Safe At Second

Safe At Second

5.0 4
by Scott Johnson
     
 

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Todd Bannister has it all: a fastball made for the majors, scouts lining up at his door, a beautiful girlfriend, and his best friend Paulie—his number one fan. It seems nothing can stop the bright future that lies ahead. But all it takes is one line drive—and Todd takes it square in the face, and loses an eye. Things are different now. Will Todd have

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Overview

Todd Bannister has it all: a fastball made for the majors, scouts lining up at his door, a beautiful girlfriend, and his best friend Paulie—his number one fan. It seems nothing can stop the bright future that lies ahead. But all it takes is one line drive—and Todd takes it square in the face, and loses an eye. Things are different now. Will Todd have the strength to give up his old dreams and move on? Will Paulie? Scott Johnson weaves a masterful tale about what happens after the big game in this engrossing coming-of-age story.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Compelling...Its characters are complex, rounded and fully realized, and its themes are universal. An outstanding novel." -School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Christopher Moning
Todd Bannister is a sure bet for a college baseball scholarship. Who knows, with his incredible fastball he could even go straight to the pros. And when he does, his best friend Paulie will be right there with him as Todd's personal assistant. Paulie is small and less gifted than Todd is, so Todd is always there to look out for him. Though he can barely make the varsity team, no one loves the game of baseball more than Paulie does. Just ask him the batting average of any major leaguer in the last seven years. When a terrible accident threatens Todd's career--and his life--it becomes Paulie's turn to look out for Todd. Related with remarkable agility, this baseball novel will appeal to readers regardless of their interest in the sport. Subtle yet surprising, unsentimental yet deeply moving, this is a highly satisfying read.
VOYA - Kevin Beach
As the title suggests, this is a novel about baseball--but it is more than just that. It is also about the struggle of a boy who learns to step out of his friend's limelight to build his own future. A soon-to-be superstar pitcher already featured in a Sports Illustrated article, Todd loses an eye in a practice game at the beginning of his senior year. Todd watches his star fade as scouts from the colleges and the majors stop courting him and students from the school avoid eye contact. Only his devoted teammate and best friend, Paulie, stays by his side, unwilling to give up his dream of being Todd's personal assistant when Todd hits the big time. Todd suffers through the stages of denial, anger, and depression and connects with the rowdy crowd at school. Paulie sees the classic signs, he thinks, that Todd is suicidal. The novel focuses on Paulie's struggle to "save" Todd and promote the glimmer of hope that just maybe Todd can still pitch with his handicap. Paulie, meanwhile, suffers at home and at school as a nice kid who cannot really do anything well. His disastrous attempt to write a sports column for the school newspaper develops into an undiscovered talent for writing and his skills on the baseball field get better with each game. There is a climactic "big game" that does not exactly have the traditional come-from-behind finish the reader might expect. All of the main characters grow emotionally during the months covered in the story, and these students are interesting and well drawn. This book might serve as an inspiration for an unpopular kid who lives in the shadow of a high-profile friend. It also has enough baseball in it for the sports fiction buff. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).
KLIATT
To quote KLIATT's Sept. 1999 review of the hardcover edition: Judging from the cover, this appears to be a traditional baseball story for teenage boys. But there are some surprises. First of all, it is told from the point of view of Paulie, an admiring friend of the ace high school pitcher, Todd, who promises to be the kind of athlete who might be good enough to jump over college to land straight in the pros. Paulie has been a good friend, but he has put his own life on hold to live vicariously through Todd's amazing success. (This is convenient for Paulie, who doesn't really want to look too closely at his own hopes and dreams.) This dynamic works until Todd is hit by a long drive and he loses his sight in one eye. The scouts and journalists fade away, and Todd questions who he is if he can't pitch. And who is Paulie if he isn't an appendage to Todd, the star pitcher? He finds he is still Todd's friend. And he struggles to help Todd regain his ability to pitch, because both boys are desperate to regain their previous identities: one a star athlete, the other his most loyal fan. As both Todd and Paulie lurch through the remaining months of Todd's senior year, they make some terrible mistakes, and they also discover quite a lot about themselves. Johnson is a high school English teacher who obviously understands high school students. It is clear that he loves baseball—and understands how sports can define a high school athlete, in some ways preventing the athlete from seeing who else he or she is. This novel should appeal to a wide range of YA readers, not just the sports fans, and certainly not just boys. There is some swearing here and there, by the way, and some seriousdrinking of alcohol by Todd when he is in despair, but these are treated realistically. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1999, Penguin Putnam/Puffin, 246p, 18cm, $5.99. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A star pitcher's best buddy must find a way to help his friend and redefine his own goals when a line drive injures the athlete and dashes their dreams of glory. A tough and tender coming-of-age story with plenty of play-by-play action. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-As a "can't miss" pitching prospect, Todd Bannister has scouts, agents, and recruiters begging for his attention and, as a good-looking, self-assured star athlete, he has fellow students and many adults doing the same. All of this comes to an abrupt end when he is hit in the face by a line drive and loses an eye. His attempt to come back is unsuccessful as he can no longer control his pitches and is pounded unmercifully whenever he is put into a game. Initially angry and bitter, he eventually comes to a kind of acceptance of his new status and takes the first steps to getting on with his life. Todd is a fascinating character, by turns conceited and considerate, cruel and kind, thoughtful and thoughtless. With just a few deft brush strokes, Johnson demonstrates how a basically decent kid can succumb to the blandishments of an adoring public, accept their adulation as his due, and even use his position to manipulate people. The book is narrated by Todd's best friend and biggest supporter, Paulie Lockwood, who must come to terms with the way the changes in Todd's life affect his own. As Todd works through his tragic situation and his hubris gives way to a hard-won wisdom, readers will respond with empathy and compassion. This compelling work transcends the category of sports fiction. Its characters are complex, rounded, and fully realized, and its themes are universal. An outstanding novel.-Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Major League dreams go a-glimmering for a high school senior and his sycophant in this twin coming-of-age story from Johnson (One of the Boys, 1992). Due to his extraordinary fastball, Todd is already the subject of write-ups in Sports Illustrated and visits from scouts. Paulie, the narrator and Todd's friend since Little League days, is perfectly content to bask in reflected glory. When a line drive hits Todd in the face and takes out an eye, Paulie decides that it's his job to get his friend back on his feet; clinging like a limpet, he gets Todd home when he drinks too much, schemes to reunite him with his old girlfriend, steers him out of depression, and helps him learn to pitch again. In the process, Paulie takes a few unwilling steps out of Todd's shadow, and by the end has made some pleasant discoveries about his own abilities. Paulie's phobias, which include computers and the SATs, seem exaggerated to the point of caricature, and a subplot involving his younger brother has only a tenuous connection to the main story; nevertheless, readers will be engrossed by Todd's attempt at a comeback before accepting that his most profound loss is not the eye, but the fire in his belly, and by Paulie's realization that there's more to life, and friendship, than unthinking loyalty. An intense, exciting championship game closes this unusually thoughtful, if slightly uneven, tale on a high note. (Fiction. 12-15)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780698118775
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
04/28/2001
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 7.16(h) x 0.69(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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From the Publisher
"Compelling...Its characters are complex, rounded and fully realized, and its themes are universal. An outstanding novel." —School Library Journal

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