Tag Archive for New York Mets

BEFORE YOU GO reviewed in The New York Times Sunday Book Review

I’m stepping out from under my self-imposed Cone of Silence . . .

. . . to share the happy news that my new Young Adult novel, Before You Go, will be reviewed in the upcoming New York Times Sunday Book Review. In fact, the way these things work, it’s already online.

For authors, the NYTBR is still the paper of record, and it’s a great feeling to be included in that conversation.

When you tell people that you write children’s books there’s a variety of reactions and non-reactions. Some folks are impressed, even jealous. Others are mute, mystified, and possibly suspicious. The conversation quickly shifts. But a review in the Times is the kind of thing that even Uncle Hank in Elmira can respect.

Money quote:

“Preller makes us care about these people.

We wonder about them when they’re gone.”

Here’s the link to the full piece, which includes a review of Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates. Some nobody, I guess.

But seriously, Joyce Carol Oates and me. As if we were equals.

More relevant passages:

Preller has created the kind of male protagonist mothers will love for their daughters. Jude is gentle, thoughtful, nonsteroidal and blessedly free of strut. He’s got good friends who don’t tempt trouble, or, at least, don’t tempt all that much. In fact, they are not “geeks, not freaks, not burnouts. In that sense they were like the color black, actually an absence of color, defined by what it was not: not blue, red, orange, green, heliotrope or puce.”

Moreover, Jude is respectful of the girl he likes, and (bonus points) he’s chosen the right girl, the utterly likable Becka. Most of Jude’s friends know his little sister died seven years ago when Jude was only 9 years old. What they don’t know is just how responsible he feels.

The car accident will, of course, change everything; how could it not? It will test Jude’s faith in the world and his relationships. And if sometimes the exposition grows oversaturated with details about, say, beach-side concession stands or boy-quality zombie talk; if the language doesn’t quite lift off the page as much as it might; if, at times, the action slows just a bit too much, Preller makes us care about these people. We wonder about them when they’re gone.

I’m grateful to Beth Kebhart for this kind, thoughtful review. It shouldn’t, but it means a lot to me (I tell myself to be impervious to these things, the accolades as well as the slings and arrows). But still: the Times! Validation, recognition, whatever you want to call it, sign me up. Though I’ve been involved in children’s books for half my life, first publishing an 8″ x 8″ picture book, Maxx Trax: Avalanche Rescue! in 1986, and later writing the Jigsaw Jones mystery series — 40 titles, 10,000,000 sold — I did not get reviewed until 2008 with Six Innings, an ALA Notable Book. If you write paperbacks, as I did, you are something of an ugly step-sister.

So the review process is a relatively new experience for me. Beth’s quibbles with the book (oh, we’ll call them quibbles, whispered softer than complaints) strike me as accurate, and certainly fair. Maybe the narrative is a little slow in parts, maybe there’s too much Jones Beach nostalgia. Too guy? I’m not sure about that (but I’m a guy). It is what it is, and I’m okay with it. Overall, my first YA has been a learning experience. I tried to write the best book I could, I really did strive to make those words lift off the page — and sometimes, here and there, maybe they do. And maybe I stumble at times, stagger around. All these years, still an apprentice. Thanks, Beth Kebhart, for the helping hand, the nod and smile across the cluttered room. At the very least, I’m grateful to have something to show Uncle Hank next time I’m up in Elmira (though, to be honest, we’ll probably skip the literary concerns and complain, instead, about the sorry state of our New York Mets).

So How About Dem Mets?

I’m off again to another couple of hotels, and more schools to visit. The trips always turn out nice, and I’m grateful for them, but I’m such a homebody.

And also: I miss my desk, my work, my wife, my kids, my brain.

On a different note, it’s almost baseball season and I’m not optimistic about my New York Mets. I laughed at this piece from The Onion, “Carlos Beltran Has Impressive Day of Not Falling Apart and Dying.

Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, whose past several seasons have been hampered by nagging injuries, had a successful outing Monday, managing to get through a spring training workout without crumbling into a pile of dust and dying. “It was one of his best days in years, because he was still breathing and alive by the end,” Mets manager Terry Collins said during a press conference, adding that he was amazed with Beltran’s ability to pump blood from his heart to other parts of his body for a whole session of batting practice.

For Mets Fans Only

You know how when you walk around and come across a construction site, and there’s about six people standing around watching it? I was one of those guys.

