Written by Linda Sue Park
Clarion, 2008, 202 pp
This novel draws readers immediately into Maggie’s life in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951. The protagonist, Maggie is a nine-year-old girl who was named after New York Yankees baseball player, Joe DiMaggio, but Maggie is not a Yankees’ fan. In fact, she is a huge fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and knows all about them. In her father’s old firehouse, Maggie meets the new guy, Jim, and learns how to keep score of games from him. She believes that she helps the team by keeping score. Through the baseball bonding, Maggie and Jim have developed a friendship, but soon Jim is drafted and sent to Korea during the Korean War. Jim and Maggie keep in touch with each other through letters. Often, Jim’s letters tell about a Korean boy, Jay, whom he met, but Jim does not know what is going to happen to Jay.
Linda Sue Park makes a unique connection between baseball and the Korean War. They are two very different topics, but readers will discover how these two topics are connected in the story. Like Project Mulberry (2005), Linda Sue Park invites readers to a familiar topic (baseball); she then makes a nice transition to a difficult topic (war). This story structure has the potential to help children understand a difficult topic as they can make a connection to something they already know. Linda Sue Park indirectly addresses the Korean War through Maggie’s eyes. Even though she does not describe the war setting in detail, readers can imagine the hardships of soldiers during and after a war. By having two characters living in contrasting worlds–Maggie in a peaceful place where she can enjoy baseball and Jim in the action of the Korean war–young readers can imagine other people who live in a very difficult situation even at the moment when they themselves live peacefully. Linda Sue Park’s excellence in writing creates a natural flow of the story that takes readers from the baseball season in the United States to the war front in Korea.
Linda Sue Park is well known as a Korean-American children’s book author in the United States. She has written numerous books including the Newbery winner, A Single Shard (2001) and most of her books introduce Korean culture, customs and history: The Kite Fighters (2000), Seesaw Girl (1999), Bee-Bim Bop! (2005), Project Mulberry (2005), The Firekeeper’s Son (2004), Archer’s Quest (2006), and When my Name was Keoko (2002). Growing up in the United States, Park devotes much research to her work, and her books speak to issues of authenticity with bold evidence in the characters, contexts, and events of each story. More information about Linda Sue Park can be found at www.lindasuepark.com.
Keeping Score may be read in middle grades in a regular classroom setting, but it may also be read in a counseling setting for the children whose parents are deployed for the war or are veterans who have returned from the war. Readers may enjoy seeing Maggie being so knowledgeable about the field of baseball even though she is a young girl. A die-hard baseball fan would enjoy this book and its baseball language.
For young readers Baseball Saved Us (Ken Mochizuki, 1993) is another book that introduces the hardships during wartime with the topic of baseball, but in the setting of a Japanese-American internment camp. For older readers, I Remember Korea: Veterans Tell their Stories of the Korean War, 1950-53 (Linda Granfield, 2003) will introduce details regarding the Korean War. Books related to the Korean War and other Asian wars are introduced in books such as Inside Out & Back Again (Thanhha Lai, 2011), which focuses on the Vietnam War.
Jongsun Wee, Winona State University, Winona, MN
WOW Review, Volume V, Issue 3 by Worlds of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/v-3/