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Painting the Black

Painting the Black

4.7 14
by Carl Deuker

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In his senior year of high school, late bloomer Ryan Ward has just begun to feel the magic of baseball—the thrill of catching a wicked slider, of throwing a runner out, of training hard and playing hard. His friend Josh, the star of the team, has helped Ryan push his limits. But when Josh clearly pushes the limits too far, Ryan is faced with a heartbreaking


In his senior year of high school, late bloomer Ryan Ward has just begun to feel the magic of baseball—the thrill of catching a wicked slider, of throwing a runner out, of training hard and playing hard. His friend Josh, the star of the team, has helped Ryan push his limits. But when Josh clearly pushes the limits too far, Ryan is faced with a heartbreaking dilemma: he must choose between his love for the game and his sense of integrity.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Rather than producing a stereotyped high school jock, Deuker portrays Josh as a complex and multidimensional character. . . . A well-crafted sports novel that delivers without becoming didactic or boring."  —SLJ

“The well-written sports scenes—baseball and football—will draw reluctant readers, but it is Ryan’s moral courage that will linger when the reading is done.” —Booklist

“The baseball diamond leads to much more than just a winning season in this exciting and moving novel. . . . Deuker, adept at capturing the thrills during the game, also proves talented at dramatizing Ryan’s torment in the face of his friend’s deeds; the depiction of a boy coming into his own is resonant and inspiring.” —Kirkus Reviews

"An excellent sports story, with a lot more to it than just the game of baseball."  —VOYA

