Title: Much Ado About Baseball
Author: Rajani LaRocca
Publisher: New York: Yellow Jacket, 2021
Genre: Middle Grade contemporary with a touch of magic
Audience Age: 8 to 12
Themes/Topics: belonging, making new friends, magic, math, baseball, Shakespeare
“Baseball is magic. Time stops between the instant the ball is released and when it makes it over the plate, between the whack of the bat and when the ball finally touches earth again. And this summer, I was holding on to that magic for dear life.”
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Trish is not happy about moving to a new town, about having to find new friends, about having to deal with finding a place in a new baseball team of boys (and about likely having to stop playing baseball after this summer.) She’s especially not happy when she discovers that one of the kids on her new team is Ben, the boy she beat to win the Math Puzzler Championship.
Ben is not happy that Trish is on their team, either. He’s still mad that she beat him in the Math Puzzler, and he’s mad that she seems to be a very good ball player. He’s not happy about being on the team in the first place. He knows he sucks at baseball. He made the team lose two years ago, and hasn’t played since. Bad things happened back then, and he can’t face them.
Then unusual things come into their lives – a boy called Rob, who is the best baseball player they’ve ever seen, yet who won’t join their team; a new snack place in town that sells treats that seem to influence their team’s playing; and strangest of all, Trish and Ben each receive a book of math puzzles that seem to have magical properties, and give them counsel about the problems they’re facing in life.
What is going on? Will it draw Trish and Ben together, or push them further apart?
In Much Ado About Baseball, Rajani LaRocca has worked some magic of her own, combining baseball, math, food, and magic, all stirred together with a taste of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. This book, told in chapters that alternate between Trish’s point of view and Ben’s, tantalizes the reader with its magic, challenges the reader with the math puzzles Trish and Ben work on, and makes the reader want to be in the stands, cheering on Trish and Ben’s baseball team.
Along the way, readers will be introduced to the themes of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and will also be introduced to some of the characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, who were first featured in the companion novel to this one, Rajani’s Midsummer’s Mayhem.
They’ll also learn about the Fibonacci Spiral and other mathematical concepts in a totally fun and enthralling way. I wish there had been books like this when I was growing up!
I thoroughly and heartily recommend this book.
For Further Enrichment:
The first place to go for further enrichment is the back matter in the book itself. Rajani has included math puzzles, facts, and memory tips; more information about Fibonacci, the Fibonacci Sequence, and the Golden Ratio; and recipes.
The second place to go is Rajani’s website, where you can watch a clip from the Today Show (where Brad Thor calls Much Ado About Baseball one of the best children’s books he’s read in the last ten years!). You can also read more about the book, find reviews, watch the book trailer and even watch a video of the in-person book launch. Check it out here.
There’s a neat post about the Fibonacci Sequence for kids on CBC Kids.
There is educational material about the original Much Ado About Nothing at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s website.
Availability: This book was just published in June 2021, so should be readily available. Check out your local independent bookstore, or check IndieBound.org. There’s also a link on Rajani’s website to purchase a signed copy from the Silver Unicorn Bookstore.