- The Rhino in Right Field by Stacy DeKeyser
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5344-0626-1 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5344-0628-5 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4–6
Like his pals in an unnamed 1948 Midwestern city, Nikko “Nick” Spirakis is infected with the baseball bug, but unlike those pals, he’s captive in his father’s store every Saturday, and it’s a real drag on his game time. The Saturday work issue becomes truly urgent when Mr. Daggett, the new owner of the local Mudpuppies team, comes to town with big plans for reviving the seedy stadium and its pitiful players. To that end, he’s coordinating opening day of the local zoo with opening day of the refreshed stadium, and among the hyped activities is a contest in which a batboy-for-the-day will be selected. Nick is all in, spurred by his own manic enthusiasm and the taunts of bully Pete, the better player who’s equally determined to win, driving Nick to fibbing, forgery, and blackmail to weasel out of Saturday chores and gain access to the festivities. Nick’s shenanigans register on the mild end of the misdemeanor spectrum, and after it’s revealed that he’s not the only family member practicing deception, his inevitable triumph with the Mudpuppies and vanquishing of bully Pete are celebrated by his loving, nose-to-the-grindstone parents. As explained in an afterword, DeKeyser crafts her tale on the experiences of her immigrant father’s childhood in Milwaukee, and the local details, along with legend Bill Veeck’s inspiration for the character of Daggett, ground the fictionalized rituals and antics in plausible reality. This is a breezy, undemanding title that will appeal to fans of vintage baseball and ease the way for book-report writers swinging at historical fiction.