Children's Literature - Patricia K. Landy
When Josh Daniels moves in across the street, Ryan Ward’s life suddenly changes. Baseball is the name of the game. Ryan is a high school senior who has spent most of his life battling physical problems, especially a bad ankle. Josh takes Ryan under his wing and teaches him to be a catcher. And not just any catcher, but a top-notch catcher who is a confident, skilled player. Deucker portrays an accurate view of high school dynamics but even more so the angst of a teenage boy trying to shape his own world. Josh, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. When his lack of values and boastful attitude put Mona Roby’s life in danger, Ryan’s entire world turns upside down. Josh is no longer his “hero.” The two boys go their separate ways. Ryan moves in a direction to find that “greatness” his grandfather sees in him. Josh’s “greatness” proves shallow: he not only plays baseball by “painting the black,” but he also lives his life in that same zone where nobody knows his reality. Ryan’s journey is complicated, and as such, his audience is sympathetic. Josh plays the antagonist’s role well and drives the plot to the end. However, his obvious lack of growth leaves the reader rather aghast and confused that his despicable behavior carries no consequences. The plot does not reconcile all the conflict: two boys attacked Mona but the second boy is never revealed and vanishes from the text. Perhaps he, too, is painting the black. Even though one may read this as a sports story, the psychological factors that create the dynamics are far more interesting. Reviewer: Patricia K. Landy; Ages 12 up.
VOYA - Susan Dunn
In grade school, Ryan Ward was a pretty good baseball player. As he describes it, "I batted over .500, led the league in RBIs, and my coach told me I had the quickest wrists he had ever seen. I was going to be Ken Griffey, Jr." But when a summertime accident-he fell out of a tree, broke both legs and an arm and badly damaged his ankle-stole most of his natural ability on the ball field, Ryan gave up baseball for good. But along with sports, Ryan also more or less gave up on life. Since the accident he has coasted through school, never committing himself to studying, never making any close friends nor fitting in with a crowd, and not even choosing a college or thinking about what he wants to do with his life after his fast-approaching graduation. The summer before his senior year Ryan gets a new neighbor, Josh Daniels, an all-star athlete, who also will be a senior in the fall. Since there are no other people their age in the neighborhood, Ryan and Josh end up hanging around together. And since Josh's favorite pastime is baseball, Ryan finds himself-for the first time in five years -picking up a glove and ball and playing catch. Working out with Josh, a pitcher, Ryan builds up his strength and flexibility more than he had believed was possible. Convinced by Josh to try out for the school varsity team, Ryan makes the roster as a back-up catcher and eventually moves into the starting position for every game Josh pitches. The team mows over opponent after opponent, and Josh becomes a school hero. But one scholarly girl does not see him that way. She ridicules him to his face and in the school newspaper. When Ryan witnesses Josh and another boy assault this student in retaliation, he agonizes over whether to turn the two in, knowing that Josh probably will be suspended, which could cost the team the championship. As Ryan is forced to take a stand about something for the first time in his life, he finds it no longer so easy to escape to the small, safe world he has created for himself. As always Deuker hits the nail on the head. This is an excellent sports story, with a lot more to it than just the game of baseball. Ryan is a likeable, believable hero; readers will hope he makes the right decision but still will be disappointed when Josh's suspension does cause the team to fall apart and sacrifice the championship. Young adult sports fans will snap this one up, and if they have not already read Deuker's On the Devil's Court (Avon, 1991) or Heart of a Champion(Avon, 1994), make sure they take these titles home, too. The one complaint I have with the book is the cover art. The figure in the background (Josh) is strangely out of proportion with the catcher in the foreground. It certainly is not up to the high standard of the book. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Bruce Adelson
In his wonderful book, Carl Deuker spins a marvelous, finely textured yarn whose appeal may prove to be timeless. This story focuses on Ryan Ward, a high school senior suffering from the emotional effects of a broken ankle. Set back by this long ago injury, Ryan drifts into melancholy, uninterested in school and home life until Josh Daniels moves in across the street. Josh is everything Ryan is not, tall, handsome, athletic, and magnetic. A two-sport star in football and baseball, Josh is the prototypical big man on campus. Through Josh, Ryan vicariously experiences the thrills of high school athletic stardom. Josh also helps Ryan overcome his shyness by prompting him to push himself athletically, to the point that Ryan tries out for and makes the school's varsity baseball team. As the story unfolds, we learn how Ryan's newfound confidence helps him mature and guides him through the pitfalls of a friendship built on hero worship. Eventually, Ryan is forced to choose between Josh, the baseball team, a state championship and the truth when he discovers his friend's involvement in an incident that rocks Crown Hill High School.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 UpDuring the summer before his senior year, Ryan Ward is thrilled when a kid his age moves in across the street. He's even more thrilled when he learns that Josh Daniels is a star athlete. The two play catch for hours and Ryan secretly dreams of catching for the varsity team in the spring. He watches in awe as Josh proceeds to become the school's starting quarterback and leads the football team to a terrific season, but he is unsettled by the aggressive side of his friend's personality. When baseball season finally arrives, Ryan makes the team as a third-string catcher. He eventually becomes a starter because he's the only one who can handle Josh's hard slider. Just before the championship game, Ryan stumbles upon and stops an assault on a girl in the school. He realizes that one of the masked assailants is Josh, but telling the authorities proves to be an agonizing decision. The book ends somewhat ironically, yet realistically, with Josh signing a multimillion dollar professional baseball contract and receiving a tap on the wrist for his crime. Ryan, meanwhile, enrolls in the local junior college. Rather than producing a stereotyped high school jock, Deuker portrays Josh as a complex and multidimensional character. Ryan is a player who succeeds with his head, rather than through sheer talent. And while he learns about the subtleties of baseball, he also learns about the subtleties of life. A well-crafted sports novel that delivers without becoming didactic or boring.Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews
For Ryan Ward, 17, the baseball diamond leads to much more than just a winning season in this exciting and moving novel from Deuker (Heart of a Champion, 1993, etc.).

