Thursday, January 24, 2013

Matt Christopher

Last week, I went to the library with a question for the children's librarian, who has been extremely helpful to me in the past (a trait which Young Jeezy assures me is typical of the position, whose holders tend to be passionate about children's books.). I asked the librarian if there were any books, in the 10-12 year-old range, that were sports-themed fiction with female protagonists.

While she was searching the catalogue, I provided some context from my own youth, telling her that I had read every Matt Christopher book in my library when I was that age. "He's still writing." she told me.

What? 40 years ago, the books seemed like they were from a bygone era already, and although I loved the stories about boys overcoming adversity and winning the big game, I suspected that they hadn't aged very well, let alone endured.

The librarian suggested "Last Shot" by Washington Post alumnus and Bobby Knight biographer John Feinstein, which although it didn't feature a female athlete, did feature a distaff heroine, working with another 12 year old covering the Final Four and uncovering a game-fixing scheme. I read and enjoyed this (the BG is reading it now), particularly the heroine's love of all things Duke, and her partner's corresponding disgust for the Blue Devils, a familiar sentiment here in the Big Chill. I also enjoyed the roles played by real life characters in the story, including Tony Kornheiser, Dick Vitale and the loathsome Coach K (who actually turns out to be a pretty decent guy--but it's fiction, remember?)

But anyway, back to Matt Christopher. While I was waiting for the OG's dance class to finish, I read "Penalty Shot" published in 1997, the year Matt Christopher died. The overall quality of the work was well below the Feinstein book, bordering on bad, perhaps saved from outright condemnation only by my own nostalgia.

Today after the BG's reading group, I went to the librarian to donate a copy of House by the Creek. She saw the Feinstein book under my arm and complimented its quality. When I mentioned my trip to the library and dalliance with Matt Christopher, she snorted, telling me that he had stopped writing long ago, and that ghost writers were now milking the brand. This makes me less inclined to read The Dog That Pitched a No-Hitter when it comes out in April, but I may revisit The Kid Who Only Hit Homers to see if it holds up. I think I know the answer, though. Sigh.


  1. Cal Ripken Jr and his writing 'partner' (I think a Baltimore sports writer) have written a couple of books. Centered around middle school boys baseball, the two we have listened to on long car rides, have one strong female character, a budding journalist in one, a softball player/martial artist in the other. Not exactly what you are looking for, but we enjoyed them.

  2. If you are looking for sports books in that age range, Cal Ripkens Jr's All-Star series is good (2 books so far). The protagonists are male, but there are strong female characters.

  3. Rats, my wife beat me to the draw with the Cal Ripken Jr. comment...