House Jackson has never admitted to the other boys on his baseball team why he cannot come to practice until 6 pm. They would not understand how a 12-year-old could spend his afternoons reading to the cranky, old, bed-ridden Mr. Boyd. House himself did not understand why he was asked to do it. When Mr. Boyd breaths his last, House has an unexpected sense of loss that he has not felt since his mother died.
Fortunately, House has the big upcoming baseball game to keep his mind occupied. He and his teammates are determined to beat their rivals until they realize that their mothers have committed them to perform in the Aurora County Birthday Pageant scheduled at the same time as the game. They cannot imagine a greater travesty of justice and go head-to-head with Finesse, the young girl organizing the pageant. Neither side is willing to compromise, least of all the mothers. Now House needs to find a solution that the entire county can accept.
The Aurora County All-Stars begins with much promise: the death of a mysterious old man; a tender relationship between a young boy, his little sister and widower father; a small town with a colorful history. Each chapter begins with an appropriate quote from either a famous baseball player or poet. The plot quickly gets lost in a plethora of similes, exaggerated supporting characters and unbelievable resolutions. House and Finesse take an interest in Walt Whitman’s poetry that is bizarre in children their age and may make the book unappealing to boys who like sports stories.
One disappointing aspect of the tale is the poor judgment of House’s father and doctor with regards to a serious injury to the boy’s elbow. They allow him to pitch in the game, knowing that he should not, using any trick possible to get him through the last inning. This blatant disregard for his safety contradicts everything adults should teach young ball players and would undoubtedly make any mother cringe.
Jennifer Minicus is a wife and mother living in Ridgewood, NJ.