I am in awe of Deborah Wiles wordsmithing. Holy crow she can write! I've adored everything I've read so far, but I think that The Aurora County All-Stars just might be my favourite - at least for now. It's been awhile since I read Each Little Bird that Sings and Love, Ruby Lavender so I'll have to reread them to be sure. What I suspect is that whichever one I've just finished will be my favourite.
The tale begins with the death of an elderly recluse, Mr Norwood Rhinehart Beauregard Boyd. It's the second time twelve year old, House Jackson, witnessed someone's death. The first person being his mother. Mr Boyd left a note leaving House, Leaves of Grass, a collection of Walt Whitman poetry. When House returned late that same night to pick it up, he met up with Pip Schotz, one of Boyd's friends and begins to understand that there is much more to the people in his small town, than he could have imagined.
This story is set in a small town in America. It's the story of a baseball team that wants desperately to win the one and only real game they get to play each year. It's the story of a town wanting to celebrate the best of themselves in a pageant on the county's 200th anniversary. The catch is that the pageant and the annual baseball game are scheduled for July 4th at 4:00 pm. It looks like a recipe for disaster.
House Jackson wasn't able to pitch in last year's game because the director of this pageant, Frances Schotz, (now calling herself Finesse) caused an accident wherein he fell and broke his elbow. It was a bad break requiring setting twice. Instead of playing ball all year, House has been reading to Mr Norwood Boyd, who everyone calls Mean-Man Boyd. It's a secret that nobody but House, his father, and Mr Norwood Rhinehart Beauregard Boyd, the elderly recluse, know. House would rather keep it that way.
House is determined to face his problems this year. If he can figure out a way to keep Frances, and his best friend, Cleebo, under control, then maybe, just maybe, he might contrive to find a way out of this conflict and bring everyone and everything together.
What I liked:
I loved that each chapter is prefaced with a quote from either Walt Whitman or a baseball player. These little nuggets of wisdom set the stage for the events to come. I'm now determined to get and read Leaves of Grass.
I love love love these characters! I'm halfway in love with House Jackson. I adore his father and his little sister Honey. I'm even infatuated with Eudora, the dog. Even those characters who cause House grief, like his best friend, Cleebo, and Frances, the director, are full and rich individuals. They all make mistakes and grow and become better people. Really, what more can you ask of a writer?
I appreciate how seamlessly Wiles has integrated history (especially where it pertains to baseball and the integration of black people.) I love that it is House's understanding of this history, that enables him to make his own changes to it.
I am a fan about books about baseball, and this beautifully philosophical book, is one of my favourites.
What I didn't like:
This finished up the last in this series of books for me. I'm kind of heartbroken as I wish I could hang out with these people a bit longer.