Welcome to Moundville, where it's been raining for longer than Roy McGuire has been alive. Most people say the town is cursed - right in the middle of their big baseball game against rival town Sinister Bend, black clouds crept across the sky and it started to rain. That was 22 years ago... and it's still pouring.
Baseball camp is over, and Roy knows he's in for a dreary, soggy summer. But when he returns home, he finds a foster kid named Sturgis sprawled out on his couch. As if this isn't weird enough, just a few days after Sturgis's arrival, the sun comes out. No one can explain why the rain has finally stopped, but as far as Roy's concerned, it's time to play some baseball. It's time to get a Moundville team together and finish what was started 22 years ago. It's time for a rematch.
©2009 Kurtis Scaletta (P)2012 Kurtis Scaletta
"Readers will cheer Roy on as he struggles to get his team in shape, clicks with a girl who is new to the game but turns out to have an unhittable natural screwball, and weathers some rough waters with moody Sturgis on the way to a rousing climax and a fitting resolution." (School Library Journal)
"Sports nuts, including reluctant readers, will sense they are in good hands with this one. Grades 4-8." (Booklist)
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
As an adult listening to a middle grade book, what I like best about Mudville are its variety of themes, the complexity of its main characters, and the messages it offers young readers. The plot is built upon a baseball showdown between Moundville (Mudville) and a rival neighboring town, but woven into that are themes of friendship, family, loyalty, dedication, selflessness, defining moments, first crushes, and even some issues of race relations.
Baseball always makes for a good metaphor, and Mudville proves to be no exception, to its credit even using the statistical aspect of baseball as a recurring metaphor. Well written, well thought out, and surprisingly complex (but not too complex) for its target audience.
I would not believe anyone who read this book and chose any character other than Sturgis as a favorite. Sure, the narrator, whose father takes Sturgis in as a foster son, is as likeable as he is omnipresent. But Sturgis is the focal point for the complexities of character and plot that make Mudville work. He may be annoying, his story arc may take a strange turn toward the end, but he is without doubt the most interesting character.
I'm going to blame the director rather than the performer for the problems with the way this book is read. Randy Anderson is good for the majority of the time, when he is the voice of Roy, whether it's his voice as narrator or in dialogue. Most of the other voices, however, are so awful that the book was almost unlistenable until I started to get used to them, or to at least expect them when I saw them coming.
Roy's father and mother and the girl he's crushing on are all given unfortunate voices, as are many other characters. But Sturgis, especially because he is so central to the story, is way too far over the top. Roy's voice is almost sotto voce, Sturgis is practically shouting at every turn (speaking in caps lock, as he does when he writes on the internet). It's jarring -- in a car, it is impossible to listen to, having to choose between not hearing Roy or having Sturgis make you jump out of your seat every time he talks.
Wanted to, but was unable to. I started listening to it in the car on a long trip with my daughter, who is sports nut and only a year or so past Mudville's target age. It was the right length to start and finish on that ride. We turned it off after half an hour because of the difficulty of hearing Roy and the annoyance of Sturgis and the other voices. I finished listening to it on my own on my cell phone, the sound easier to control through earbuds. Still, it was impossible to listen to except in small doses because of the way it was read.
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