Middle Grade: Two Takes on Sports Fiction & Magical Realism | April 2018 Xpress Reviews

A young baseball player loses his lucky charm but gains an important lesson; Smibert's magical middle grade exploration of WW II–era Appalachia.

Bowen, Fred. Lucky Enough. 114p. Peachtree. Mar. 2018. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781561459575.

Gr 3-6 –When Trey makes the Ravens, a travel baseball team, he is certain that it is because of his lucky charm. He is already superstitious—what baseball player isn’t?—and he makes sure to follow his routines as strictly as possible in order to keep his luck flowing. When he gets home from practice one day, however, he notices that his lucky piece of sea glass is missing. He cannot find it, even after scouring the field with his best friend, and he is certain that his performance is slipping because he does not have his charm. As he struggles to get his luck back, he learns that maybe hard work means just as much, or even more, than luck. Trey begins to see his effort pay off in the classroom as well as the field, and discovers that he might be able to control his own destiny instead of always relying on good fortune. VERDICT This quick and to-the-point story is a solid choice for upper elementary readers as well as middle school collections looking to boost their hi-lo offerings. Consider where realistic sports fiction is in high demand.–Carli Sauer, Carmel Middle School, IN

Smibert, Angie. Bone’s Gift. 256p. (Ghosts of Ordinary Objects). Boyds Mills. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629798509.

Gr 5-8 –“The Gift killed your mother....Mama says the Gifts are the devil’s work.” Bone has no idea what gifts her cousin Ruby is talking about, but she learns pretty quickly when she starts to visualize stories contained in objects she touches. In a genuine voice that sucks readers into Appalachia during World War II, Smibert tells an absorbing coming-of-age story. Bone (aka Laurel Phillips) struggles with her friends leaving, her father being drafted, and a family feud. She’s also coming to terms with her mother’s death and the recent discovery of her own powers. The narrative has the feel of the Appalachian folktales that the protagonist loves so much, with a mix of realism and magic. Smibert weaves the folktales intricately into the story, helping Bone learn and understand her gift, her family, and herself. Throughout her journey, Bone experiences grief and abuse and witnesses the racism of the 1940s. VERDICT An enjoyable read, especially for fans of Ingrid Law’s Savvy who are looking for a story with a slower pace and a simpler plot line. Middle graders won’t want Bone’s story to end.–Ruth Shaw, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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