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Heat

by Lupica


Book Review     

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Publishers Weekly :

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Michael Arroyo's life is heating up in several ways—some of them unpleasant. The Cuban-born 12-year-old and his older brother, Carlos, have been living alone in their Bronx apartment since the death of their father several months earlier. Afraid they will be split up before Carlos turns 18 and can become Michael's legal guardian, the two have only confided the news of their parent's passing to Michael's supportive best friend and a kind elderly neighbor who looks out for the siblings. The boys' elaborately staged ruse ostensibly convinces an official with the children's services administration that their father is still caring for them. On another front, ace pitcher Michael is barred from playing on his all-star baseball team—on track for earning a spot in the Little League World Series—when opposing coaches file a petition accusing the boy of being older than 12 and efforts to procure a copy of his birth certificate from Cuba are unsuccessful. But warming up Michael's life in a positive way is his new friendship with a beautiful, elusive girl who turns out to be the daughter of a celebrated Yankees pitcher. The finale may stretch readers' credibility, and at times the drawn-out dialogue slackens the novel's pacing. But convincing characterization and exciting on-field action help Lupica (Travel Team) throw out a baseball story with heart. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)

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Gr 5-8–When Michael Arroyo is on the baseball diamond, everything feels right. He's a terrific pitcher who dreams of leading his South Bronx All-Stars to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. It's a dream he shared with his father, one they brought with them as they fled Cuba and wound up living in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Michael's ultimate dream is to play in the major leagues like his hero, El Grande, Yankee star and fellow Cuban refugee. Tragically, Papi died of a heart attack a few months back, leaving Michael and his older brother, Carlos, to struggle along on their own. Afraid of being separated, they hide the news of their father's death from everyone but a kindly neighbor, Mrs. Cora, and Michael's best friend, Manny Cabrera. When a bitter rival spreads rumors that Michael is older than he appears, the league demands that he be benched until he can produce a birth certificate. As he did in Travel Team (Philomel, 2004), Lupica crafts an involving, fast-paced novel peopled with strong, well-developed characters. Readers will find themselves rooting for Michael as he struggles with the loss of his father, stumbles into his first boy-girl relationship, and yearns to play baseball. The sports scenes are especially well written; fittingly, the euphoric finale takes place at Yankee Stadium. At times, the author veers toward melodrama but he keeps his lively plot on course with humor, crisp dialogue, and true-to-life characters. Lupica scores another hit with this warmhearted novel.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

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From BookList, April 1, 2006, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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*Starred Review*

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Gr. 6--9. Michael Arroyo is a 13-year-old Cuban American who lives in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Yes, he is a Little League ballplayer, and, yes, he has a dream: to pitch in the Little League World Series. To do so, his South Bronx All-Stars will need to beat the best the greater New York area has to offer in the regional championship, to be played in--you guessed it--Yankee Stadium. This setup sounds like yet another Rocky meets Bad News Bears tearjerker: the immigrants from the Bronx take on the white-bread rich kids from the suburbs. It is that (with some notable twists), but it's much more, too. Michael and his brother, 17-year-old Carlos, have a problem: their beloved father is dead, and the boys are hoping to avoid a foster home by pretending Papi is visiting a sick relative in Miami. Lupica wrings plenty of genuine emotion from the melodramatic frame story, but he sidesteps the slough of social significance by building characters who speak for themselves, not the author, and by enlivening the story with a teen version of street humor. The dialogue crackles, and the rich cast of supporting characters--especially Michael's battery mate, catcher and raconteur Manny--nearly steals the show. Top-notch entertainment in the Carl Hiaasen mold.
BillOtt.

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