A follow up to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, Kevin is back writing poetry after his dad hands him a new journal – telling him he doesn't have to use it, but it's there – so he starts writing poetry again. Kevin has a girlfriend Mira – who doesn't exactly get his poetry. When he goes with his dad to an open-mike night, he meets a girl who writes poetry herself – Amy – and he can't seem to stop thinking about her. Does he really like Mira, or is she just simply cute to him? Kevin has a lot to figure out about girls at 14.
I loved the first book and this one didn't disappoint at all. I love the banter between Amy and Kevin throughout this book. It's interesting to see him realize that dating girls isn't all about good looks, but who you generally get along with and share interests with. Kevin finds himself through poetry and poetry leads him to Amy – a girl who understands and appreciates his poems.
I love the different types of poems in this book – reminding me of poetry lessons of my past and really how fantastic Ron is at writing poems to make them part of a story. Novels in verse are becoming a huge movement in children's literature and I haven't found a bad one yet. Definitely a book both boys and girls can relate to.
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And just to demonstrate the awesomeness that is this book… one of the poems from it:
A Few Words About the Setting
The BB is actually a pretty cool place.
A real bungalow. Nooks and crannies.
Sofas and chairs with soft, beat-up
cushions that look like fat ghosts
are already sitting in them. Wall-to-wall
volumes, (free) tea and Oreos on a table
that's wearing two bunny slippers on
its front feet. Cat with a chewed-up ear
asleep on a dictionary.
I shake hands with Ophelia. Her hair
looks like it can't make up its mind,
her T-shirt says LET THERE BE LIGHT.
"This is Amy." She nods toward a girl
in velvety-looking overall, which I
immediately like because overalls
are work clothes and velvet is for lying
on a couch and eating little sandwiches.
"But you can call me Trixie," Amy says.
Her mother warns, "Don't start."
Trixie/Amy hands me the clipboard.
I've heard that one a million times:
It's a challenge. A double dare.
You'll never hit this guy, Boland. He's got your number. And if I happen
to swing and miss: Nice cut. How about a tennis racket next time?
"I already signed up."
It only stop her for a second, but it stops her.
Like a clean single right past the shortstop.
"A Few Words About the Setting" from SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS, copyright c 2010 by Ron Koertge. Used by permission of Candlewick Press.
Ron Koertge is the author of many acclaimed novels, including DEADVILLE, STONER AND SPAZ, THE BRIMSTONE JOURNALS, and his first novel-in-verse about Kevin Boland, SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP. A two-time winner of the PEN Award, Ron Koertge lives in South Pasadena, California.
What was the inspiration behind your books Shakespeare Bats Cleanup and Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs?
My wife and I were sitting at a AAA baseball game a few years ago. Down in the boxes along the third base line sat a kid about eleven and his Dad. The dad was a real chew 'em up fan—ragging on the ump, cheerleading the home team. The kid was writing something in a little notebook. So I started to wonder what that might be like—attracted to baseball and writing, too. So I made a book to find out. And then a sequel.
Did you always plan to write the books in verse?
Lord, no. I don't plan much of anything. My first novel-in-verse was The Brimstone Journals, a rough-around-the-edges story of a potential high school shooting. I started it before Columbine, which made the whole process very eerie. I've been a poet all my life, though, so it's not too much of a stretch to think that I might give novels-in-verse a whirl. Brimstone was different from anything else I ever wrote because it just assaulted me; I wrote it all in about six weeks!
Poet or baseball player—which are you better at?
Way better as a poet. For one thing, I'm 69 years old. Not creaky or forgetful, but I like to be able to sit down and write. And my fast ball is not what it used to be.
When you were writing Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, did you know that you'd write a second novel to follow up?
No way. In fact, I'd tell kids during school visits that sequels didn't interest me very much. Like I know anything, right? I'm really not in charge of my writing life. I'm a guy who writes every day, so I just show up for work with my lunch box and see what the Muse has in mind for me. There's a sequel to Stoner & Spaz in my editor's office right now.
What are you working on currently, writing-wise?
I'm interested in writing poems or poem-like things about the Greek gods: Zeus, Hades, Demeter, etc. I think my editor is rolling her eyes because she's wondering how many kids even know who the Greek gods are anymore. But the poems (or poem-things) are interesting and they're fun to write. I can tell there's something juicy in this project, but I don't exactly know what it is yet.
What type of books do you like to read when you're not writing?
I read anything and usually don't finish. I'm reading short stories by Jennifer Egan right now. I just finished something by Pico Iyer. I stay away from kids' books and read other stuff. I like fast-paced trash like Kitchen Confidential.
Anything else you want to add?
I live in what fans call "The Halloween House." It's in two or three early scenes in the Jaime Lee Curtis/John Carpenter film "Halloween." The first one. Just yesterday some guy from Georgia came by and was all amped about the place. My wife has some plastic pumpkins on the porch, so lots of people hold one and sit where JLC sat and have their picture taken. Almost everybody asks if it isn't spooky living here, and it's not. For one thing, only exteriors were in the movie. No inside-the-house stuff. For another, this is a very friendly structure. There are some pictures of the place and me and Buddy the Poetry Cat on the Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs Facebook page. Check 'em out.
Thank you Ron for stopping by today! I love these books!