Tuesday, March 28, 2006


by Mike Lupica, 2006

Mike Lupica is a sports columnist and television sports commentator as well as an author of sixteen fiction and nonfiction books. It appears this is his second book for younger readers.

This book is going to the top of my "gotta have it" list. (School librarians, open your Titlewave or BTSB or Mackin account and put Heat on your "To be Purchased" list right now.)

I love this book. When I had to put it down, I worried about the characters and longed to get back to it.

Twelve-year-old Michael Arroyo has an amazing pitching arm. Refugees from Cuba, he and his older brother Carlos and their Papi have settled in the Bronx. Michael plays Little League baseball and dodges questions about his father's where-abouts. The family dream has been to live free and to get to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. Michael's team is on track to make that World Series dream come true when a rival team attempts to short-circuit their run by demanding Michael prove his age with an official birth certificate (knowing the difficulties obtaining one from Cuba.) Michael and Carlos are eking out a fragile existence without their dad and the authorities are getting curious. In the meantime, a mystery girl named Ellie is hanging out at the ball field and Michael is obsessed with finding out who she is.

Every character in this book rang true for me. Manny, Michael's friend and catcher, is hilarious. Carlos is working as hard as he can to earn money so Michael can keep playing summer ball. Michael emulates the legendary pitcher, El Grande, who plays for the Yankees. Yankee Stadium looms nearby like a shrine they long to enter.

The villains on the rival baseball team are truly despicable. The grownups in this story are kind and helpful. The reader gets to sit in the stands and watch terrific baseball. I held my breath on every pitch. Heat is a heart-felt story and a beautiful ode to Little League baseball. I am off to find Travel Team.

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