Children's Literature Bookshelf

“Soar,” by Joan Bauer. Penguin Young Readers, New York, 2016, 296 pages, Grades 5-6.

“Soar,” by Joan Bauer.
Penguin Young Readers, New York, 2016, 296 pages, Grades 5-6.

Sometimes bad things happen to people. The reasons are plentiful. Some people make bad choices and choose bad friends, while other people have difficult things happen to them for no apparent reason.

Companies can move their headquarters and consequently fire people in the old location. Sometimes people get sick and can’t work. When these tough times come in our lives the decisions we make will shape our lives for good or ill.

As the Southerners say: “Can you squeeze the lemons and make lemonade?” Joan Bauer has written an excellent middle school novel on this subject. The name of this fine title is “Soar.”

Jeremiah Looper is abandoned as an infant. His mother must have been watching the workers at a store however, because she makes sure that Walt Looper finds her son. Walt has never married and knows nothing about raising a child. He does have a loving heart and soon decides to adopt the baby. Mr. Looper is a computer repairman and frequently must move from one city to the next. He is also a baseball fanatic.

As Jeremiah grows up, he too becomes deeply attached to baseball. Walt and Jeremiah play catch, watch games and share many father-son baseball moments.

But a near tragedy occurs when Jeremiah gets heart disease at the age of 10 and must have a heart transplant. For a year, he teeters between dying and recovering. He finally recovers and names his new heart Alice since it came from a 14-year-old girl who had died.

Because of his frail condition, Jeremiah must find a new outlet for his love of baseball. He decides that coaching may be his ticket to stay attached to the game. As a result, he studies charts, reads books by famous coaches and learns how to teach others the game of baseball. When Walt is transferred to Hillcrest, Ohio, Jeremiah enrolls in Hillcrest Middle School. He finds that the town has a passion for baseball and has won a number of state championships.

But terrible things soon befall the town. A star pitcher suddenly dies after a practice. The coach is blamed for giving his players drugs to make them better players. Suddenly, the baseball-crazy city wants to walk away from the sport. The middle school team falls apart. But Jeremiah refuses to accept the demise of baseball in Hillcrest. He is determined to rebuild the team and to again get the town excited about baseball.
Few players want to be on the team. But Jeremiah has already lived through a heart transplant. He takes action, determined to change the fate of the baseball program. What does he do?

Does Jeremiah succeed? How does he rally a group of downtrodden players to once again play for the love of the sport and for each other? Have you ever made lemonade out of lemons? How does Jeremiah turn the team into winners? To find out, go to the library and read this inspiring, upbeat book, “Soar” by Joan Bauer.

This book is on the Golden Sower Reading List for the middle grades for 2018/2019. The Golden Sower Award is voted by the school children of Nebraska for their most popular book.

Joan Bauer writes in an uplifting, positive manner and “Soar” is an excellent example of her work. You can’t help but root for Jeremiah as you read this delightful page turner. I hope you get a chance to read this inspirational novel and to encourage your middle school children and relatives to do the same. I like the book and am sure your children will as well. Enjoy!

Terrence Nollen




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