Book Review: The Kid From Tomkinsville

Kevin W.

The most recent edition to the Brooklyn Dodgers, a young farm boy from Connecticut named Roy Tucker (The Kid), becomes a phenom in the League with his brilliant pitching.  But a freak accident ends his pitching career, forcing Tucker to find a new place on the team.

John Tunis’s work resembles the story of current Major League outfielder Rick Ankiel.  Ankiel is a star pitcher-turned outfielder, same as The Kid was.  Although Ankiel’s heart-warming comeback story took many years longer, the similarities are still there.  Both had to face the hard fact that they just were not going to pitch in the Majors ever again.  Ankiel and Roy Tucker also had to have incredible perseverance and self-confidence to reach the Majors again, as outfielders.

Tunis expresses Tucker’s emotions during his attempt at a comeback through his interactions with other characters.  His style of showing the emotions of The Kid (and all of his characters, for that matter) is unique.  Despite the fact that each character has different emotions throughout the novel, all of the people experience different levels of mood swings, usually having a fairly large effect on the plot.  However, Tunis displays the characters in many more ways than one.  Each one is deliberately crafted to serve an exact purpose to the plot.  Whether the role is big or small, Tunis makes sure every single character is present for a reason.

The mood is the most important element in the book.  Tunis constantly uses different moods to change the reader’s entire perspective of the plot, until of course he switches the spirits of the plot in the other direction.  John R. Tunis is very careful and precise about where he makes his switches, ensuring that the reader has not gotten their hopes up too high or too low.  Tunis does this to perfection, and, unlike many other “feel-good” sports stories, ends the book on a low note.

In The Kid From Tomkinsville, Tunis often uses a sportswriter, Mr. Casey, to communicate the Dodgers’ season to the reader.  The ups and downs of the season are used proficiently by Mr. Casey, and that helps set a mood throughout the book.  Often, the reader gets the “flavor” from the book all from Mr. Casey’s analysis.  The use of Mr. Casey helps add an unsung element to the story.  Tunis incorporates the style of sportswriting from that time period.  He shows that not only were sportswriters very much the same as they are today, but the fact that they were, and are, complete and utter fair-weathered followers of their team.

A continuous theme during the novel is determination.  Almost every single character in The Kid From Tomkinsville must become determined to do something at some point to achieve their goal(s).  Whether it was rebounding from an injury or going through the seemingly impossible position change, such as The Kid did, every character had to show determination.  Tunis adds this determination differently for every character and creates some good spacing between them, always coming at the correct moment.  Just when the reader may think all hope is lost, suddenly the character figures out a way to solve their predicament and becomes determined to follow through on their plan.

Time passes rapidly in Tunis’s style.  Aside from the actual baseball games themselves, the traveling, off season, and spring training go by very quickly.  Tunis gets through two entire baseball seasons in fewer than three hundred pages!  Although the time goes by quickly, the tempo seems to fit just right with the plot.  Tunis seems to enjoy stopping only for significant games or occurrences, and then speeding up for a period of time.  It all evens out in the end, making The Kid From Tomkinsville an A-List book.

The Kid From Tomkinsville is an A-List book for a few main reasons.  First, to get it out of the way, it is obviously being read fifty years from original publication.  Next, Tunis really seems to grasp the reader in ways that they may have never thought possible.  The Kid’s situation can really be planted deep into the heart of the reader, creating an uncomfortable yet sympathetic bond between them.  One can almost taste the sourness in Roy Tucker’s mouth when he ultimately realizes that his pitching career has come to an end.  Finally, if the reader is looking to get inside the journey of a professional sports team, then The Kid From Tomkinsville is the perfect novel, and it goes plenty in depth on the subject.



Weekly Arts Review 11/28/11


This weekend at exactly 12 am, I went and saw Hugo. As many of you may know Hugo was based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  From the look of the poster, it seemed kind of childish. The book was a long read, but the story itself is for elementary/early middle school kids. The story is about a boy who is living illegally in a train station in Paris 1930. All throughout the book, Hugo escapes authority figures one way or another, always coming close to being caught, but never actually in any trouble.

Hugo, although seeming childish, tells the story and shows the underlying meaning. The movie may have childish antics, and the element of complete freedom, but if you look deeper the whole book, and movie, is about a boy helping people find their purpose, while still trying to find his own. Hugo, the movie, is appropriate for children as young as 4, up to people who are 104. It has the true element of childhood, but also a deeper, more important meaning. So if you have the chance, go see Hugo.

Book Review: Catching Fire

By Fiona W.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins tells the story of a powerful young woman named Katniss Everdeen who struggles with the challenge of being under an extremely oppressive government.  Katniss and her fellow citizens of the country Panem have had enough of there controlling government.  This incredible storyline shows that, with a little bit of hope, some of the most powerful forces can be overthrown.  This book, like the previous and first in the series, The Hunger Games, challenges governmental and political authority in our society and points out some of the negative power-hungry dictators throughout our world in a satirical way.

This sequel to the first book shows similar writing styles, while discussing different themes. Collins uses addictive writing techniques that keep the reader drawn to the book and almost force them to complete the series.  It’s almost as if the reader cannot be satisfied with the endings of the first two books, therefore needing to read the next to feed their craving. The author makes the book very relatable for the reader by creating a storyline that shares similar characteristics to issues we personally face and those our entire civilization face.  The government in power in Catching Fire is very similar to some in parts of the Middle East and an over-the-top version of governments in other parts of the world.

