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  • Shakespeare Bats Cleanup
  • Written by Ron Koertge
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780763629397
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Shakespeare Bats Cleanup

Written by Ron KoertgeAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Ron Koertge

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"This funny and poignant novel celebrates the power of writing to help young people make sense of their lives and unlock and confront their problems." - SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)

When MVP Kevin Boland gets the news that he has mono and won't be seeing a baseball field for a while, he suddenly finds himself scrawling a poem down the middle of a page in his journal. To get some help, he cops a poetry book from his dad's den - and before Kevin knows it, he's writing in verse about stuff like, Will his jock friends give up on him? What's the deal with girlfriends? Surprisingly enough, after his health improves, he keeps on writing, about the smart-talking Latina girl who thinks poets are cool, and even about his mother, whose death is a still-tender loss. Written in free verse with examples of several poetic forms slipped into the mix, including a sonnet, haiku, pastoral, and even a pantoum, this funny, poignant story by a master of dialogue is an English teacher's dream - sure to hook poetry lovers, baseball fanatics, mono recoverers, and everyone in between.


Their pitcher walks our leadoff man. Greg
moves him up to second with a perfect
sacrifice. Fabian loops one into right.

I'm up. Two on, one out. I'm the cleanup
man. My job is to bring these guys home.

I take a pitch. Foul one off. Take a strike.
Their left fielder drifts in.

Bam! I lift one right over his head. A double!
Two runs score. I slide into second. Safe!

That's what I'm thinking, anyway, propped
up in bed with some dumb book.

Than Dad comes in and says, "The doctor
called. Your tests came back. You've got

"So I can't play ball."

He pats my knee. "You can't even go to
school, Kevin. You need to take it real easy."

He hands me a journal, one of those marbly
black-and-white ones he likes.

"You're gonna have a lot of time on your
hands. Maybe you'll feel like writing
something down."


Being sick is like taking a trip, isn't it?
Going to another country, sort of.
A country nobody wants to visit.
A country named Fevertown.
Or Virusburg. Or Germ Corners.

The border guards are glum-looking,
with runny noses and pasty skin. Their
uniforms don't fit and flap open in the
back so you can see their big, ugly butts.

Nobody wants to go there, but everybody
does, sooner or later.

And some stay.


Dad's never talked to me about writing
before. He's not nuts to have me be just
like him.

Len Boggs has a dad like that. It's been
Boggs & Son ever since Lennie was about
two seconds old.

They're plumbers. "Got clogs? Call Boggs!"
Don't laugh. Their vans are all over the
place. They're rich.

And Len hates it.

Lennie's fourteen, like me. He doesn't
know what he wants to do when he grows
up. Maybe go in the Marines. Maybe play
the cello.

But he for sure doesn't want to be
a plumber.

His dad is already on his case, riding him
about it.

I think mine's just trying to be nice.


Well, not exactly. Dad's here, that's why
we don't have to get somebody to come
in and take care of me.

First of all, I don't need much care. I sleep
all the time, or at least it feels that way.

Dad works at home. He and I pass
each other in the hall—
I in my sweats, he in his cap.

When I was little and I got sick, Mom used
to read to me.

Thinking about that's not going to help.


Why am I writing down the middle
of the page?

It kind of looks like poetry, but no way
is it poetry. It's just stuff.

So I tiptoe into the den and cop this book
of Dad's.

It feels weird smuggling something about
poetry up to my room like it's the new

But I don't want Dad to know what I'm
doing yet. Even though I'm not doing
anything. Not really.

I'm just going to fool around a little,
see what's what poetry-wise.


I thought I'd start small. I kind of
remember haiku from school last year.
I at least remember they're little.

But, man—I never saw so many frogs
in the moonlight. And leaves. Leaves
all over the place.

Weren't there any gardeners in ancient
Japan? Weren't there any cats and dogs?

Still, haiku look easy. Sort of. Five
syllables in the first line, seven
in the second, five in the third.

Frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs.
Frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs.
Frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs, leaves.

Very funny, Kevin.

At least I finished it. I can't finish anything
else, except my nap. Seventeen syllables
is just about right for somebody with my
reduced stamina. Perfect thing for an

Oh, man—look at that: IN VALID. I never
saw that before.

Just a single space
in a word I thought I knew
made the difference.


SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP by Ron Koertge. Copyright (c) 2006 by Ron Koertge. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

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