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Summary: Maggie’s devotion to the Brooklyn Dodgers runs deep. She knows it all: the final score of each game; all the players' stats; and each and every sensational move players made. Not least of all, she knew the team motto: “There’s always next year.” Then Maggie meets Jim Maine, a loyal Giants fan. Jim teaches Maggie her the art of keeping score: recreating the games on paper while they unfold live on the radio. Before long, Maggie develops her own finely polished system of keeping score. It becomes her way of bonding with Giants fan. When Jim is drafted and sent to Korea, they communicate about baseball, still keeping score, in their letters. Maggie is troubled when she notices Jim no longer responds to her letters. She starts keeping score of the Korean Conflict. Later she learns that Jim has withdrawn into himself and never recovered from the war. In an effort to revive him, Maggie saves all her money to bring Jim to a baseball game, but he never shows. Maggie decides that this calls for the ultimate sacrifice. Maggie relinquishes her love for the Dodgers and gives it to the Giants, confident that a World Series win will finally bring a spark of life back to Jim. Maggie clutches onto her faith that a strong will can make a difference. In this case, Maggie can only hope with all her heart that Jim will open up and recover. This is a middle grade novel set in 1951.
Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, read aloud book, independent reading
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 13; read yourself: 10 and Up
Young Reader Reaction: Keeping Score is a poignant book emphasizing the strength of faith, whether it is rooting for a team or in prayer for another person. The character and plot development is astonishing. At first, readers see Maggie as an avid Dodger’s fan who adopts keeping score to prove that it is not merely a childish fascination. Later, she is a mature young lady who retains that optimism and the belief that every problem has a solution. She perseveres and has hope despite continual losses. All of the characters are genuine and bonded together through baseball. Park blends the themes of history (1950s, Korean War) and baseball fluidly. In fact, it is almost as strongly a war-themed novel as it is about baseball.
I would recommend Keeping Score to middle school students. It offers a peek into history, especially the less attractive aspect of war, and follows the journey of a young girl entering her teens. This book suits baseball and history lovers, with an accurate portrayal of life in the 1950s. I was rather surprised by the books alignment to reality in the details and the emotional whirlwind of personal obstacles within the main character.
Adult Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Pros: History lovers and baseball fans alike will be absorbed in a book whose 1950s story has relevance today. Strong characters and a sense of hope will keep them cheering for Maggie and Jim.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. Baseball fans may want this for their permanent collection. It would be a great gift choice for a baseball fan - especially today's LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants fans.
Educational Themes: There is a lot of history that can be launchpads for other books: life in the 1950s, Brooklyn baseball teams of the 1950s, Korean War. Maggie's perseverance and faith in working with Jim also has relevance for today's youth that could open discussions of empathy, service to others, and understanding the intangible casualties of war.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - historical fiction, sports, baseball, War, 1950s, middle grad
Date(s) Reviewed: September 2015
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.