Middle grade star author Chris Rylander brings his signature sense of humor, a compelling and original baseball story, and tons of heart to the story of the Hurricanes of Weakerville.
All his life, Alex Weakerman has had one passion: baseball. Specifically, the Hurricanes of Weakerville, Iowa—the scrappy independent-league team owned by his Grandpa Ira.
Even as team and the town have fallen on tough times, there's no place Alex would rather be than at the ballpark—a hot dog in one hand, a pencil and scorebook in the other, keeping track of each and every statistic. Alex has never been all that great at playing baseball, but that doesn’t matter. For someone as painfully awkward as Alex, being a fan—and a wiz with baseball stats—is all he needs.
When Grandpa Ira passes away, though, Alex is crushed. He's lost his best friend, and he doesn’t see any way that the team will survive. But Ira, it seems, has one last trick up his sleeve: his will names Alex the new manager of the Hurricanes.
Alex is as excited as he is terrified at the chance to finally put some of his fantasy baseball genius to use. But as he sets to work trying to win over the players, he soon learns that leading them to victory is about more than just stats. Will he be able to save his team, his hometown, and his family legacy?
From the author of The Fourth Stall, a SCBWI Sid Fleischman Humor Award winner and multiple state-award favorite, The Hurricanes of Weakerville is sure to appeal to middle grade readers looking for a funny book about real kids.---from the publisher
432 pages 978-0062327505 Ages 8-12
Keywords: baseball, grandfather, death and dying, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, sports
Meet the author: Chris Rylander is the author of the Fourth Stall saga and the Epic Series of Failures trilogy, as well as Codename Zero and its sequels. A fan of baseball, statistics, and baseball statistics, he lives with his family in Chicago. You can visit him online at www.chrisrylander.com.
Alex Weakerman loves his hometown in Iowa, and has deep family roots there. Not only did his family found the town, but his elderly grandfather "owns half of it", including the baseball team that is part of an independent league. He also owns Mustard Park, where they train. Even into his 80s, Ira has been taking care of the team along with a coach, but when his cancer advances and he passes away, Alex and his parents are dismayed to find out that the team has been losing money for years and his grandfather has gone into debt supporting the team. Not only that, but the team is now owned by his brother-in-law, Tex, who makes Alex the manager and says that he might be able to save the team if they can make the championships. Looking to his friend, Slips, for help, and recruiting Aliyah, the best baseball player in town who is also a rather cute classmate, Alex sets out to bring more people to the games, increase revenue, and win games. Alex loves baseball, and is great with statistics, even though he doesn't play well himself. Alex is overweight and unsure of himself, and experiences daily, small catastrophes of social interaction caused by what he calls "Flumpo". Grieving his grandfather in his own way and not wanting to lose Mustard Park (which Tex plans to sell) and his way of life in Weakerville, Alex battles to keep players, recruit new ones, and help the team get better at the game. There are plenty of obstacles in his way, including the problems a phenomenal player, Carla, has with her family's past, which may include local colorful personality, Gloves. Using his grandfather's notes, and trying to coach the team bring Alex closer to his grandfather. Will he be able to make his biggest fan proud of him?
Stregnths: I loved the Iowa setting, since I have family in towns about the size of Weakerville (Hello, Denison, Iowa!), and the depiction was spot on with chain stores taking local business and economic downturns affecting the population. While it was a bit of a stretch to put Alex in charge, it was done realistically, and he does have support, and Tex oversees things a bit. His friend Slips, who is from Poland, doesn't much care for baseball but does an excellent job supporting his friend, and it's good to see Aliyah bringing her skills to help as well. There's lots of baseball for those who want play-by-plays, and just enough history to add depth to the story. Alex's father's love of barbecue is a running joke, and it's interesting that he wasn't as interested in baseball. Ira's death is handled in a middle grade appropriate way, and Alex's handling of it seemed realistic. Slips is worried that Alex is bottling things up, but he's really just channeling his grief into the Hurricanes. This was a humorous and innovative baseball story.
Weaknesses: There were a lot of things going on, many of which had to do with facets of baseball that I didn't understand. Are there independent leagues? What does this even mean? Had some of the tangential baseball information been replaced by some more inclusion of the more humorous elements, like Alex's father's love of barbecue, this would have wider appeal. I really thought the team and the town would be saved by the family recipe for mustard. That was a missed opportunity. What I really think: This reminded me, oddly, of Paolo Bacigalupi's 2013 Zombie Baseball Beatdown or Will Weaver's 1995 Billy Baggs series, maybe because of the small town Iowa setting. Rylander is very popular in my library, so I will go ahead and purchase this. My question is always "To which students will I hand this book?" If I can't think of any current students, why am I purchasing the book? I can think of at least a dozen who would enjoy this, including one I wish I could hand it to right now!
Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Teacher Librarian, Ohio USA
See more of her recommendations: msyinglingreads.com