The ubiquitous, voracious Jen Robinson reviewed Six Innings. And all I can say is, Whew!
I admit it. A part of me hates reviews. It’s not intellectual, it’s emotional. They scare me. I freeze up and can’t read them. I was born without an ounce of Teflon; I want everyone to like everything and nothing rolls off my back. So it took two days, plus a prod from my editor, for me to muster the courage to read Jen’s review. Now here is essentially a nice woman, spreading love and good cheer, and I’m terrified. The review is lengthy, and to read it in full you’ve got to hit this link, but here’s a couple of quotes.
You see reviews sometimes that say “there’s baseball in it, but that’s not what the book is about.” But I would argue that Six Innings is about baseball. It’s about the purity of the game. The flow and ebb from inning to inning. The dynamics between the players. The role of the pitcher and the role of the coach. This book is a veritable ode to baseball.
I like Jen’s point. In marketing this book, we feared that it would be shoved into the “just a sports book” box. Not, cough-cough, children’s literature. It’s not about baseball, it’s about the wide range of boys who play it. But: Jen is right. It is about baseball, and that’s okay. Because the game is large and it is sturdy; it’s inclusive; it provides enough ground for a lot of things to enter the story if you allow them. I think it’s important, if we really care about boy readers, that we recognize that a book can be “about” sports and still run deep.
Jen goes on to quote various passages from the book, including this one, which was one of my favorites, because it sort of sums up my feelings for the game:
“And so it goes, typical baseball chatter, the talk that fills dugouts everywhere, the words that occupy the spaces the game provides, those gaps when nothing much seems to happen. To love baseball, to truly love the game, you’ve got to enjoy those empty places, the time to think, absorb, and shoot the breeze. A ball, a strike, a grounder to short. The slow rhythm of the game, a game of accumulation, of patterns, gathering itself toward the finish, like the first few miles of a marathon, not dramatic except for what it might mean later in the race.”
Again, Jen’s full review is worth reading, but here’s one last quote I can’t resist including:
I really enjoyed Six Innings. It’s beautifully written. I found myself sharing passages aloud as I was reading. And the end of the book brought tears to my eyes.
I keep having this vision of Jen Robinson reading aloud passages from Six Innings . . . to a Siamese cat. “Listen to this, Snookles . . .”
Finally and for no reason at all, here’s a rare shot of me in full raging Little League mode, talking with a 7/8 year-old, Kevin.
The end of Six Innings makes me cry, too, every single time I read it. And I’ve read it a LOT. Just the other day I picked it up to read it again, for the sheer pleasure of that last piece of the book, that wonderful scene with Sam and Mike. So I’m with Jen on that front!
Honestly? Me, too. Every time. I lived it and it takes me right back. When Nick got sick, the first time, 26 months old, the nurses and doctors were excited that I was a children’s book writer. They said, “Maybe you can right about this.” Yeah, right. It only took one more relapse and twelve years and, truly, the accidental nature of writing and discovery. When I started the book, I had no idea I was going there — otherwise probably would not have started it in the first place. Honestly? I’m crying right now. Those were hard, hard times.
Glad you got up the courage to read it, James! I guess what I was trying to say about the baseball was that you do read books where sports are used as kind of a backdrop, and are almost interchangeable (to give a movie example, would it matter much in High School Musical if Troy played football instead of basketball? No.) But in Six Innings, the baseball itself matters, in addition to the characters. That’s what I think, anyway!