Friday, July 2, 2021

Review: The Goblin Pitcher by Paul Lonardo

We're kicking off July with an original and fun baseball tale. While my librarian friends have constantly insisted that sports reads are always a favorite among middle graders, I wonder what these readers will think of one, which even includes a bit of high-tension fantasy. Baseball and stopping goblins? I was intrigued, and I'm betting I'm not the only one.

Let's take a pitch....I mean peek.

by Paul Lonardo
PL Publishing
Middle Grade Sports Fantasy
134 pages
ages 8 to 12

The one thing eleven-year-old Jake Lupo loves more than anything else is baseball. However, despite his father being a professional pitcher, Jake's fear of failing has kept him from competing against children his own age. When his father, who has recovered from a serious arm injury, is invited to pitch for an independent team, Jake and his parents move to Pine Barrows, a far flung forested mountain outpost. Jake is excited about his father's chance at a comeback, but he soon learns that he is not the only one in Pine Barrows who loves baseball. Goblins love to play baseball, too, and Pine Barrows happens to be chock full of them. Then Jake discovers that the region is occupied by two factions of warring goblins.

Seeking to take control of the goblin kingdom, the leader of the evil goblins kidnaps Jake's mother and bans baseball, a game which itself is a natural source of power for the goblins.

It turns out that Jake has a secret kinship with the legendary beings, and he is the only one who can save them, their kingdom and his mother. However, Jake must believe in himself and play a winner-take-all game against the best goblin players in Pine Barrows.

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Baseball gains an original and intriguing twist as it collides with a imaginative fantasy world.

Jake breathes baseball. When his dad, a professional pitcher, finds a new position for a team in Pine Barrows after healing from an injury, Jake's not thrilled, but it's not only for the usual reasons like weaker internet, friends or such. Jake has a secret. He's always heard voices, but now, in Pine Barrows they are clearer and he sees beings no one else can. Of course, this goes way beyond baseball. It's an entirely different world, and a danger is that will destroy everything he loves if he doesn't find a way to stop it.

Baseball is the first main theme in this one. Jake loves the sport, and it shows. Not only does he play baseball (of course), but he dreams of it. The author builds in baseball terminology, a little bit of history, and even creates the chapters in a way, which more than hints at the game. So, this is one for baseball fans. But it's more.

Fantasy trickles in quickly and allows the imagination to take flight. Goblins and other creatures create a world, which usually has nothing to do with baseball. It's a fun mix. There were a few spots which pulled a bit out of the world, but all in all, the tale moves right along and keeps the reader invested in the pages. Tension mounts as Jack has to save everything he loves, builds unexpected friendships, and shows the wonderful warmth of family bonds. In other words, it's an entertaining read.

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