Set in Philadelphia during the Great Depression, this middle-grade historical novel tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy and his best friend as they attempt to stop a wall from being built at Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, that would block the view of the baseball field from their rooftops.
In 1930s Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola live across the street from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Their families and others on the street make extra money by selling tickets to bleachers on their flat rooftops, which have a perfect view of the field. However, falling ticket sales at the park prompt the manager and park owner to decide to build a wall that will block the view. Jimmy and Lola come up with a variety of ways to prevent the wall from being built, knowing that not only will they miss the view, but their families will be impacted from the loss of income. As Jimmy becomes more and more desperate to save their view, his dubious plans create a rift between him and Lola, and he must work to repair their friendship.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Anti-Polish sentiment
Booklist (March 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 13))
Grades 4-7. His whole life, 12-year-old Jimmy Frank has been able to see into Philadelphia’s beloved Shibe Park from his bedroom window. But when the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics fears sales on the rooftop bleachers atop homes like Jimmy’s are cutting into profits, they plan to erect a wall. The Great Depression has already tightened Jimmy’s family’s finances and the so-called “spite wall” is sure to further jeopardize their well-being. Jimmy is willing to do just about anything to stop the Athletics from building the wall, but is his partner in crime, his neighbor and BFF Lola, just as willing? Or is the spite wall also erecting a wall in their friendship? This appealing historical middle-grade novel is perfect for fans of beloved baseball-centered novels like Linda Sue Park’s Keeping Score (2008). Barr knows her baseball history and brings rich detail to mid-1930s Philadelphia. While the plot may follow a predictable arc, sports fanatics will eat up the appended material. A sweet debut about friendship and the love of the game.
Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2019)
Twelve-year-olds Jimmie and Lola will always be best friends forever. That’s Rule No. 12. Shibe Park’s very short right-field fence is across the street from the flat-roofed houses where they live, allowing them to see all the home games of their beloved Philadelphia Athletics from a unique perspective. Homeowners set up bleachers on the roofs (Rule No. 11), charging a small fee for fans who can’t afford stadium tickets, which provides essential income for the families struggling in the Great Depression. Now Mr. Shibe wants to build a high spite fence to block their view, which will endanger their economic survival. Influenced by his other rules involving responsibility and commitment, Jimmie comes up with several harebrained schemes to stop Mr. Shibe while staying constantly watchful of the Polinski brothers, frightening neighborhood bullies (Rule No. 19). Lola abets him in his schemes, but when the dangers seem to outweigh any benefits, their friendship is nearly destroyed. Barr carefully constructs a well-paced adventure, involving some real events in a very specific time and place, while making Jimmie’s worries about negotiating that world completely accessible to modern readers. All the characters, assumed white, are well-developed, even the real Connie Mack and Jimmie Foxx. Quotes from the 1934 Sporting News that head many chapters further illuminate the actual events. The wall gets built, but friendship endures. Life lessons, baseball, and good friends; it’s all here. (author’s note, photographs, resources) (Historical fiction. 9-12)
About the Author
Jennifer Robin Barr is the author of two how-to books for adults. Goodbye, Mr. Spalding is her debut middle-grade novel. She is drawn to writing about little-known nuggets of history. She lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
Her website is jenniferrobinbarr.com.
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