A Long Pitch Home

A Long Pitch Home

by Natalie Dias Lorenzi


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A sensitive and endearing middle grade novel about a young Pakistani immigrant adjusting to his new life in contemporary America
Ten-year-old Bilal liked his life back home in Pakistan. He was a star on his cricket team. But when his father suddenly sends the family to live with their aunt and uncle in America, nothing is familiar. While Bilal tries to keep up with his cousin Jalaal by joining a baseball league and practicing his English, he wonders when his father will join the family in Virginia. Maybe if Bilal can prove himself on the pitcher’s mound, his father will make it to see him play.
But playing baseball means navigating relationships with the guys, and with Jordan, the only girl on the team—the player no one but Bilal wants to be friends with.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781580897136
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Natalie Dias Lorenzi is a full-time school librarian in Fairfax, Virginia, where a majority of her students are immigrants. She has previously taught in the US, Japan, and Italy, specializing in English as a Second Language. Natalie also writes curriculum guides for writers and publishers. She is the author of FLYING THE DRAGON, which was a Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Book of the Year.

Read an Excerpt

They took my father three days ago, a week before my tenth birthday.
            No one knows where he is. Or if they do know, they are not telling me.
            Daddo has her own theories. “They took my son because he is the best engineer in all of Karachi—no, in all of Pakistan.”
            “Who are they?” I ask.
            My grandmother frowns as she strips the mango skin from its flesh. I actually feel sorry for the mango.
            She does not answer my question, so I keep talking.
            “But Daddo, there are a thousand engineers in Karachi. Why couldn’t they—whoever they are—get their own engineer instead of taking Baba?”
            “Bah.” Daddo scoops up the mango peels and dumps them in the trash. “You are still too young to understand these things, Bilal.”
            “Almost-ten-year-olds are not too young to understand these things.”
            I hold my breath, waiting for her reaction. I am not supposed to be disrespectful during the month of Ramadan. Or any of the other months, either.
            But Daddo doesn’t look mad. She just shakes her head and says, “One day you will understand.”
            Here is what I understand.
            Four days ago I was planning my birthday party with my mother. Ammi called the Pie in the Sky bakery over by Zamzama Park and ordered my favorite cake—chocolate malt with fudge frosting.
            The next day my father never came home from work.
            I understand nothing.
            Ammi has not cooked a thing since my father disappeared. Daddo cooks double of everything to feed the relatives who stream into our apartment every day, waiting for news about my father.
            Usually my family is loud, and we talk all at once except when we’re laughing. But whoever took my father took our laughter, too. The grown-ups smile whenever I come into the room with my little sister, Hira, who hasn’t let me out of her sight since our father disappeared. They clap whenever Humza, my baby brother, toddles over and calls out a nonsense word. But I can see in their eyes that they are scared. Their fear sits on my chest like an elephant.
            The adults gather in the living room, where the curtains are drawn against the late-afternoon sun. They stop whispering when I come around the corner, so I catch only snippets of their conversations.
            “He should have transferred out of that office.”
            “How many times did I tell him not to push the issue?”
            “I’ve never trusted Tahir.”
            I understand none of it, especially the part about Tahir, the father of my very best friend. He and Baba work together. They have been friends since they were boys, just like Mudassar and me.
            When the sun sinks into the sea and the azaan sounds from the minarets of the Mubarak Mosque, our prayers do not feel joyful. I kneel on my janamaz, touching my forehead to the prayer mat. But when I recite the traditional words, I am really asking Allah to bring Baba home. When it is time to break the fast, no one rushes to the table; they shuffle and murmur and sigh. Daddo brings out the steaming bowls of qorma, and the smell of chicken and curry makes my stomach rumble. I feel guilty for being hungry, because who knows if those people who took Baba are letting him eat. Daddo must hear my rumbling belly, because she leans over as she passes the plate of dates and whispers, “Eat, Bilal jaan. Worrying is hungry work.”
            We mumble an unenthusiastic Bismillah in thanks for our food. Maybe Allah heard our prayer, because next we hear the knock at the door. Everyone freezes except for Humza, who stuffs his mouth with fat fistfuls of mushy rice and peas.
            Nobody moves because that first knock is just a regular one. But then it comes, Baba’s special knock: two fast raps— pause—another quick knock like a hiccup, followed by two solid thunks.
            We burst from our chairs in a blur of movement, our voices exploding with hope and disbelief. Someone’s water glass clanks over and my chair crashes to the floor, but I do not look back. My legs race down the hall until my palms slam against the front door.
            My fingers work the locks as fast as dragonfly wings, and then—click!—the last of the locks is free. I pull the door open, and there stands Baba. His suit is wrinkled and his shirt is torn near the pocket, and he must have lost his glasses somewhere along the way. But it’s him, all right, and he is home.
            “Baba!” I yell. My father smiles and steps inside, then falls to his knees and opens his arms. Hira and I just about knock him over. His cheek has the beginnings of a beard that prickles my own cheek, but I keep my arms tight around him. Everyone surrounds my father, crying and laughing and asking him where he’s been. He only shakes his head and takes turns holding us close.
            Baba doesn’t speak about those three days he was missing from our lives. But two days after his surprise homecoming, he says this: “Bilal, it is high time we leave Pakistan to live with your Hassan Uncle and Noor Auntie in America.”
            America? That’s on the other side of the world.
            Ammi, my siblings, and I will leave in a few days, and Baba will come later. In the meantime, Baba says we can tell no one we are leaving, not even Mudassar. Especially not Mudassar. If Baba and Tahir are no longer friends, does that mean I have lost my best friend, too?

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