Until Josh Daniels and his family move in across the street during the summer, Ryan seems destined for mediocrity at Seattle's Crown Hill High. Eager for a friend, Ryan tags after the charismatic, athletically gifted Josh, a pitcher; while they play catch, Ryan realizes that he enjoys catching and thinks of trying out for the varsity team. But Ryan's plans are put on hold when autumn rolls around and Josh concentrates on the football team. Throughout the novel, his single-minded, nearly ruthless ambition is shown as the opposite of Ryan's nagging insecurities. The image of himself as Josh's toady drives Ryan to begin working out months before baseball season. Josh's careful maneuvering during practice shows Ryan at his best, and he makes the varsity cut; the team's unprecedented success is achieved largely through the symbiosis between the boys as pitcher and catcher. There the connection ends: Josh, master of high school politics, grows more arrogant while Ryan blossoms with newfound confidence. A championship season seems clinched until Josh, in a wolf mask, assaults a female classmate who has embarrassed him. Ryan interrupts the assault and recognizes Josh. Deuker, adept at capturing the thrills during the game, also proves talented at dramatizing Ryan's torment in the face of his friend's deeds; the depiction of a boy coming into his own is resonant and inspiring.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Lots of guys can stand on the pitcher's mound and throw a baseball hard. But they aren't pitchers. A pitcher does more than throw: he knows what he's doing out there. He changes speeds; he works the corners, inside and outside, tying batters up or making them reach out awkwardly. And once he owns the corners, once the umpire is calling all those pitches strikes, then he really goes to work. He moves his pitches out or in another inch, so that instead of going over the plate, the ball passes over the edge of the plate. Painting the black, they call it, putting the ball right there on the borderline. Josh Daniels could do that. He lived on that borderline. I know because I was his catcher.

A year ago I would have sworn that I could never play baseball again, that it was absolutely impossible for me to make the school team. But I was right there with Josh when he reached out for that championship ring. My hand was right next to his. Even now I'm not sure who wanted it more.

It all started one night last June. I'd been listening to the Mariners' game. It was one of those three-hour slugfests that went back and forth. We were down two in the last of the ninth when Ken Griffey Jr. came up with the bases loaded. Griffey took the first pitch low, then he got one in his wheelhouse and blasted it. I was only listening,but I swear I could see that drive, see the ball climbing higher and higher and then landing in the second deck. The radio exploded, and my heart just about came out of my chest.

After a game like that, you can't just turn off the radio and knock off. I listened tothe post-game show and the manager's show, but I was still too pumped up to sleep.

I switched to one of those stations that play old rock. I had the sound down low because my mom and dad had been in bed for hours. That's why I picked up the rumble of the engine the moment the truck turned and headed up our block. And when the truck stopped, engine idling, in front of the big empty house across the street, I went over to the window to look out.

The sky was cloudless, with a big full moon overhead. The passenger door opened and a kid who looked to be about my age, seventeen or eighteen, hopped out. I could see him clearly in the moonlight. A big kid with dark, shoulder-length hair and a long, angular face.

The driver, a man I figured was his father, stuck his head out the window. His voice carried in the night air. "I'm going to pull this thing right up to the steps. You guide me, Josh."

The kid climbed onto the porch. He put both hands up and motioned for the truck to back toward him. "Keep coming. Keep coming." His rich, deep voice filled the night air. "A little more... easy now...stop!" The brake lights went on, and for an instant his face turned an eerie red, making him look like a rock star in some MTV video.

The driver's door opened and the man, who was short and stocky, stepped out. "Give me the house keys," he said, looking back into the truck.

A woman's voice answered from inside. "I don't have them. You've got them."

"I do not have them." The man's voice was sharp.

A search took place, the keys were found, and the front door to the house opened. The porch light went on, the rolling back door of the truck was raised, and the unloading began.

If it had been daytime, I would never have stood at that open window and watched, and not just because they could have seen me. Time passes differently late at night. You can stand and look out a window without worrying that you should be doing something else. Those late hours are all stolen hours.

They didn't unload all that much. Mattresses, box springs, some lamps, a table -- just the basics. There was probably some other stuff too, but I didn't pay much attention. Mainly I watched the kid, the way he took the stairs three at a time, his broad shoulders, his rail-straight back.

When I was in sixth grade, I broke my ankle and had to spend a couple of weeks in the hospital. Day after day I'd lie in bed and watch "Leave It to Beaver" reruns on the hospital television. All the time I watched, something seemed strange about the program, but I could never quite put my finger on it. Just before I got out of the hospital, I figured out what it was: Every time Beaver stepped outside, someone his age was there waiting to do something with him. Kids lived in every house up and down Beaver's block.

