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Bull Catcher

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Editorial Reviews

The ALAN Review - Jeffrey S. Kaplan
When I taught English, I was always looking for good books about high school sports. And I was at a loss. Literary anthologies had none, and libraries had few. Recent years, though, have brought an increase in teenage sports stories - and Alden Carter's Bull Catcher is a worthy addition. Neil "Bull" Larsen is a ninth grader who loves baseball and hopes to turn pro. Well, as growing up goes, "stuff happens," and Bull must deal with his life on all playing fields. Bull's mother does not live with him; his ailing grandfather is his guardian; his love life is in turmoil; his best friend is being beaten by his father; and his dreams for turning pro are dashed by "not just enough natural talent." Carter traces a boy's growth from baseball fanaticism to athletic wisdom in a gritty story of teenage love and loss. Ah, at last, I found my sports book.
VOYA - Randy Brough
Beginning with spring training in the ninth grade and culminating with a monumental game at the end of his senior year, this engaging novel charts the development of Neil Larson, or Bull, as both a baseball player and a young man. Nicknamed for his stocky build and hard-nosed attitude on the field, Bull is devoted to baseball. And the author clearly knows the game, too. Its dynamics, as played on the high school level, are perfectly delineated, making me wonder if Carter possibly has some coaching experience. At any rate, baseball fans will relish the exciting game descriptions and the evocation of a team maturing over a four-year span of big wins and tough losses. Not all of life's ups and downs occur on a baseball diamond, however, and the novel is elevated by its unblinking portrayal of Bull's personal travails off the field. He lives with his grandfather in a small Wisconsin town while his mother chases the big bucks in glitzy Los Angeles. A buddy and teammate is persistently beaten by his father, goes out with the girl Bull has always loved, and dies tragically in a car crash. And the pro scouts who watch Bull's best friend play ignore Bull, shattering a lifelong dream the two have shared. Baseball fans certainly will enjoy this, and I hope fans of quality writing will step up to the plate, as well. VOYA Codes: 5Q 2P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up"On the seventh day God made baseball." For Neil "Bull" Larsen and his best friend, Jeff Hanson, baseball has been their life for as long as they can remember, hence their pet saying. For his senior project, Bull decides to chronicle his high school baseball career by filling in the details of the diary he has been keeping. The teen, by choice, lives with his widowed grandfather while his business-executive single mom imparts advice from her home in California. While baseball is the major focus of this story, Bull also faces the challenges common to adolescents including dealings with family, friends, the opposite sex, and school. He comes to grips with the death of a friend who became a rival due to their interest in the same girl, and with the fact that despite his talent, a life-long dream of professional baseball might be in reach for Jeff but not for him. Carter pens a sure hit for baseball fans as plenty of riveting game action is detailed. Though a few fairly mild curse words are present, all-in-all this is a gentle coming-of-age story that, while not a gripping page-turner, results in an enjoyable read.Tom S. Hurlburt, La Crosse Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
The rise of Neil "Bull" Larsen, from fledgling freshman ballplayer to starting catcher on his senior championship team, is captured against a background of adolescent love, sweaty afternoons on the baseball diamond, and nights of summer-camp fun: in other words, a soap opera for pre-teen boys and a fantasy for budding baseball players.

Bull is a burly guy who can't clear the bases as fast as he'd like, but his smarts, wry sense of humor, and commendable devotion quickly dispel the dumb-jock stereotype. As Bull recounts for a senior project, baseball is all that he and his best friend, Jeff Hanson, ever think about. Carter (Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 1995, etc.) packs his narrative with action on the field and also shows the young athletes off-season: lifting weights, running sprints, and dreaming about spring training. Off the field, Bull and Jeff bridge cultural differences when they transform a Vietnamese transfer student into a star pitcher; moon over pretty, unattainable girls; and help their teammate Billy escape from an abusive father. At the end of senior year, Bull is unchanged by Billy's accidental death, his break-up with a girlfriend, and the realization that he will never play pro ball. In fact, the story ends without any sign that he's going to take even tentative steps toward maturity. Good as far as it goes, but incomplete.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590509589
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1997
  • Pages: 288
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Must read bood for baseball fans 12 and up

