March 12, 2013

A mystery on the pitcher’s mound

By Josh Berk
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Acclaimed young adult author Josh Berk debuts a new series for younger readers with Strike Three You’re Dead, starring middle schoolers Lenny Norbeck and the two Mikes. Part baseball story and part mystery, Berk's latest is a thrilling and hilarious romp that's hard to put down.

The story starts innocently enough with what looks to be a relaxing (but boring?) summer for Lenny and his friends, Mike and Other Mike. Things are looking up when they hear about a contest to win a chance to call one inning at a Phillies game. Lenny and Mike love baseball, but neither one plays. Lenny (who narrates) says it’s because he’s the “worst player ever,” and Mike has an injury that keeps him from pitching. Lenny, however, is nicknamed “the boy with a golden voice” and dreams of being a baseball announcer.  The boys are thrilled with the prospect of winning the contest, and their computer-geek friend Other Mike is excited to make their video for the contest entry.

Everything goes as planned until the night of the game. When a young pitching star dies suddenly on the mound in the first inning, Lenny loses his chance to announce a game but finds himself too embroiled in the mystery to really care. Lenny is sure that the pitcher was murdered and is determined to figure out who did it. With the help of Mike, Other Mike and a girl named Maria, Lenny finds himself getting closer to the truth but also deeper in danger.

Berk writes a genuinely humorous story that deftly weaves in action and adventure. Although the book is not heavy with emotional or psychological depth, Lenny does make some discoveries about himself and how he sees people that are a pleasant surprise to us all. With any luck, Berk will continue to bring us stories about Lenny and the Mikes, because I miss reading about them already.

Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th-level Catholic school.

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Strike Three You’re Dead

Strike Three You’re Dead

By Josh Berk
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780375870088

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