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Choosing Up Sides

Choosing Up Sides

4.6 3
by John H. Ritter

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Luke Bledsoe is a left-hander in a right-handed world and feels like an outsider. Then he discovers he can pitch and baseball opens a whole new side to life.


Luke Bledsoe is a left-hander in a right-handed world and feels like an outsider. Then he discovers he can pitch and baseball opens a whole new side to life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set during Prohibition, Ritter's debut novel features a rural Kentucky dialect and a sympathetic hero "stuck smack between two worlds." Luke Bledsoe's conflicts with his father, a volatile fundamentalist preacher, take on a new dimension when the seventh-grade southpaw discovers his pitching power. Classmates who have seen Luke accidentally throw with what his father calls "the Devil's arm" urge Luke to join the local baseball team, but Luke's left-handedness is not the only trouble: participation in sports is strictly forbidden by his church. The narrator is strongly tempted to side with "wild-as-a-witch-dog" Uncle Micah, another lefty, who encourages his nephew to follow his own natural course. Luke's movement toward independence is realistically cautious but frustratingly slowuntil his father's accidental death brings a quick turn of events and tidy solution to problems. Criticisms of religious taboos and narrow-mindedness are hurled as forcefully as Luke's fastball. More artful, subtle expression may be found in the author's depiction of local color and metaphors mostly having to do with fishing and hunting. Despite its somewhat didactic tone, this story offers enough curve balls to keep readers engaged. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)
VOYA - Dr. Stefani Koorey
Set during the early days of Prohibition in 1921, Choosing Up Sides is a well-designed study of personal choice. Luke Bledsoe, a thirteen-year-old preacher's son, finds himself torn between his allegiance to his father's belief that sports and left-handedness are sinful and his own newly discovered identity as a potentially great southpaw pitcher. Unlike many sports novels, Choosing Up Sides does more than offer a mere glimpse at the grand old game of baseball-it takes a deeper look at faith, truth, and individuality. The passion for the sport is gradually built up for readers as it comes to the main character, who knows absolutely nothing of the game or how it is played before his chance introduction. The male characters in this novel, Ritter's first, become flesh and blood to the reader, memorable and true. Luke's father appears stern, cold, and unfeeling in his treatment of his family, but Luke does not condemn him. Rather, Luke is warmly understanding of his dad, even defending his father's harsh actions and religious beliefs with sensitivity and love. It is Luke's maturity in this regard, his refusal to play the victim, that makes the reader like him all the more. Beginning with one of the best opening paragraphs in recent memory, Choosing Up Sides winds effortlessly to its somewhat clich�d climax. With its wide appeal, this first-person story is a recommended purchase for all public and school libraries. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8).
Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
In this first novel, Ritter has created a powerful story about the struggle between a father and son. The son of an itinerant preacher, Luke has a God-given gift for pitching a baseball. The only problem is that Luke is left-handed, and his father believes that being left-handed is a sign from the devil and that baseball is "the Devil's playground." In this moving story, Luke must decide between pleasing his father and making his own way in the world.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9Baseball is the sport, but personal salvation hangs in the balance for 13-year-old Luke, whose father has been newly installed to shepherd the flock of the Holy River of John the Baptist Church in Crown Falls, OH. Pa's fundamentalist beliefs hold sports to be as "sinful as dancing." He's fought a long, difficult battle to "cure" Luke of his left-handedness (including tying Luke's left arm to his side with a belt for most of six or seven years) because the Bible clearly tells him that the left hand is of the devil. Luke admires and respects his father, but also fears him. Temptations arrive in the form of baseball for which Luke's left arm seems predestined for greatness, and Annabeth Quinn, a too-good-to-be-true girl who pushes him to play because in 1921, in this place, she cannot. Further influenced by his Uncle Micah, a flashy newspaper sportswriter, Luke sees Babe Ruth play a local exhibition game and plays enough ball himself to incur his father's wrath. Long a trapper and fisherman, Luke experiences an epiphany when he frees a snared rabbit and clearly perceives his own entrapment. Following a vicious beating by his pa that cracks his pitching arm, the boy resolves to run away. Sophisticated readers might find the climax over the topa misstep plunges Pa, a nonswimmer, into the river, and Luke, hampered by his broken arm, is unable to rescue him. Cleverly told in a colloquial first-person twang, this thoughtful tale of authority questioned and dreams denied will be real enough to many readers.Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA
Kirkus Reviews
Writing in a vivid, suspenseful style, Ritter debuts with the story of a boy coming into his own as "a thinking man." In 1921, when some religious folk believe that the left side of a person is the domain of the devilþ"contrary to God"þLuke Bledsoe, 13, who is left-handed, is forced to use his right hand or suffer his preacher father's harsh words and physical abuse. When his family moves to Ohio, Luke accidentally finds out that he has the ability to become an incredible southpaw pitcher, and is tempted by the game his father calls "the devil's playground." With the encouragement of his black-sheep Uncle Micah, Luke explores his talent and gathers the courage to stand up to his father's irrational rules and abuse. Some outstanding scenes include Luke's thrilling first ride on a steamboat, the harrowing punishment he receives when his father finds him out, and his hilarious and life-altering first professional ballgame, featuring lefty Babe Ruth at bat. Luke's emotions are meticulously conveyed, and Ritter avoids making the boy's father a one-dimensional villain, showing his troubled, conflicted psychological make-up. No ordinary baseball book, this is a rare first novel. (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

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Choosing up Sides 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Made me think of religion, family , and baseball in an all new perspective. It's real deep and I totally loved it.He's the next Chris Crutcher.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it really really touched me like no ther book did, seriously. very suspensful & u never wannna put this down. its really great, from beginning to finish. i really enjoyed this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely wonderful! Granted, it wasn't the baseball book I was expecting, but it has so many good topics that really get you thinking. I was riveted to the book from the minute I started it and couldn't put it down until I finished it. The author does a wonderful job.... There were parts where I couldn't shut my mouth out of sheer surprise. There is also humor sprinkled throughout this book which keeps the reader entertained. There are a few sappy parts, but you can (while feeling embarrassed for the characters) overlook those. This would make an awesome discussion book. This is a great book that challenges the concepts of faith, family, and love. (This is not light reading.) BUY THIS BOOK- YOU WON¿T BE DISAPPOINTED!!!