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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

In 1930s Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola live across the street from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Their families and others on the street make extra money by selling tickets to bleachers on their flat rooftops, which have a perfect view of the field. However, falling ticket sales at the park prompt the manager and park owner to decide to build a wall that will block the view. Jimmy and Lola come up with a variety of ways to prevent the wall from being built, knowing that not only will they miss the view, but their families will be impacted from the loss of income. As Jimmy becomes more and more desperate to save their view, his dubious plans create a rift between him and Lola, and he must work to repair their friendship.…

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding

by Jennifer Robin Barr

Overall Book Review:

Set in 1934 and 1935, the world is living through the Great Depression that lasted 10 years.  Jimmy and Lola are 12-years-old and best friends.  Nobody understands them like each other.  Our narrator, Jimmy, shares his thoughts, his dreams, and his absolute love of baseball.  Living in a small community within a big city, it’s like stepping back into the old television series Mayberry RFD.  Life was hard but so much simpler.  Family and friends are what life is all about in this story.  It was halfway through the Great Depression and every family member did what they could to help bring food to the table, even if that meant working every night after school or getting up before the sun to start work on Saturday or Sunday.  Jimmy and Lola are no exception and their love of baseball is a much needed distraction in these tough times, as it helps take their minds off the anxiety of their lives. 

This historical fiction story was fun to read.  Toward the middle it became a little slow but it picked back up and finished well.  In his zealous pursuit of baseball, Jimmy does a few really dumb things but, in the end, he chooses to come face to face with his bad choices which he had justified, and he deals with the consequences of his actions.  Earning the respect of his community along the way, he also learns some serious life lessons.

The author, Jennifer Robin Barr, has written with fantastic details.  I am not a baseball fan but I found the visualization and history, the personalization of the characters and managers, to be fun and energetic. The author’s use of language and vocabulary, while making it understandable for young readers, is beautifully balanced and could easily be enjoyed by a reader of any age.  This story is all about the characters.  They are what makes the story and the author really brings them to all to life.  Unfortunately, even the three bullies, who are despised, are brought to life with vivid wordplay.  At the end of the book, the author has even included a few old photos of characters mentioned along with several tid-bits and historical facts.  At the beginning of most chapters, there are also historical quotes from newspapers of the time.  This book is well worth the read.

Review of an Advance Reaing Copy

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Calkins Creek

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation; 2 mild obscenities; 1 anatomical term.

Violence/Gore:  3 bullies hold a 12-year-old boy down and hurt him, kick him in the head; 3 teen boys plan to steal gas from a car as a prank; 2 twelve-year-olds break into a man’s office, steal some paperwork; 3 bullies continuously pelt a 12-year-old with icy snow balls, bloody nose, cuts & scrapes; 12-year-old boy throws a object hitting and breaking a stained glass window; 3 bullies terrorize a neighborhood.

Sex/Nudity:  A husband and wife kiss a few times but no sloppy details; a slight awkwardness, just shy of a “hoped for romance” runs between two 12-year-olds.

Mature Subject Matter:

The Great War (WWI), the 1930s Great Depression, bullies, breaking and entering by 12-year-olds, theft disguised as a prank, juvenile detention.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

2 adult women sip whisky before and after dinner; mention of men drinking beer; mention of a bar; a 12-year-old girl asks a boy about her age if he’s “been sipping his father’s whisky again.”

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Reading a good adventure story has always been a vacation in the theater of my mind. When I’m stressed or just need to get away for a few minutes, I love the opportunity to climb into somebody else’s world. I didn’t enjoy reading until I was in the Air Force and building bombs in Korea; it was a wonderful distraction from the real world. (I tried bull riding, but it wasn’t exciting enough.)