Elizabeth Varadan | The Children’s Book Review | May 7, 2015
Screaming at the Ump
Age Range: 9-12
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (April 7, 2015)
What to Expect: Sly humor, likeable characters, fascinating glimpses into the world of umpiring, and guidelines for what makes for good journalism.
Screaming at the Ump tickled my funny bone one moment and yanked my heart the next, capturing twelve-year-old Casey’s innocence and angst, as he pursues his favorite dream to be a sports journalist while coping with his mother’s abandonment.
The book opens on the first day of middle school, the day before Umpire Academy begins. Casey lives with his father, “Dad”, and his grandfather, “Pop”, at the Behind the Plate (BTP) Umpire Academy. Starting every September, Dad and Pop train umpire hopefuls for several weeks. (Both played baseball and umpired it professionally.) On the last day of Academy, locals turn out to scream at the new umps and give them a sense of umpire reality. (Thus the book’s title.)
In this family of players and umps, Casey is charting a new path. He wants to be a sports journalist. This year’s Academy presents him with what he hopes is his big break on the school newspaper. (No spoilers here.) Best friend Zeke wants to create a winning video for one of his favorite reality shows.
The characters are all memorable. Zeke, clueless and disorganized, is the perfect foil for super-organized, serious Casey. Casey has reason to be serious: His mother, whom he refers to as “Mrs. Bob-the-Baker”, ran off with the baker who once delivered baked goods to BTP. This wound still festers, and Vernick weaves moments of revived pain into some funny scenes, heightening their impact. Sly, a pesky eight-year-old girl, provides humorous counterpoint, artlessly spurring insights that help Casey solve more than one issue.
“When Zeke got on the bus, it seemed like he was almost bouncing down the aisle to me. I sent a silent bit of thanks out into the universe that Zeke was not someone entrusted with extremely important secrets like, say, having to do with national security, because we’d all be in trouble.”
Screaming at the Ump will appeal to both boys and girls who are interested in sports (especially baseball), and journalism, coping with the transition to middle school, or dealing with family conflicts.
About Audrey Vernick
Audrey Vernick is author of the picture book biography Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, as well several picture books and novels. She lives with her family near the ocean in New Jersey. Learn more about her at www.audreyvernick.com.
Screaming at the Ump, written by Audrey Vernick, was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan. Discover more books like Screaming at the Ump by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Audrey Vernick, Baseball, Conflict, Family Relationships, and Middle School.