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Bat 6 Paperback – April 1, 2000
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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This book is told by the members of both teams, and tells the story leading up to the Bat 6 game and the things that happen after the game. At first both teams expect it to be a normal year, but each team then gains someone new. On the Bear Creek Ridge team, it is Aki, a girl who used to live in town but had spent years in a Japanese internment camp during the war. On the Barlow team it is Shazam, a strange girl who comes to town without a mother or father, to live with her grandmother. Over the course of the novel her secret comes out, and the reader can see that there might be trouble at the game.
I liked the idea of this book. It is a good story about the aftermath of war, and what happened to families once the war ended. I liked that there is a wide diversity in the characters. There are rich and poor, those whose fathers fought and those whose fathers refused to fight, people who benefited from the GI Bill, people who didn't seem to be affected by the war, people with prejudices and people without.
I didn't like that the author tries to write the story in the way sixth-graders would really write. The girls have run-on sentences, their thoughts are disconnected, and they don't use proper grammar or punctuation. I found that very distracting and unnecessary.
Bat 6 will also be great for any reader, pre-teen or YA, who enjoys a more serious or challenging book. It will probably also turn off a kid who doesn't like reading, or who reads only action-based, straightforward books. The story is told from many different viewpoints, and it is not a straight narrative; also, the majority of the story takes place outside of the game, in simple, everyday actions. This won't appeal to everyone. The writing style varies from narrator to narrator, with varying levels of grammar and writing skill. Again, this can be difficult for some. Finally, this is not a plot with a standard arc; in most books about a single game, the story builds to the big showdown, and the tension and climax come from the winning or losing of the Big Game. Someone expecting a normal sports book is going to be disappointed with Bat 6.
However, the book's depth makes it perfect for reading groups. It provides material to start discussions about morals and values, violence and society, and child-rearing, just as examples. Some interesting topics for discussion would include:
* Many people in the book had indications of Shazam's problems and kept them secret; did they make good or bad decisions, and why? Have you ever been in a similar situation? What did you do?
* Aki's attitude of shikata ga nai (there is nothing to be done about it) is very different from most of the other characters' reactions. Little Peggy thinks Aki should be mad, whether or not she can change anything. Do you agree with Little Peggy? Why or why not?
* How did Shazam (and others like her) learn to hate the Japanese? Was her mother solely responsible? Was Lorelei's father correct when he said that such things are inevitable in a warlike society? Did the Japanese internment camps have anything to do with the problem?
Those are just three examples; there are literally dozens more. This isn't going to be a pleasure read for everyone - though some will definitely love it! - but it is an important and moving book, and I encourage parents, teachers, and group leaders to use it. I also encourage everyone to read the author's bio *before* reading the book; Ms. Wolff's comments about what inspired her to write Bat 6 are critical to understanding the book.
As this book opens, it is the beginning of the 1949 season, and girls on both teams are preparing for the big 50th annual game. New on the Bear Creek Ridge team is Aki, a Japanese-American girl whose family has just returned from the concentration camp where they lived during WWII. New to the Barlow team is Shazam, who lost her father when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. The very first line of the book, "Now that it's over, we are telling," sets up the expectation of something catastrophic happening and that tension is well maintained throughout the book as the girls on each team share bits and pieces of what happened at the Big Game.
Bat 6 was a worthwhile read exploring themes of racial tension, rivalry, and the effect of war on the mind of a child. However, it was difficult going. In spite of chapter headings it was hard to keep track of who was narrating and what team they were on. In fact it took me four chapters just to realize that these girls were on different teams, so I had to backtrack in my reading and pay more attention to chapter headings. A table is provided at the beginning of the book which lists each girl on each team, but to have to flip back and refer to it every time the narrator's voice changes interrupts the reading experience and makes a book like this work rather than fun.
This may be a good read-aloud, but it would be an unusual 9-12 year old who would be able to keep track of the story.
Most recent customer reviews
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Bat 6 is not just about war.
Valuable views on bigotry & morality.