Dan Gutman’s latest baseball card adventure sends Joe Stoshack (Stosh) back to 1969. Stosh has the ability to travel in time by holding a baseball card. He always lands in the year printed on the card. Stosh knows he has never saved anyone on his trips. Nevertheless, he decides to go back to the past to save Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash. Unfortunately, Stosh lands in, of all places, Woodstock. Traveling across the country, he manages to meet Clemente, a truly extraordinary man who teaches Stosh the importance of family and sacrifice. Stosh also receives a surprise visit from his future great-grandson, Bernard. Bernard has inherited Stosh’s unique ability to travel through time with baseball cards. He brings Stosh to the year 2080 to show him the supposed effects of global warming.
Several issues require addressing in this tenth book about Stosh’s adventures. Gutman tells these stories in the first person, that is, from Stosh’s point of view, and therefore uses colloquial and sometimes crude language. The most notable of these is the prolific misuse of the word “like”. While Gutman probably does this to make the book sound authentic, it defeats two of the purposes of reading: to build vocabulary and develop writing skills. Stosh’s visit to Woodstock brings him into contact with people whose behavior leads the reader to believe that they are under the influence of drugs. Given the fact that this book is aimed at boys ages 9-12, one wonders why Stosh had to land in Woodstock at all. In talking to his hippy friends, Stosh explains that their protests in the 1960’s had great results in the future. They paved the way for the feminist and gay rights movements. Lastly, Stosh’s visit to the future amounts to nothing more than scare tactics aimed at a generation that already knows the importance of conservation. His presentation of 2080 is hypothetical and exaggerated and may serve to make young children feel guilty in spite of everything they have been trained to do to protect the environment. Boys (and parents) who enjoyed Stosh’s earlier adventures may find that Gutman’s social commentaries take the fun out of reading.
Jennifer Minicus lives in Ridgewood, NJ. Her love for the formation of young people inspired her interest in children’s literature.