Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review of "Sophomore Campaign"

Happy Thanksgiving Day to those who are celebrating today - hoping your day is filled with good food and good times with loved ones and that you enjoy all that you are thankful for.

While I was tardy in getting around to read this book, it was well worth the wait.  This was one occasion where the second story of a series was even better than the first.  Here is my review of the second installment of the Mickey Tussler series by Frank Nappi, "Sophomore Campaign."

“Sophomore Campaign: A Mickey Tussler Novel” by Frank Nappi

Baseball, fiction, Young Adult (YA), family, race relations

April 1, 2012

265 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

In this second installment of the Mickey Tussler series, Mickey is coming back to the minor league Milwaukee Brewers for the 1949 season. This didn’t seem possible, given how the 1948 season ended, but after some long talks with Brewer manager Arthur Murphy, who was both a manager and a surrogate father to Mickey during that season, Mickey will come back with his amazing pitching ability.  Because of the violent collision that ended the 1948 season for Mickey, his mother Molly has misgivings about letting Mickey play.  But Arthur, who is now courting Molly, talks her into it.

However, there is more complications than just Mickey adjusting to baseball life this time.  Mickey’s battery mate and friend, Raymond “Boxcar” Miller, is dying of cancer.  To replace Boxcar on the field, Murphy brings in Lester Sledge, a catcher from the area’s Negro League team. This presents a whole new set of challenges, conflicts and issues for the team and the town.

Just like the first book in the series, the baseball scenes are at once very clear, action packed and authentic but at times a bit unrealistic. Mickey still has his unique pitching motion, and now Lester helps him develop a curve ball. The Brewers are battling their arch-rivals, the Rangers, once again, and reading about the games between the two teams makes for great drama.

The new tension for the Brewers with having Lester on the team brings back memories of reading about Jackie Robinson and the struggles he was having.  However, some people carry this dislike of a black baseball player a bit too far, and that also is compelling reading. Many people will know about the struggles Robinson had.  While this is a fictional account, this too is an excellent illustration of what race relations were like in that time.

Whether in movies or books, a sequel or the second in a series often falls short of expectations if the first one was a hit.  This isn’t the case here, as this story not only picked up where the first one left off, but it was even better with the added character of Lester, a very likable fellow whom the reader will enjoy as much as Mickey, Murphy, Molly and the rest of the Brewers – save for one, who will not be discussed as a spoiler here.

I wish to thank Mr. Nappi for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I skim?
No as I needed to read each chapter carefully to fully understand the situation and characters, just like the first story

Did I feel connected to the characters?
Yes – most of them. Like in the first story, I was cheering for Arthur, Mickey and Molly and now Lester as well.  The antagonists of the story, such as the sheriff, are easy to dislike. Another Brewers player, shortstop Pee Wee McGinty, is a character whom I enjoyed as well.

Pace of the story:
This book was a very quick read for me as the only new character who played a major role in the story was Lester.  That, along with a gripping story, kept me turning the pages.

Do I recommend?
Yes – for all the same reasons that I recommended the first story in the series (baseball, youth, autism) but also in this one for a story that does shed some more light on race relations at that time in America.

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