Grades 4-8 (Orca, 2002)
Pitched perfectly at boys aged 10-14, Cairo Kelly and the Mann tells the story of two kids who love and respect their favourite umpire almost as much as they love baseball. When “the Mann” is removed from the Umpires’ Association after his refusal to write a test proving the skills he has honed over 20 years of umping, Midge and Kelly struggle with issues of fairness, pride and standing one’s ground.
From the opening lines, Butcher’s prose rings true as the words of a 7th grade boy:
“I swear on my baseball glove – Kelly and I had nothing to do with that fire. Oh, sure, we were there. I’m not denying that. But we didn’t start the fire. As a matter of fact, we were the ones who put it out and cleaned up the mess. But did nosy old Mrs. Butterman see that from her kitchen window?”
The baseball action will keep readers turning pages. However, the insights into family dynamics and depth of description offer yet an additional layer to this story. Midge describes a brief mental picture of his dad as “something warm – like the feeling you get when you put on a shirt straight from the dryer.” This is something all readers, regardless of age, can connect with. Just as all readers, but particularly baseball lovers, will connect with this book.