By: Suzanne Kamata
Published on: March 3, 2020
It was winter when I was first offered this book to review and I was missing baseball. I enjoy watching youth/little league games – there is much more action (and scoring) than major league and this book was a good way to tide me over until baseball season started. But as February and then March events occurred, we now know that baseball season is delayed or will not be starting this year due to the pandemic. So, as I am missing one of my favorite sports I found this book to be the perfect read for me as it reminds of all that I enjoy in the sport.
In Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters, Satoshi Matsumoto is returning to Japan after a few years of living in Atlanta, Georgia. He misses his friends from America and quickly realizes returning isn’t as easy as he had hoped. In addition to readjusting to the different customs and culture, he also has a special needs sister, a grandfather with dementia, and has to deal with bullying at the school by both students and a teacher. He has one goal though – to join the baseball team. Back in America he was a fairly good player and he once again hopes to impress the coach to let him be on the team.
The story itself includes quite a bit of baseball. There is base-stealing, sign-watching, bunts, and play-by-plays. Just a lot of baseball fun in general. It also includes references to not only Japanese culture, but also words and phrases they may use. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a glossary or appendix at the end and wished there had been. So, while reading the story your middle grader may need to come to you to help explain a phrase or two.
I love books that teach me something new and this one provides just that. Satoshi’s school is named Tokushima Whirlpool Junior High School. In my personal experience, I have found that middle schools in the United States are often named after people, so the name of Satoshi’s school rather intrigued me. Thankfully, the author provides information on just how it got its name, which is named after naturally occurring whirlpools, such as what forms in the Naruto Strait, which is located in the Tokushima Prefecture.
Overall an easy and fun read focusing on baseball. It also offers quite a bit of illustrations too to help young readers better understand the context of the story. I already know which young baseball player I plan to share the book with.
Thanks to Red Chair Press for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.
Thirteen-year-old Satoshi Matsumoto spent the last three years living in Atlanta where he was the star of his middle-school baseball team―a slugger with pro potential, according to his coach. Now that his father’s work in the US has come to an end, he’s moved back to his hometown in rural Japan. Living abroad has changed him, and now his old friends in Japan are suspicious of his new foreign ways. Even worse, his childhood foe Shintaro, whose dad has ties to gangsters, is in his homeroom. After he joins his new school’s baseball team, Satoshi has a chance to be a hero until he makes a major-league error.