I don't know about the rest of this country. Maybe it's still that way in some places. But in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle where I live, there are old people, young couples with no kids, and single people. I've lived in this same house my whole life. In all that time, there had been only one year when anybody my age lived on this block -- and that year ended in disaster. So seeing somebody my age was something different.

They worked for about an hour. Then the front door closed and the porch light went off. I found myself yawning, so I went back to my bed. I listened to a couple more songs on the radio. The last one I remember was "Hey Jude." Somewhere in one of those Na Na Na Na's at the end, I fell asleep.

Painting the Black. Copyright © by Carl Deuker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Carl Deuker participated in several sports as a boy. He was good enough to make most teams, but not quite good enough to play much. He describes himself as a classic second-stringer. "I was too slow and too short for basketball; I was too small for football, a little too chicken to hang in there against the best fastballs. So, by my senior year the only sport I was still playing was golf." Carl still loves playing golf early on Sunday mornings at Jefferson Park in Seattle, the course on which Fred Couples learned to play. His handicap at present is 13. Combining his enthusiasm for both writing and athletics, Carl has created many exciting, award-winning novels for young adults. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington, with his wife and daughter.

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Painting the Black 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book because it is a great sports book story. It has a lot of facts about what it is like to be either a pitcher or a catcher. You could feel how the players in the book felt during their games. The author did a great job of explaining the game of baseball and made it so that even kids who don¿t know the game as well as I do would enjoy the story. The story is about a kid who loved to play baseball but broke his ankle falling out of a tree and it ended his baseball dreams. A new kid moves onto his street who is a great baseball pitcher and they start going to the Community Center and playing catch. Pretty soon Ryan the kid who thought he would never play ball again starts catching for Josh to help him keep his arm in shape. Soon Ryan starts to believe that maybe he can get back into playing baseball as a catcher. Josh starts playing football and has no time for Ryan so he starts working out and getting himself back in shape. Josh is a great quarterback also but they lose the championship game. Ryan starts to see a side of Josh that may not be so great. When baseball season comes around Ryan is surprised when he makes the school baseball team as the 3rd string catcher. When they start playing in games the other catchers can¿t catch Josh¿s slider so Ryan gets to play whenever Josh pitches. In school they have 4th period together and Josh always gets in arguments with Monica a girl in their class. Ryan always tries to make their arguments no big deal and tells Josh not to let Monica get to him. The Crown Hill baseball team makes it to the championship, they get beat every year by O¿Dea school and it ends their season. But this year they win the game when Ryan goes in to pitch hit and hits a homerun. Ryan sees 2 guys sneaking around the school and realizes they are heading for the music portable where Monica is, he follows them and stops them when they are attacking her and realizes that 1 of them is Josh. Josh convinces him not to tell anyone that it was him that attacked Monica saying that they weren¿t going to hurt her just scare her and put her in her place. After a while it starts eating at Ryan so he finally tells the truth and Josh is suspended and doesn¿t get to play in the state finals. The Crown Hill team loses but Ryan feels like he did the right thing. At the end of the book Josh gets drafted by a major league team and Ryan goes and applies for a Community College happy with the person he has become.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
beastlymurk243434343434 More than 1 year ago
Painting the Black by Carl Deuker is a great book for young teens. This sports fiction book expresses many conflicts that could happen in and any day life. I chose this book because Carl Deuker is a good author and writes very well. Painting the Black is about a kid Ryan who really does nothing as a kid until Josh Daniels comes along. Josh is Ryan's new neighbor and motivates Ryan to try out for baseball. When baseball season comes around Ryan decides it is time to get in shape so he can make the varsity team. Josh tells Ryan to never give up and he will make the team. Once it is baseball season nobody besides Ryan can catch Josh's pitches so he makes the team. Through a mile high season through many ups and downs a dispute happens that changes both Ryan's and Josh's life. I liked this book because it had a good plot, a conflict that kept me reading the book, and I relate to baseball. I liked the characters because they had good personalities and they reminded me of my friends. The ending was a big conflict that made me realize that you should not let people get to your head. The lesson of the story was to never give up at something. This story showed me that because Ryan came of an injury and was the leader of the team. The ending was kind of weak though because it kept repeating itself over and over. I recommend this book to baseball fans who like a story with lots of conflict. Painting the Black by Carl Deuker was one of his many good books that deserved a 4.0 out 5.0 stars. I liked this book because the plot was well written and the conflicts kept me reading every chance I could. This book is a must read for all baseball fans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