Here’s two photos of Citi Field and Shea Stadium taken by Tom Kaminski from a helicopter on Monday, January 5, 2009.

Thanks to Metsblog for the heads-up.

Don’t worry. That’s Shea.

Down below, here’s Citi Field:

More photos, here.

The Mets & The Eddie Kranepool Society

If you are a visitor from Steve Keane’s great New York Mets blog, The Eddie Kranepool Society, thanks for coming. You might be feeling temporarily disoriented, in a Where am I? sort of way. I advise you to click here (where Steve meant to send you) or here (for my Mets-centric posts). And as Mets fan, by all means don’t miss this! Thanks for stopping by. You can warm your hands on the hot stove. Cheers. For the curious, please note that Steve is a passionate Mets fan, an Old School guy, and he’s unrestrained in his enthusiasms and his language. For the rest of you folks, the children’s literature people, keep moving along, please, there’s nothing to see here, nothing at all . . .

Shea Memory, Childhood Illness, and Six Innings

As these photos taken by Joe MacDonald show, the destruction of Shea Stadium continues into winter. Come spring, our attention will turn to the new home of the New York Mets, Citi Field, with its beautiful Jackie Robinson Rotunda, and the promise of a new season to come.

But I’m not ready to go there just yet. Instead, my thoughts linger on Shea. I’ve been to many games over the years. My first was in 1967, the Mets vs. Hank Aaron and the Braves. I saw the 5th game of the 1969 World Series. Some great victories and some crushing defeats. A lot of memories.

I learned to love baseball from my mother, a former Brooklyn Dodgers fan who, after the Dodgers fled to Los Angeles, adopted the expansion 1962 New York Mets as her hometown team. She faithfully gave her heart to this hapless bunch in orange and blue. As I grew up, she taught me how to throw and catch, and somehow sold me on the preposterous notion that Ron Swoboda, the Mets thick-necked rightfielder, was graceful. I used to ask her, as I minced across the lawn, “Am I graceful, Mom? Am I graceful?” She assured me that I was. I’ve come to see that my love of the game is impossible to separate from the love of my mother; I cannot imagine one without the other.

In the spring of 2003, my oldest son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a relapse. He had first been diagnosed in the summer of ’95, at 26 months. We had been there, done our hard times, and believed the worst was behind us. But again we settled into an exhausting routine of doctors and medicines, blood tests and spinal taps, the chemistry of hope and fear. Much, much harder for Nick the second time around.

Meanwhile, my father-in-law, Ed Ginsberg, a lifelong Yankee fan, contacted the New York Mets. He made phone call after phone call, telling one person after another Nick’s story. Weeks passed. While undergoing treatment, Nick got an infection. His immune system too compromised to fight it, Nick was forced to stay on IV-drips in the hospital for twelve long days until his temperature settled below 101 degrees. On one particularly bad day a letter arrived from Chris Brown, the New York Mets Community Outreach Coordinator. He invited Nicholas and three guests to a special day at Shea Stadium.

When Nick felt strong enough, down we drove from our home outside Albany, New York — Nicholas, his stepmother Lisa, his grandfather Ed, and myself. Chris Brown met us at the gate two hours before the game, shook our hands, and brought us inside to the secret, special places. He opened a door and led us onto the field, where Nick stared in wide-eyed wonder. We stepped into the dugout, felt the bats in their racks, eyed the neat rows of clean helmets, and snapped picture after picture. We walked into a long concrete hallway under the stands, where we stood nearly alone outside the Mets clubhouse door, as real live ballplayers — guys with names like Vance and Ty, Joe and Cliff — walked past us on their way to the indoor batting cages. Some players stopped and briefly chatted, signed baseballs, and smiled for photos with their arms resting on my son’s shoulder.

I couldn’t help but think of my mother, and how our love of the game had brought us to this singular moment. My boy, sick with cancer, smiling into the camera, a Sharpie and a signed baseball in his hand. All those games we had watched together, our spirits dashed by defeat and lifted in victory. All of that time and energy invested, all of that life we poured into the game — all of it, truth be told, a little absurd. After all it is just a game. Not life, not death, and certainly not childhood cancer. But standing in that gray basement of Shea Stadium, I knew with certainty that it all had been worth it.

We loved the game. And sometimes, amazingly, it loved us back.

—–

It was why I wrote Six Innings, why that book was so important to me. Because it’s all in there, all that stuff, a roiling wave that carries the words along, the love of the game, a lifetime of baseball, and sometimes the hard things that get in the way.