Michael Arroyo's lightning fastball makes him the envy of all his teammates, but this speedy southpaw labors under a secret that allows him no rest. Softspoken 12-year-old Cuban refugee Mike worries that he and his 17-year-old brother, Carlos, stand in danger of being separated, even deported. Mike Lupica's middle school novel touches all the bases: suspense, excitement, convincing characterization.
As readers go, Andino seems to have it all, as heard in his sharp performance of Lupica's (Traveling Team) latest baseball tale. The story centers on two Cuban brothers living in New York and trying to avoid being sent to foster care, or even back to Cuba, after their father dies. Michael Arroyo is the star of his Bronx Little League team, but he is benched when he is accused of being older than 12. With no father to help and his birth certificate lost in Cuba, Michael is at a loss for what to do. It doesn't help that both boys have inadvertently drawn the attention of the police (Michael for helping apprehend a crook, and his older brother Carlos for working for him). Andino has his work cut out for him: Dominican, Cuban, old, young, male, female he is totally convincing as every character. Particularly fun is the thespian uncle Timo of Michael's friend Manny; the boys talk Timo into playing "Papi" when they are visited by the officials. His transformation from surfer-dude to middle-aged Cuban refugee is as enjoyable as it is impressive. Ages 10-up. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Heat is a well paced, steadily building novel that examines baseball, cultural identity, first love, and adulthood. When their father dies, Michael and his older brother are forced to fend for themselves. But should anyone find out their secret, they will be split up or worse…sent back to Cuba, spoiling Mike's chances of playing in the Little League World Series. This coming of age tale uses the America's past-time as backdrop for exploring multiple adolescent themes. The fairy-tale ending borders on the unbelievable, but overall the work is a terrific read for those looking for a dose of childhood baseball nostalgia.
Lupica's second middle school sports book follows Travel Team (Philomel, 2004/VOYA December 2004) and relates the story of twelve-year-old Michael Arroyo who considers baseball his "best friend," has a terrific once-in-a-generation pitching arm, and misses Papi, his father who is not around. Originally from Cuba and now living in the South Bronx near Yankee Stadium, Michael dominates Little League games with at-home support from his seventeen-year-old brother, Carlos, and on-the-field help from his sidekick and catcher, Manny, a friend who "always has his back." Trouble arises when Michael's overpowering talent embarrasses a spoiled brat opponent, provoking the player's father to question Michael's age and demand to see a birth certificate. Adults cannot acquire the necessary proof from Havana, and Michael is benched. Targeting middle school readers, this sports novel hits the sweet spot during the on-field play, and many diverse secondary characters-Maria Cuellar plays second base-bring life to the action. Although they are necessary to the story, subplots of Carlos scalping Yankee tickets, the plight of Cuban immigrants, and an alluring girl with a powerful throwing arm (and a secret) slightly interrupt the novel's flow. The author's devotion to the New York Yankees and constant name-dropping does not encourage a gray area and will either annoy or be embraced by teens. One viewpoint is that the Yankees, Katie Couric, Oprah, Dan Patrick of ESPN, and the Daily News all mentioned on a single page seems excessive. That complaint aside, this positive portrayal of Hispanic teens competing athletically is recommended for both school and public libraries. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readablewithout serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Philomel, 324p., Ages 11 to 15.
Gr 5-8-When Michael Arroyo is on the baseball diamond, everything feels right. He's a terrific pitcher who dreams of leading his South Bronx All-Stars to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. It's a dream he shared with his father, one they brought with them as they fled Cuba and wound up living in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Michael's ultimate dream is to play in the major leagues like his hero, El Grande, Yankee star and fellow Cuban refugee. Tragically, Papi died of a heart attack a few months back, leaving Michael and his older brother, Carlos, to struggle along on their own. Afraid of being separated, they hide the news of their father's death from everyone but a kindly neighbor, Mrs. Cora, and Michael's best friend, Manny Cabrera. When a bitter rival spreads rumors that Michael is older than he appears, the league demands that he be benched until he can produce a birth certificate. As he did in Travel Team (Philomel, 2004), Lupica crafts an involving, fast-paced novel peopled with strong, well-developed characters. Readers will find themselves rooting for Michael as he struggles with the loss of his father, stumbles into his first boy-girl relationship, and yearns to play baseball. The sports scenes are especially well written; fittingly, the euphoric finale takes place at Yankee Stadium. At times, the author veers toward melodrama but he keeps his lively plot on course with humor, crisp dialogue, and true-to-life characters. Lupica scores another hit with this warmhearted novel.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Michael Arroyo's left arm is "a gift from the gods." His Papi would say, "Someday, you will make it to the World Series." Michael has grown up the object of his father's dreams, but what he loved most was just playing catch with his father in Cuba and, now, playing pickup games with his friends in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Lurking behind the scenes is the issue of Michael's real age and whether he's really eligible to play in the Little League World Series, if his team makes it that far. Lupica follows his bestselling Travel Team (2004) with another winner. He has the veteran sportswriter's gift of dialogue and muscular prose, employed well in creating believable characters and well-developed action scenes. The story culminates in a tear-jerking scene with Michael on the mound in Yankee Stadium, making this work an irresistible treat for sports fans. (Fiction. 10+)