brianfinemcds More than 1 year ago
Painting The Black Initially I picked Painting the Black up from the bookshelf because it looked like an interesting story. I judged a book by its cover. Based on its cover, this book looks like it takes place during the spring, and it is heavily about baseball. That is partially correct, but there is a bunch of other events that are very good in this book. Not only is there some baseball in this book, but there is also football. Football is just a small portion of it as well. In the book there are bizarre situations, and there are situations that students everywhere in the world encounter at some point in their life. You are thinking what are these situations, and the only way to find out would be to read the book, which I highly recommend. If you enjoy sports, people's lives, a nd peer pressure this book is a winner. Not only are there all of those themes, but there are multiple accounts of each. What makes these themes best are how the author makes everything picture-able in your head with vivid description that isn't too long but just right. The main character, Ryan Ward, is put through many tough situations. To start off, Ryan is what you call a late bloomer. He is noticeably smaller than majority of his class, and he has issues walking because he had an accident. The author creates an image of this accident that makes your eyes begin to tear. And after his issues with his accident, he even has issues regarding a situation in school. This situation causes him large amounts of pressure. The way he handles his pressure is interesting, and clearly obvious because the author describes it in a way that could not have been done better. Not only is the book worth every minute that you read it, but for $5.99 you get sports, action, drama, relatable situations, and a great story. Could you ask for more because I sure cannot! Ryan also meets Josh. Josh is not only tall and strong, but he is an awesome pitcher, and he is a great quarterback. In baseball the throws a slider that is "untouchable" and in football he throws a ball with a spiral that is as tight as it can be. He also turns into a fool, and a troublemaker. He causes his friend Ryan stress and grief all because he doesn't get along with a girl in his English class. But he also had his positives. He got Ryan back into the groove of playing baseball. Josh would pitch, and Ryan would catch. They would practice and hang out through baseball. Baseball was the catalyst of their relationship. Ryan got so good that he was named the starting catcher, he made clutch hits, and he even managed to help the team win huge games that they never could have won without him. Because it is known that Ryan and Josh are bound by athletics, the question is will the actions of Josh end their relationship? In order to find out, don't waste your time reading other books, read Painting The Black by Carl Deuker. So now let's be honest. We all like a good book. Well if you want to read another good book Painting The Black is that book to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Painting the Black was a great book that helps people of all ages see what really happens in high schools. This book shows that students playing sports do get special treatment, but still recieve punishment. Painting the Black shows trials that friends in high school go through. Sexual harassment was a major factor in this book. A joke played by football players is took lighter than expected so the football star could play in a championship game. The star athlete goes on to play baseball, but receives his punishment and is not able to complete the season.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Carl Deuker did a excellent job on writing this book. He gave perfect details that made you feel like you were the game. He did a very good job on describing the surroundings, I liked it when he described the trees in the spring and fall. Also how the grass was in Seattle. During the games, he got the player's emotion on the dot, because he made feel like i was there watching the game. He also did a good job at writing good and suspensful games. He made me wanna pick up a glove and go try out. But what i like the most was the story it self. The main character Ryan Ward was trying to find him self through out the whole book and when he added Josh Daniels into the mix, Ryan finding him self became a lot more interesting. Another thing that was great about this book was that it had consist drama and suspense, especially when the detective came into the book. I kept wonderin who did it and why, and would that person snitch on the other person even though no harm was really done. that part of the book had me on the edge of my seat. Also I thought the end to this book was very surprising, but still very good. I really hope that there will be a part to this book, because i have a feeling that Josh and Ryan will play another game of baseball together..
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is full of real life situations. Every part was so exciting, and full of detail!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i really enjoyed this book it was very out going great novel carl you should write more books their great
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book does a great job of showing the hard choice of your friends or your integrity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
great book i think every one who likes sports sould read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an outstanding illustration that I believe anyone who enjoys baseball would love!