In The Hunger Games, Collins presents the idea of a post-apocalyptic country controlled by a very powerful dictatorship.  The author uses satirical references to show that some of our political and social trends can get out of control and cause such a government and country like the one in The Hunger Games.  Catching Fire  explores what can happen when elements of oppressive government, cruel traditions and angry citizens come together.

The theme of Catching Fire is rebellion.  This theme causes readers to think of similar events happening currently. Parts of the plot can be linked to the rebellion that recently took place in Egypt and how those rebels inspired others in different countries.   The rebellion in Egypt had a snowball effect like the rebellion in the districts of Panem.  Another obvious comparison can be drawn between the wealthy residents of the Capitol and the increasing wealth of the few, richest Americans. Like in the Districts of the book, there are more and more people being driven into poverty in our country while the very few rich get richer. The “Occupy” movement that is taking place in the US right now could be compared to the early stages of rebellion in the book.

The plot seems to be so real that it can scare the reader. The idea that one day your great-great grandchildren could possibly have to live in a country like Panem is frightening. Unfortunately this is not a happy future and this sensation of sadness or disappointment in the reader can cause readers to think more about their actions.  This satirical element was genius on the part of Collins being that she is not only pointing out the errors in modern society, but that it is aimed at young adults who have the power to change and correct these errors in an effort to prevent Panem from ever becoming a reality.

It seems that Collins was compelled to write these books out of concern for our future.  Collins has the gift of thinking about what our actions will cause and, although that seems fairly simple, many people, even some of the most powerful, lack this foresight.  A shortcoming which can be disastrous.  Her writing in Catching Fire expresses Collins distrust in the naive acts of our government and people.

The insight Collins has is clearly visible and respected.  It’s unusual for a sequel to be as good as the first book but that is the case with The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.  Many times sequels are created simply to make more money, but Catching Fire has a worthwhile premise just like The Hunger Games.  Readers find it very refreshing when they can enjoy the sequel instead of it being a waste of effort and a disappointment.  It’s quite the contrary in these fantastic books.

While painting with great detail, a picture of a futuristic, sad and unforgiving world, Collins uncovers layer after layer of complicated political and social issues.  She explores some of our most important problems in a way that everyone can relate to, and fear.  Through her books she has gained respect for her delicate but precise unraveling of complex social and political issues that will be remembered years from now.

Fallen Angels: A Book Review

By David S. 

In Fallen Angels, Walter Myers writes about the unromantic realities of war and our fragile hold on reality and life itself. Myers conveys the real repugnance he feels about war through the eyes of penniless seventeen year old Richard Perry, who joins the army to avoid the inopportune world that awaited him after he finished school. War movies often perpetuate the pure drama of the battle field; Myers however delivers a clear concise explanation of the true meaning of war and the moral ambiguity experienced by the soldiers.

Myers unfolds his story by foreshadowing the sequence of events in the life of his protagonist. This keeps readers interested in the plot throughout the book. Myers also intertwines flashbacks into the book to give the reader a better understanding of the story line.

Myers’ writing reflects the differences between the images of war you would perhaps see in a Clint Eastwood film, and the harsh realities of combat. The author captures the imagination with the graphic scenes that he depicts in Fallen Angels. The book also addresses the psychological effects of war that are not clearly shown in war video games or movies. Along with that, the author seems to explore the boundaries when it comes to the fear experienced the soldiers. Myers realistically describes the dread and anticipation of battle, so that even the reader’s heart beats.

To lighten the mood of the everlasting hell that is war, Myers inputs the true value of friendship. Throughout the story, Perry’s only motivation is his brothers in arms. Companionship is a major theme of this novel, without being directly stated. Myers does not exaggerate the pain and sorrow of a lost friend like many war movies; he expresses only the true deep sense of “emptiness”. Myers communicates the importance of friends in war, and the role they play in the wellbeing of soldiers.

Walter Myers’s brother died in Vietnam which no doubt influenced this book. This really makes the book come to life and feel more real. This is the likely reason that Myers writes about his sorrow about young people who join the army, still innocent and incognizant of the dangers that await them. Myers seems to criticize the military for accepting young adults into the army in a non-satirical way. Loss of innocence is also a theme in Fallen Angels. Myers writes in such a way that the characters really share their emotions, thoughts, and experiences with the reader. Richard Perry experiences a whole range of emotions. At the beginning of the book, he is stricken by the horror of battle, however later even the reader can sense that Perry, along with his cohorts become numb and de-sensitized.

A large part of this soldier’s story revolves around the moral disorientation about the government’s reasons for fighting, and his own reasons for fighting. Through the course of this book, Richard Perry undergoes a transformation from a young naïve boy to a hardened veteran.  Through the eyes of this protagonist and his friends, Myers expresses his own views not only about the Vietnam War, but war itself, as well as the iniquitous treatment of people all around the world. In this way, Fallen Angels also compares themes with No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Both Myers and McCarthy write about the ills of our society, and our despair at the fate of our modern day world.

While this was a superb book, there are a couple of reasons why it may not be considered an “A list” book. The book is fast paced, and each chapter focuses on the description of the combat more than the characters themselves. At some points it feels more like a war movie rather than a book. However, Fallen Angels is still a “page turner” to say the least; the writing is very captivating. Myers writing takes us along with him to the jungles of Vietnam were “anything could happen.”

Fallen Angels was a well-crafted book about war, but also about friendship, and getting through difficult times. Fictional books about the Vietnam War are rare; Myers has written a truly unique book! Fallen Angels was written in 1988, which was a fairly long time ago. Today the book is still on shelves, hinting that it is still relevant and being read to this day. The book won several prestigious awards; those however do not dictate whether the book is well written enough to be recognized as an A-list book.