Jack Mogens is a sixth grader at Tall Pines Elementary School. It was late March as he entered his sixth season playing Little League baseball for the Tall Pines Braves.
Jack is “plunked” to the side of his head while hitting on opening day. The blow shakes his confidence to the point that he’s now afraid of indoor courts.
Jack’s challenge is the “revenge pitch” he takes on the team’s next practice. His nemesis, Kurt “Malfoy” Beacham, overheard him talking about him at school; and throws a pitch, hitting him in the ribs.
Nightmares haunt Jack, where a faceless pitcher throws balls at him, while he is glued to the batter’s box. His anxiety builds, forcing him to fake an injury to avoid playing next weekend’s game.
“Family emergency” is Jack’s excuse for why he missed Saturday’s competition. His teammates and friends don’t buy it in the cafeteria on Monday morning. Jack finds his deceptions more and more difficult to cover up.
Depressed, Jack unexpectedly coils the phrase “open to mopin” when Andy Rossiter, (his best friend since second grade) questions his attitude.
Andy helps Jack save face with his pals after missing Saturday’s game. Their ultimate connection occurs at the Tall Pines Family Pharmacy while leafing through comics.
In a moment of awkward silence and avoided eye contact, Jack knows he owes Andy an explanation as to why he missed Saturday’s game. When Andy asks, he exposes himself emotionally and admits his fear of being hit by the ball. Andy affirms his feelings by replying: “Everyone is a little afraid of the ball sometimes”. It is a poignant display of emotions between two boys; not often encouraged in today’s society.
Northrop has a knack for creating stories that can be told to school-aged kids: “But don’t even pretend you’ve never faked a fever or blamed the cat for breaking something or something like that. Don’t even do it. pretend to pretend. ” He also talks about doing his homework and taking the school bus: “Right at the signal the bus stops and its doors open. Shut up and get in said.”
Jack has a romantic relationship with his parents. They attend all his games; and watch Major League Baseball together at home.
Even so, he sometimes worries about their parental controls. Regarding his access to the computer: “Mum and dad have so many filters on this stuff, it’s amazing that everything passes. As the apostle Saint Paul might send me a personal email telling me to study hard, and it would end up in the spam folder. “
Collecting Major League Baseball cards with their dad is one of the duo’s favorite pastimes. Looking at his father’s most possessed rookie card, Cal Ripken, Jr., Jack shamelessly realizes that Ripken Jr. would never fear indoor courts or let his team down. Baseball bobbleheads, a row of baseballs, and a large Baseball Hall of Fame poster in Jack’s bedroom also give him an a-ha moment.
Jack’s emerging sexuality is evident in his awareness of team shortstop Katie Bowes: “She looks up and I look down quickly. I don’t think she saw.”
What child doesn’t have a favorite pet that is part of their being? Jack has his in Nax, a black Labrador. Nax is sleeping at the foot of Jack’s bed; and knows when he’s happy or upset.
Baseball language supplements Plunkedincluding “ducks on the pond” (two men on the base with two outs).
Well-written literature transcends time. The liberation of Plunked However, this March completes the debut of Little League and Major League Baseball, making it ideal read for any sporting child.
If you are an educator and looking to attribute or suggest a book to your middle aged boys, Plunked that’s it. If you are a parent who is anticipating your child’s summer reading assignment, or you support reading for your children (especially boys), you will go home with Plunked.
To see excellent literature, written for elementary school children and young adults, including author interviews and giveaways, visit: http://www.scholastic.com/kids/stacks/?lnkid=stacks/nav/home/main.