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Lucky: Maris, Mantle, and My Best Summer Ever (Junior Library Guild Selection) Paperback – February 22, 2011
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In the summer of 1961, Louis, who stinks at stickball, manages to make a difficult catch of a foul ball at Yankee stadium. This leads to an invitation from Roger Maris to visit the Yankee’s clubhouse and an offer of a job as one of the team’s batboys. In the course of the summer, Louis forms a friendship with Maris (who dubs him Lucky) as he and Mickey Mantle chase Babe Ruth’s single-season homerun record. Things at home are more challenging; Louis struggles with his divorced parents and a resentful stepbrother. Tooke commits a minor error—he says that a double header is against the Tigers, yet the two games described are against the White Sox—but, on the whole, he captures baseball in a simpler time. The picture painted here isn’t naively nostalgic, however. The bitterness many fans felt toward Maris for breaking the beloved Ruth’s record is a major theme. Best of all, Tooke conveys the excitement that a young boy would undoubtedly feel as an eyewitness to one of the game’s most thrilling seasons. Grades 4-6. --Todd Morning
About the Author
C. W. Tooke has worked as a feature writer and editorial consultant and has published features in Salon, New Jersey Monthly, and the Princeton Alumni Weekly. His first novel, Lucky was a Junior Library Guild Selection. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and dog.
Top customer reviews
This is still the stuff that baseball legend is made of. There have been movies, books, and endless myths and fables constructed around this one crazy summer. In his first novel for middle-schoolers, Wes Tooke uses his snappy journalistic attention to detail to make this one riveting and visceral way to get inside the heads of the players and to understand the context of the time from one superfan's behind-the-scenes perspective. Louis being a ballboy is a great ploy for getting into the dugout, the locker room and the field, the places where the emotional and physical toils took their greatest tolls.
Louis gets whisked away from his mom and out of his home comfort zone in the East Village of Manhattan, a hotbed of intellectual and artistic weirdness and activity. He gets plunked down in the suburban quiet and green lawns of White Plains, feeling a little out of his element. Add to that a nasty stepbrother, who happens to have magnificent physical aptitude of his own, and you have a recipe for one lousy school vacation. However, the job with the Yankees comes just in the nick of time, and the day-to-day relationship he creates with two of the game's greatest players gives him the kind of philosophical education in teamwork, sportsmanship, dedication and hard work that he couldn't find anywhere else.
Tooke captures two truly significant historical periods: baseball before it was a land of overpaid whiny babies on steroids, and the burgeoning cultural revolution percolating in Louis's village before the hippie movement became a parody of itself, when both of these things were pure and maintained an ethos, an aesthetic, that spoke to a genuine determination to produce good and true results. Art and baseball, in their most intense states, aren't so dissimilar, as Louis finds. They both make for strange bedfellows but also wonderfully exciting and educational worlds for a young man who is starting to look at life with his own unique vision.