In this cozy sports story, Jeremiah has learned through difficulty, but may not be able to pass the lessons on to his teammates.
Soar by Joan Bauer. Viking, 2015, 237 pages
Reading level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14
Jeremiah Lopper has an unusual origin story: At the age of nine months or so, he was abandoned in the break room of a computer tech company, to be found by his adoptive father Walt. Now, age 12, he’s looking forward to a move to Hillcrest, Ohio for Walt’s new job, because the Hillcrest Hornets are a powerhouse baseball team. Jeremiah has been through some serious health issues, culminating in a heart transplant two years before, so he can’t play the game he loves. But he can coach, and since the middle school doesn’t have a coach yet, there might be a place for him as unofficial staff. Neither he nor anyone else expected the Hornet’s star high school pitcher to suddenly fall down dead during a game. Performance-enhancing drugs are suspected; the high school coach goes to jail and baseball in Hillcrest falls apart. Can Jeremiah help put it back together?
It’s a middle-school version of Field of Dreams, with the same mystical aura surrounding the game. But Jeremiah has a unique, enjoyable voice, and from the beginning we know he’s a kid with heart (get it?) who seems wise beyond his years. Perhaps he’s matured through his struggles and learned a few things, such as “when someone decides not to give up on you, you’d better not give up on yourself.” Religion plays a positive role, though it’s the generic, feel-good type of faith that exists to enrich your life rather than save your soul. Soar offers no profound insights, but it’s a pleasant way to take us out to the ball game.
Cautions: Language (one “My God!”)
Overall rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
Cover image from Barnes & Noble