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.