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Never Blame the Umpire Hardcover – February 27, 2010

14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6–Faith is a tricky thing; its demands are as great as its benefits and it is meaningless without adversity to test it. And so it is with Kate, whose happy, small-town life is upended with the news of her mother's terminal cancer. First-person-present narration takes the sensitive 11-year-old through the grieving process over the course of a summer, as baseball, a poetry workshop, and her mother's own strong faith in God teach and strengthen her. Fehler uses the workshop as a plot device to show Kate's interior growth, teaching readers something about the creative process as well. Kate is supported through her journey by a cast of wholesome characters who exemplify the Christian model and ring true despite their one-dimensionality. Her friend Ginny is an empathetic and talented actress; poet Allison is deep and spiritual; brother Cal's pest facade crumbles early on. The adults serve as examples to the children; Coach emphasizes team spirit, the poetry teacher is patient and perceptive, the dying mother inspires, while Dad holds the family together in tragedy. Fehler's world, populated by folks who care about one another and make good decisions, may seem archaic to readers who are used to young characters who act like cynical adults and adults who behave like children, but many people hold these standards as their own and will be moved and encouraged by this simple depiction of a faithful family in crisis.–Lisa Egly Lehmuller, St. Patrick's Catholic School, Charlotte, NCα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


“…a tender, engaging story.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

“…Fehler has created a masterpiece of literature to which everyone can relate…This book would make a great addition to anyone’s personal library.” (christianbookpreviews)

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 and up
  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz (February 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310719410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310719410
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,462,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gene grew up in Thomson, Illinois, and currently lives in Seneca, South Carolina, with his wife Polly. The greatest inspirations for his books are his love of baseball and his family. Gene and Polly have two sons, Tim and Andy, and three granddaughters -- Mireille, Gabrielle, and Kaya. His young adult novel BEANBALL was named 2008 Best Book by the Society of School Librarians International. His book CHANGE-UP: BASEBALL POEMS was co-winner of the 2010 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People in the Grades 4-6 category. Gene has the great pleasure of playing more than sixty softball games a year on a senior softball team from Seneca, South Carolina; and more than twenty baseball games a year with one of his sons in the Great American Pastime Baseball League (for players 18 and over) in Greenville, South Carolina.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tina Says VINE VOICE on July 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Never Blame the Umpire by Gene Fehler is a tearjerker of a story. I read the inside flap when I checked it out and knew that there was going to be some form of tragedy in the family. However, when I finally knew what the tragedy was, I could barely keep reading.

Kate and her brother Ken are in the midst of baseball season, enjoying the sport. As the story opens, Kate is upset because her parents missed their first game. When she and Ken arrive home they can tell their dad has been crying and their mom has gone to bed early because she is sick. Yet, life seems normal the next day and things carry on. Kate senses from time to time that there may be more going on, especially when her mom calls her and tells her to come home from her friend's house so they can go on a family picnic together. During this picnic Kate and Ken are told that their mother has terminal cancer.

Fehler writes this book from a Christian perspective, sharing Bible verses and creating a friend for Kate who also shares her faith. Kate's mom is able to find comfort in God and, despite knowing she is leaving her family behind, is able to accept what is to come.

I appreciated the religious views shared in this book. I liked that Kate and her friends also were able to talk about religion and find comfort in God's word, as did Kate's mom. I also enjoyed how Fehler was able to bring religion and faith into his writing without it sounding too preachy. Kate attending a summer writing school during the time period of her mom's illness and death. She was able to find great solace in her writing as a way of expressing her feelings - another part of this story I enjoyed.
Kate's mom is able to talk to Kate about her dying and her own acceptance of God's will by using an analogy - comparing an umpire to God.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BeatleBangs1964 VINE VOICE on March 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kate, 11 is a very athletic girl who enjoys baseball and tennis. She is also quite adept at writing poetry. Her close-knit family goes to bat for her and she, in turn would step up to the plate for them. Her brother Ken, 12 plays on the same team Kate does.

The story opens with Kate and Ken playing in the final inning of a neighborhood baseball game. At this crucial moment in the game, Kate realizes that their parents are absent. This is out of character for them as they have never missed any of Kate or Ken's games.

Once Kate and Ken arrive home, their father's grim face tells them that something terrible has happened. When they ask about their mother, all their father will tell them is that she has gone to bed, even though it was only 8:30. His simple explanation is that she is not feeling well and says nothing more until the next morning. Their mother has terminal cancer.

Once again, the family pitches in. Kate, Ken and their father rally round to do everything they can to make life as pleasant as they can. The children know their mother is dying and their sole goal is to make life as pleasant and comfortable as they can for her. They resume their normal routine which includes watching a movie and eating popcorn on Fridays. One Friday, Ken becomes overcome when a character in a comedy dies and from that point on refuses to sit with the family for Friday movies.

Luckily, Kate has more support in a kind teacher who helps her hone her writing skills. Once he becomes aware of Kate's troubles, he, too steps up to the plate for her in a way that is very heartwarming.

This is an excellent book about loss, grieving/bereavement and family support.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Janna R. Ryan on October 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A Young Adult book that deals with a heavy subject in a wonderful way, but that doesn't make it any easier to read. In this book, Katie is set to have a great summer. She is on the baseball team with her brother and her mom and dad are coming to their games. It opens at a game where she makes the winning play, except her mom and dad aren't there to see it. When she gets home something seems seriously wrong, but she figures she must be mistaken. Eventually Mom and Dad take Katie and Ken to the beach for the day to break the bad news... Mom is really sick.

Death and dying are not easy subjects, especially for a 12 year old girl with her whole life in front of her. How will Katie handle this summer with her mom, will she push God away or allow Him to come closer. This was not an easy book to read, but it was so good.

(Sarah's review)
My 13 year old daughter Sarah read it and she thinks it was really good (and sad) and she read it in 1 day! But it was hard for her not to tell me about it. She thinks it is something for all young girls to remember that God is always with you and will be there for us when bad stuff happens. Life goes on that way. But hey never blame the umpire (and God!) You see the umpire is like God, of course the umpire will mess up even though God doesn't. But the umpire is in control of the game. So let's say your team lost, of course you will get mad but you knew it was a fair game.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Creighton on March 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a very moving book written for young people but it is a book that everybody could benefit from reading. Immediately ones heart goes out to Kate and, although not stated initially, one senses that Kate's mother is facing a serious medical challenge. By page 16 or 17, although not yet stated, one knows something serious is wrong with Kate's Mother. At that point, the book kind of grabs hold and does not let go. Very moving book.

This is a book for all to read. It is especially valuable for young people confronted with one of life's tragedies, the likelihood of which probably never occurred to them. But, it is also of value to adults who understand better then the invincible young that we are all only one play away from being pulled out of the game of life. This is a book that can help those in need and those who will be in need --- For one thing is certain, all parents will depart and though it is most difficult and tragic for the very young, it is difficult for the older grown children as well. After all, we only get one of each.
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