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Lucky: Maris, Mantle, and My Best Summer Ever

Review

Lucky: Maris, Mantle, and My Best Summer Ever

Let me just say right off the bat that I'm a fevered New York Yankees fan. The players may change, but the quality and immeasurable intensity of the game when played by the boys in pinstripes make for a glorious spectacle every year. That being said, I was totally hooked on LUCKY, the story of Louis May and the summer of 1961, which happened to be when the hottest home run race ever (without steroids) melted the hearts of baseball fans around the globe. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, #7 and #9 on the Yankees that summer, battled it out to see who would end the season with a hard-to-break record of home runs. LUCKY brings this period alive with the unique voice of its main character and a realization of the awesome sports history that its story is built on.

This is still the stuff that baseball legend is made of. There have been movies, books, and endless myths and fables constructed around this one crazy summer. In his first novel for middle-schoolers, Wes Tooke uses his snappy journalistic attention to detail to make this one riveting and visceral way to get inside the heads of the players and to understand the context of the time from one superfan's behind-the-scenes perspective. Louis being a ballboy is a great ploy for getting into the dugout, the locker room and the field, the places where the emotional and physical toils took their greatest tolls.

Louis gets whisked away from his mom and out of his home comfort zone in the East Village of Manhattan, a hotbed of intellectual and artistic weirdness and activity. He gets plunked down in the suburban quiet and green lawns of White Plains, feeling a little out of his element. Add to that a nasty stepbrother, who happens to have magnificent physical aptitude of his own, and you have a recipe for one lousy school vacation. However, the job with the Yankees comes just in the nick of time, and the day-to-day relationship he creates with two of the game's greatest players gives him the kind of philosophical education in teamwork, sportsmanship, dedication and hard work that he couldn't find anywhere else.

Tooke captures two truly significant historical periods: baseball before it was a land of overpaid whiny babies on steroids, and the burgeoning cultural revolution percolating in Louis's village before the hippie movement became a parody of itself, when both of these things were pure and maintained an ethos, an aesthetic, that spoke to a genuine determination to produce good and true results. Art and baseball, in their most intense states, aren't so dissimilar, as Louis finds. They both make for strange bedfellows but also wonderfully exciting and educational worlds for a young man who is starting to look at life with his own unique vision.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on February 22, 2011

Lucky: Maris, Mantle, and My Best Summer Ever
by Wes Tooke

  • Publication Date: February 22, 2011
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1416986642
  • ISBN-13: 9781416986645