best friend, Manny Cabrera. When a bitter rival spreads rumors that Michael is older than he appears, the league demands that he be benched until he can produce a birth certificate. As he did in Travel Team (Philomel, 2004), Lupica crafts an involving, fast-paced novel peopled with strong, well-developed characters. Readers will find themselves rooting for Michael as he struggles with the loss of his father, stumbles into his first boy-girl relationship, and yearns to play baseball. The sports scenes are especially well written; fittingly, the euphoric finale takes place at Yankee Stadium. At times, the author veers toward melodrama but he keeps his lively plot on course with humor, crisp dialogue, and true-to-life characters. Lupica scores another hit with this warmhearted novel.

Note to readers:
•  You should be able to read at least through Chapter 4.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Michael keeps some big secrets in this book. Are keeping secrets ok? What kinds of secrets are ok to keep and what kind should you tell people?
•  What are your dreams? Have they stayed the same for a long time, or have they changed as you have gotten older?
•  Sometimes families and friends have to make sacrifices for each other. What kinds of sacrifices do you make to help your family and friends? What kinds of sacrifices do your family and friends make to help you?
•  Michael and his brother are originally from Cuba. Now they live in New York. Look at a map and find Cuba and New York. Find Los Angeles. Find where the students are from.

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What was Michael?s talent? How did he use this talent?
•  Why don?t the other coaches want Michael to play? Is it fair? Are there times when you have been treated unfairly because of jealousy or envy?

Craft ideas:
•  Like a baseball card, make a ?Career Card.? Draw yourself achieving your dreams on the front. Write about yourself on the back

Special activities:
•  Do a ?7th inning stretch? during the reading. Pause to sing ?Take Me Out to the Ball Game.?

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!