Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Distance To Home by Jenn Bishop

distancetohome

Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They’re headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.

This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?

Isn’t that the perfect middle grade cover? I am such a fan. And in this case, you can judge a book by its cover because this story is just as magical as the story suggests.

I so wish I had this book when I was young. I was such a baseball girl growing up. I played catcher and my claim to fame is playing a nine-game tournament the day I got my wisdom teeth out. I was all about A League of Their Own and Field of Dreams. Haha, but I digress, this book isn’t about my baseball playing days, it’s about Quinnen’s. And actually, of course, it’s about a whole lot more.

So many things to love about this book.

First, is Quinnen. Bishop really got inside her character’s head and I never felt like I left her the whole story. For such a young girl, she had a lot of turmoil going on. She’d just lost her sister, and we come to find out, her love of baseball is tied to that loss, and she’s really not sure she wants to or deserves to overcome it.

I think that’s a real portrait of grief that kids will relate to if they’ve gone through anything like this. I don’t want to give anything away, but Quinnen feels guilty about a lot of things from her sister’s last days, and she’s got to work through so many emotions before she’ll have some closure.

The fact that her favorite thing, baseball, is forever tainted, just makes everything even darker.

I loved watching the characters around Quinnen come together to teach teach her valuable lessons and strengthen her.

Another thing I love is the fact that Bishop shouts out to many books of my childhood through her character’s book clubs or memories. Nostalgia gets me every time.

The book alternates between Quinnen’s point of view in the present, with what Quinnen is going through now, and the past, showing us her relationship with her sister, both loving and strained (super true to life).

The present was mostly about baseball, the players that are staying with them, and Quinnen realizing everyone has their own problems and her heart still has room to love new people.

The past was where all the tension was for me, which was perfectly fine, the pacing of the book was like a baseball game and summer days, ups and downs, steals and seventh inning stretches …. but the past narration just had me wondering when that final moment would come. I knew her sister died, but as they kept moving through different scenes where I thought, “this is when it happens”, and it didn’t, I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how these sisters were going to end up.

This book has all the words, heart, subject matter and fun for middle grade readers and I would recommend reader’s to draft it into their bookshelves faster than a 90mph fastball.

 

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