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Heart of a Champion

by Carl Deuker

      Seth Barnam was only seven when his father died and accepting that loss was difficult. Seth wasn't really interested in sports when he happened to meet Jimmy Winter at the park one day, as Jimmy's father was putting him through intense baseball drills. Jimmy has lots of natural talent and a father who demands perfection from him.

The boys become fast friends and both sign up for Little League, even though Seth feels inadequate compared to his new friend. Their time together is spent practicing baseball, with Jimmy's father usually there to coach them and urge them to improve. Jimmy's intensity and self-assurance on the playing field begin to rub off onto Seth. He dreams of being as good as Jimmy, and with practice finds that he not only improves as a baseball player, but his school work improves, too.

With both boys on the team, their school excels, but then Jimmy's home life begins to unravel. His father is drinking too much, and then his parents divorce. Seth is at a loss when Jimmy is caught drinking and is suspended from the team. Jimmy just can't seem to get his life back on track, and his choices lead to an unexpected result.

This is an exciting novel, loaded with baseball action, but the main focus is on the friendship that develops between Seth and Jimmy, coping with the consequences of foolish choices, and the grief of dealing with incomprehensible loss. It's easy to read, with well-developed, likable characters, a gripping plot, plenty of action and an unexpected ending.

This compelling tale will especially appeal to boys with an interest in baseball, but girls will also enjoy this fast moving story of a forever kind of friendship.

The Book

Little, Brown / Hachette Book Group USA
April 1, 2007
0-316-06726-1 / 978-0-316-06726-3
Young Adult Fiction
More at
NOTE: An ALA Best Book for Young Adults,
An ALA Best Book for Reluctant Readers,
A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age,
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Book of the Year.

The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2007
© 2007