Reviews for Keeping Score
Booklist Reviews 2008 February #1
Park, author of the Newbery-winning A Single Shard (2001), opens this thoroughly researched novel in Brooklyn with the 1951 baseball season half gone. Nine-year-old Maggie likes to hang out at the fire station, where she listens to Dodgers games with the firemen. The new guy, Jim, teaches Maggie how to score a game, and after Jim is drafted and sent to Korea, Maggie writes him letters. When she learns that he has been traumatized and sent home unresponsive and unable to function on his own, Maggie works on a plan to bring Jim back to himself and his old life. To her credit, Park doesn't make Maggie's goal seem easy or even realistic. The involving story spans several years with only a glimmer of hope for Jim's recovery. Still, readers will find plenty to root for as they get to know determined, persistent Maggie, who feels that the first words she ever learned must have been "Wait till next year." Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #2
Nine-year-old Maggie lives in a house divided: her father is a Yankees fan, but she, her mother, and her brother all live and die on the fortunes of the Dodgers (it's 1951). Maggie spends her idle moments hanging out at the firehouse with the guys, listening to Red Barber call the games. When Jim, a new firefighter, arrives on the scene with a separate radio to listen to the Giants games, Maggie overcomes her antipathy enough to let him teach her how to score the games, an interest that becomes a way of keeping faith when Jim is called up to serve in Korea. Her hobby expands to tracking the war as she struggles to understand what her friend is risking his life for, and when Jim returns, horribly traumatized, Maggie hopes that she and baseball can bring him back to himself. It's a tender tale, full of introspection and the sort of superstitious bargaining with God that is second nature to a diehard baseball fan. Park's simple narrative voice captures Maggie's yearnings as well as her widening understanding of the world, offering no simple answers, much as Maggie would like them. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2008 March #1
In 1950s Brooklyn, everyone is baseball mad. Maggie says daily prayers and follows careful rituals to "help" the Dodgers. She listens intently to games on the radio, often with her friends at the firehouse. With firefighter Jim's help, even if he is a Giants fan, she learns to score the games meticulously. Jim is drafted and sent to Korea, where his experiences lead to a severe breakdown. Maggie writes to Jim faithfully, scores Giants games for him and says heartfelt prayers for his recovery. But her efforts meet with little success. She is disillusioned and heartbroken by the war, by Jim's inability to cope and by the constant disappointments provided by the Dodgers. But she never completely gives up, and there is a ray of hope for both Jim and the Dodgers as the 1955 season begins. Park's deeply layered plot is built as slowly and as meticulously as Maggie's scoring. As Maggie matures from age nine to 13, she never loses her compassion and openhearted nature. An author's note adds historical information. A winner at every level. (Historical fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 March #4
Although the jacket image shows a girl at a baseball stadium, Newbery Medalist Park's (A Single Shard ) Korean War-era novel is best approached not as a sports story but as a powerful attempt to grapple with loss. Margaret Olivia Fontini, named after Joe DiMaggio ("Maggie-o, get it?"), loves Brooklyn's beloved but doomed Dodgers with a passion. When a new firemen arrives at her father's station wearing his allegiance to the arch-enemy Giants on his sleeve, Maggie keeps her distance until he teaches her how to score the game, a practice Maggie embraces with gusto, believing that recording every pitch and play might actually help Dem Bums finally win. And when Jim is drafted and sent to Korea, he and Maggie write, until Jim's letters abruptly stop. Park evokes the characters and settings with her customary skill and talent for detail; she shows unusual sensitivity in writing about war and the atrocity that, Maggie learns, has traumatized Jim into silence. Readers will be moved by Maggie's hard-earned revelation, that every instance of keeping score "had been a chance to hope for something good to happen," and that "hope always comes first." Ages 9-12. (Mar.) [Page 71]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2008 March
Gr 4-6-- In 1951, Maggie, nine, and her older brother, Joey-Mick, are dedicated baseball fans though their beloved Brooklyn Dodgers always disappoint them at season's end. Maggie enjoys listening to the games with the firefighters in her neighborhood station; her dad worked there before an injury forced him to accept a desk job. When a new firefighter, Jim, joins the crew, he teaches Maggie how to keep score and she comes to share his admiration for Giants' great Willie Mays. Then Jim is drafted and sent to Korea. They writer to one another until his letters abruptly stop. Maggie, frustrated and worried, tries to understand the conflict by researching it at her local library and even drawing her own maps tracing the war's progress on the Korean peninsula. Eventually, she learns that Jim suffered traumatic shock after a horrific battle and has been sent home with a medical discharge. Park paints a vividly detailed account of life in 1950s Brooklyn. Maggie's perspective is authentically childlike and engaging, and her relations with her family and friends ring true. Jim's tragic experience raises difficult, troubling questions for Maggie, but her grief eventually brings her to the conclusion that "hope is what gets everything started." Baseball fans will savor her first visit to Ebbets Fields, but this finely crafted novel should resonate with a wide audience of readers..--Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA [Page 208]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2008 April
Young Maggie is an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan growing up in the 1950s. Despite Maggie's best efforts, the Dodgers fail to win the World Series season after season. "Wait till next year!" is the team's unofficial slogan. Maggie is befriended by Jim, a rival Giants fan, who teaches Maggie the art of scoring baseball games. When Jim is sent to fight in Korea, Maggie does all she can to keep in touch, but Jim stops writing back. Eventually Maggie learns what happened, but will anything she does, even cheering for the Giants, make a difference as Jim struggles to recover from the horror of war Park states, "What I want to do is, first, tell a good story." This novel certainly demonstrates that Park is a brilliant storyteller with superb writing skills. She adeptly combines the genres of sports and historical fiction from the refreshing perspective of the fan. Maggie is an endearing, resourceful protagonist, and every teen who lives and dies with a favorite team will be able to relate to Maggie's passion and loyalty. Park does an outstanding job of exploring the theme of hope through Maggie's love of the Dodgers and her desire for Jim to recover. This book will become a cherished favorite in every library. Park provides Web sites at the end of the book for those who want to learn how to score baseball games.-David Goodale 5Q 3P M Copyright 2008 Voya Reviews.