    This book is a must read book! There are so many ways that this book teaches you things that you don't even realize it. Or it's just a good reminder about what things you already knew about. The book talks about friendship, perseverance, inspiration, and it's introspective.
    There are so many ways that friendship speaks to you throughout this book. In one part of the book Neil, the catcher of the school's baseball team, had to help his friend Billy through really hard times. Billy's dad would beat him, but Billy didn't want to tell on him, so he left it alone and Neil needed to step in for his friend. He knew that his friends would help him through his times of struggle with school, family members and just everything in between if they helped him. He just knew they his friends were the answer.
    Baseball is a sport that you need some perseverance in if you want to do well in, and that is just what the whole team needs. In the book Neil makes a dumb mistake that costs him playing time for the last games of the season. He just needs to get those struggles back together and keep trying harder than before. If you don't try, you will never reach your goal. Just like in life and any assignment that you do with school, if you fail and quit you won't understand what you are doing, so to get better you need to ask your friends for help and try again to get better at whatever you're doing.
    You get a million dollars for winning! Something you always want to do, but maybe it's for something personal, like a goal you want met that you have worked hard for. Neil was playing baseball to win the league championship to go to college. That was his whole inspiration for playing was to go to college, to play baseball and he knew he should do well during his whole season to even have a chance for any college playing in his small town of Shipley, Wisconsin. Just like everyone else that want to go to college and get better at something. The money may be their inspiration but for different people they just have different things they want.
    The best part about this book is that it's introspective. You could get one thing out of this book when your neighbor could see a whole different side to the book because you can just think about the different things that lead up to different aspects of the book. It seems strange but then it's fun to read it again in different ways.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2012

    "Bull Catcher"- A Book About Baseball, And so Much Mor

    "Bull Catcher"- A Book About Baseball, And so Much More
    "Bull Catcher" is a story written by Alden R. Carter that revolves around Neil "Bull" Larsen's 4 years of high school. Neil is an avid baseball player, and baseball is his life and passion. At the start of Neil's high school career, all he wants to do in life is play baseball for as long as he can. But as he goes through high school, he realizes it is not that simple and that sometimes things will be unfair and hold you back. From trying to get an amazing foreign pitcher who refuses to join the team to join, to dealing with his good friend Billy, whose father is abusive and dangerous, and to Bull having to put up with his mother, who lives 2,000 miles away as a successful business woman whom rarely visits Bull and his caretaker, his Grandpa, it's no doubt Bull's life is hectic. As he goes through the years, he starts to learn more and more about himself and the people around him, which really makes him put his life in perspective. In his final year of high school, Bull and his team are put into the spotlight and are working harder than ever to win the championship, going over many obstacles. In Bull's final game, he is forced to think about his future after high school and he finally starts to realize, that no matter how hard he works, he just might not be good enough to fulfill his life long dreams.
    I really liked "Bull Catcher", and it was the first book that I've read from Alden R. Carter. Well, all I have to say is, is that it will not be the last book I read written by her. I really liked the characters in this book and it was interesting to see how the characters and their relationships with each other changed throughout Neil's 4 years of high school. Bull was also a very likable main character and in some parts you had to feel for him, because of the things he was going through. I also like how the conflict changes in "Bull Catcher" due to Bull maturing and changing what's most important in life as he gets older, because that makes the story more realistic. One other thing that I really liked about this book, was the descriptions of Bull's team's games. They were very visual and the descriptions weren't just the statistics of the games, they followed the players' emotions during the game and the ways they reacted to certain things. This book also had a few things I didn't like. In some parts, the book got really slow and talked about meaningless things, like dumb high school drama. I also didn't like the ending of the book, because it didn't turn out very well for Bull, and it turned out well for his best friend, which doesn't seem very fair. But, this book had way more positive things than negative things, so it definitely earned its four star rating.
    This book attracts a very diverse audience of people. Any baseball or sports fans would love this book, because of the book's involvement of competition and athletics. Older elementary school boys, middle school students, and high school students would like this book, because it is very relatable to their lives and it is a pretty easy read. People with only one parent would also like this book, as Bull only has one parent. Former high school students who played sports would like this book, because they could connect with the hardships Bull faces with high school athletics. In conclusion, "Bull Catcher" was a great sports book that was built upon great characters and conflicts, which makes it an enjoyable and likable book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2007

    great book

    this is a great book. it teaches you to love the game and your freinds.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2004


    Great book, a few cuss words here and there but a really really great book recommended from me!i read this book more than once!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2000

    Great Book

    Excellent book that teaches you not only about life bit about baseball too. Great for teens 13-16

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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