- ISBN-13: 9781416986638
- ISBN-10: 1416986634
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publish Date: February 2010
- Page Count: 192
- Reading Level: Ages 8-12
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.65 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 49.
- Review Date: 2010-01-18
- Reviewer: Staff
Louis May's father has remarried, so the 12-year-old is facing his first summer living with his disapproving stepmother and resentful stepbrother in White Plains, N.Y. His fortunes change when he catches a foul ball at a Yankees game, depriving the opposing fielder of making an out. His game-saving play earns him a meeting with the batter he helped: Roger Maris. Louis's exhaustive knowledge of player statistics—Mickey Mantle dubs him “the walking baseball card”—improbably earns him a chance to be the team's batboy. Thus Louis has a dugout seat for one of baseball's greatest dramas—Mantle and Maris chasing Babe Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961. A subplot about Louis's mother, who left his father to live among beatnik poets, isn't fully fleshed out. The pleasures in Tooke's debut are voyeuristic, as kids get to go behind the scenes to learn about two legends through Louis, who realizes collecting cards is no match for knowing the men behind the pinstripes. Says Louis: “It was like the difference between someone who collected stamps from foreign countries and someone who actually traveled the world.” Ages 8–up. (Feb.)
A dugout view of home-run history
Louis May is in a situation that many young readers will find unfortunately familiar. His parents have divorced, and now he’s living in a new town, with a new school, no friends and a stepmother and stepbrother whom he doesn’t like very much. What makes Louis’ story unique is its time and place; in Wes Tooke’s debut novel for middle-schoolers, Lucky: Maris, Mantle, and My Best Summer Ever, the year is 1961, the place is New York City and the backdrop is the most famous home-run chase in history.
Louis loves baseball—he knows all the teams, their players and their stats, and he especially loves the New York Yankees. He only wishes he could play the game as well as his stepbrother Bryce, who joins in with the other kids in mocking him when he inevitably strikes out or muffs a grounder. Life takes a dramatic turn when Louis’ father takes him along with a business client to a Yankees game and a lucky catch lands him a job as a Yankees bat boy!
In the weeks and months that follow, Louis must somehow improve his unhappy home life, while at the same time work a job that puts him smack in the middle of Roger Maris’ and Mickey Mantle’s race to break Babe Ruth’s record. Along the way, he’ll need to deal with both his avant-garde mother and her more traditional replacement, face down bullies and aggressive reporters, and maybe improve his baseball skills a bit.
Lucky succeeds both as a story about a kid learning to deal with the world on his own (and growing up in the process) and as an insightful look into the players involved in one of the most dramatic sports stories of our time. If you have a child who’s into sports—or into well-written books, for that matter—then put a copy of Lucky into their hands. It just might beat catching a home-run ball.
James Neal Webb is a Boston Red Sox fan who doesn’t usually read books about the Yankees, but in this case he’s happy to make an exception.