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Over the Wall


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About the Author

John Ritter has written many books and numerous short stories for young adult readers. His first novel, Choosing Up Sides, won the 1999 International Reading Association Children's Book Award for Older Readers and was designated an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. Kirkus Reviews praised Choosing Up Sides--which attacked the once-prevalent views of religious fundamentalists toward left-handed children--as "No ordinary baseball book, this is a rare first novel." In 2004, Ritter received the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People for his third novel, The Boy Who Saved Baseball.


Gr 6-9-John Ritter follows his critically acclaimed debut novel, Choosing Up Sides (Philomel, 1998), with Over the Wall (Philomel, 2000), a metaphorically complex treatment of the Vietnam War, emotional alienation, rage, and the catastrophic familial effects of a child's death, all of which are played out in the uniquely American crucible of a baseball field. Thirteen-year-old Tyler Waltern, leaves his mother and distant father, emotionally shattered since the accidental death of Tyler's older sister some nine years earlier, to spend the summer in New York City with his uncle, aunt, and cousins. Tyler's considerable athletic prowess on a Central Park Little League team is overshadowed by his propensity for uncontrollable temper tantrums. A firm but sympathetic coach, the attention and help from his sagacious teenage cousin Brina, and several pilgrimages to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. contribute to Tyler's revelatory growth and redemption. Narrator Johnny Heller is superb and completely natural in his seamless boyish vocal execution of Tyler while also providing a mature dimension to the adult characters. An added bonus is the concluding interview with author who discusses, among other topics, the novel's multidimensional themes and structure. Imbued with passion, absolution, and grace, this beautiful story beautifully told is destined to become one of the year's best young adult audiobooks.-Barry X. Miller, Austin Public Library, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Ritter (Choosing Up Sides) again draws parallels between baseball and social issues as he explores the struggles of a 13-year-old boy on and off the field. There are many "walls" in Tyler's life: the outfield wall he dreams of clearing with a hard hit; the Vietnam monument bearing the name of his grandfather; and the invisible barrier Tyler's father has built around himself since the accidental death of Tyler's older sister nine years earlier. Spending the summer in New York City with his cousins, Tyler is determined to make an all-star baseball team. But Tyler's talent doesn't impress his coaches as much as his explosive temper does, and he is told to "shape up or ship out." Led by a tough but sensitive coach, a Vietnam vet, and by his pretty eighth-grader cousin, trained in "peer arbitration" at her private school, Tyler learns to control his anger and understand his so-called enemies. The author tackles tough subjects relating to violence in sports, religious hypocrisy and the Vietnam War while creating layers of metaphors that neatly unfold as the story progresses. Although Ritter stacks the deck a little obviously, his powerful lesson in compassion will likely reverberate for readers. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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