Tonawanda News


September 23, 2010

‘Brooklyn Nine’ interweaves sport, history

NORTH TONAWANDA — With baseball fading and school gearing up, “Brooklyn Nine” steps to the plate with a foot firmly planted in each season.

Alan Gratz’s novel ties the national pastime to the national mood more than a century and a half, casually passing its icons and memorabilia down through nine generations.

Like one of those cereals advertised as too tasty to be nutritious, “Brooklyn Nine” informs in an entertaining style. Young readers may not realize until their next history exam how much they now know about, oh, say, New York City fires, the Civil War, Jim Crow, bootlegging, women’s independence, nuclear annihilation and Sandy Koufax.

Each story is crafted with a bit of a twist and a link between baseball and the realities of life. (They’re different?) In one fine example, a young ballplayer confronts a bully against the backdrop of Cold War terror in the days of “mutually assured destruction” and “duck-and-cover” defense: “The Russians were in space, the Dodgers were going to California and Eric Kirkpatrick was going to pound him to a pulp.

“Other than that, his life was perfect.”

Each character in each tale makes some casual reference to some ancestor in the one before, but “Brooklyn Nine” doesn’t much dwell on this. It becomes one more discovery tour. There’s a marvelous yarn about life in the All-American Girls League, a lovable extra inning for anyone charmed by the film “A League of Their Own.” Many of the nine vignettes have literary predecessors, including one in the Civil War, remindful of “To Play for a Nation,” but less bloody.

The Civil War chapter includes a look to the future, as two young warriors discuss the state of the game back North:

“Have you heard? They’ve put up a fence around the Union grounds and are charging 10 cents admission!”

“Paying admission will be the ruin of baseball. What’s next, paying the players?”

“Brooklyn Nine” winds it way to a modern conclusion, the nationwide merchandising of memorabilia, a lesson here, too, on the discerning of value. Then, amazingly, like a magician confessing his tricks, Gratz rolls back the curtain and tell how he did it, in an intriguing disclosure sorting fact, fiction and supposition.

So there’s a lesson on literature here, too.

“Brooklyn Nine” moves fairly slowly in spots, and that’s appropriate for the game its author so clearly reveres. In the matter of goals for readers, especially the young, “Brooklyn Nine” touches ‘em all.


• WHAT: “Brooklyn Nine”

• BY: Alan Gratz

• DETAILS: Published by Scholastic Inc., 307 pages


Text Only
  • BOOK NOOK: Books lists spooky side of Western New York Ask anyone in Western New York -- or anywhere at all, really -- about ghost stories, and I'll bet they have one for you.

    October 22, 2012

  • Solving a murder in a convent

    May 29, 2012

  • adamczyk, ed Stories from the neighborhood, and the concentration camp

    The person with a haunted past is a familiar and reliable trope in literature and film, and perhaps all of us have something about which to be haunted. A book by Lewiston resident Joseph Leary, “Klara,” sharply explains a story of past misdeeds in a well-written and evocative novel.

    May 21, 2012 1 Photo

  • Some tips for the fathers-to-be

    All of a sudden, I’m getting to feel like a bit of an ol’ pro at this fatherhood thing.

    May 21, 2012

  • Jill Keppeler Clueless and late to the garden party

    The more I get into this whole gardening thing, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

    It started not long after I finished my first “Clueless Gardener” column, when I walked into a store with the idea of making some gardening purchases. Seeds, I thought. Maybe some plants to transplant. But mainly, seeds. That’s kind of the point of a garden, right?

    May 21, 2012 1 Photo

  • crittercompanions2012.jpg Easy ways to enrich your pet's life and help the environment

    The day has come were my finely articulated words have been placed on the bottom of my bird cage to be soiled upon. Sure, it was funny when it was Joe Biden’s face or another writer’s work. But mine? So cruel. So proud.

    May 21, 2012 1 Photo

  • 120215 COPPER2.jpg All that glimmers

    Even during a drizzly February day, Gleam & Glimmer Stained Glass Studio is full of light.
    It shines through the stained glass pieces in the front of the Webster Street shop, glances off mosaics and jewelry and lands on the works in progress in the studio area, where students can learn to create their own multi-colored art.
    That’s exactly the way co-owner Suzanne Todaro likes it.

    March 8, 2012 1 Photo

  • Danielle Haynes mug HAYNES: Sizing up the Oscars

    The big show is tonight and for the first time in my life, I have managed to catch every single movie nominated for the best picture award.

    February 25, 2012 1 Photo

  • PopcornBar.jpg COLUMN: Make your popcorn red carpet-worthy

    Annual movie award shows are the perfect excuse for hosting a party.

    February 25, 2012 1 Photo

  • 120215 chocolate pie1.jpg HAYNES: Celebrating the Oscars with a little 'Help' in the kitchen

    February 25, 2012 1 Photo