Tuesday 16 September 2014

The Secret at Haney Field by R M Clark + Author Interview (Children’s, 9 years +, 9/10E)

 16th September 2014, MB Publishing, 134 pages, Ebook, Review Copy

Themes: friendship, ghosts, time travel, baseball,

Content: slight spookiness, some humour

Summary from MB Publishing
Twelve-year-old April O'Day's summer has gotten off to a flying start. As the new bat retriever for the Harpoons, her hometown's minor league team, she's fetching bats and doling out great advice to players and coaches alike. In a word, she's becoming indispensable. But mysterious things are happening at Haney Field, which April and her best friend - and fellow baseball enthusiast - Darren Plummer are determined to uncover. As they quickly learn, this is no ordinary season. In fact, it's a whole new ball game.
Nayu's thoughts
Please don’t be put off by April being sports mad. Okay, I didn’t understand a lot of it as I’m not into sport at all, and at first sometimes it felt that there was too much technical jargon, but with the glossary at the front (far better than being at the back when you only see it once you’ve finished the book) and the intriguing action which goes on this is an ace read. Yes, is a baseball nerd. I think it’s pretty incredible how she gets her ‘job’, and its hard to find words when she discovered the mystery at the baseball ground.

Initially I was freaked out by the shadows and questioned why I was reading the book, but thankfully I didn’t put it down and was soon captivated in April’s search to find out what happened. I liked all the tension when one main character acted out of character, because it hindered April & Darren’s investigation somewhat. Through April’s knowledge and skill she is rewarded with certain privileges which were totally cool! I think it sends a positive message to find what you’re passionate about, and nurture that enthusiasm because you never know where it will take you. I’m left wondering if there will be a book 2 for April – I really I can see her in action both on and off the field! 

Find out more on R M's website

Question & Answer session with R M Clark

Nayu here! It was a real pleasure finding more about April's adventure with R M Clark, who's written a fun book and who gets added to my growing list of friendly authors ^o^

Nayu 1) What made you make tell the tale from April's point of view instead of Darren's? That is the only reason why I wanted to read the book, because it was from a girl's point of view.

R M: I wanted a different approach to a baseball-based story. I see no reason why a girl can't be as involved in and know as much about baseball past and present as a boy. When I first pitched this book, I had many agents tell me no one would be interested in baseball story from the viewpoint of a girl, which is probably why it was rejected a few hundred times! I refused to make a gender switch and eventually, I found an agent and publisher who "got" April's story. Thanks, folks!

Nayu 2) Okay, the other reason I wanted to read the book was because for some obscure reason I really enjoy reading about sport mad girls, despite not enjoying watching sport being played. (The same goes for horses, adore reading about them, just not being near them or watching them). There is a fair amount of terminology and 'sport speak' in the book, but there's something which makes April's adventure so much more. Was it one of your aims to make the book appeal to readers who aren't that bothered about sport?

R M: Certainly. I like to say that this is not a "baseball book", but rather a story of redemption set at a minor league facility. Sure, April is a "savant" of the game, but what she really understands is people, even more than most of the adults. She seems to know what players are going through and how to help them. She can match wits with the Harpoons' crusty manager one day and the elderly owner the next. I tried to keep the baseball jargon to a minimum, but we did add a glossary to help with some of the terminology.

Nayu: 3) I confess that I was more than a little freaked out when April first saw the shadows (I think I can say that without any major spoilers), and that was with me reading in daylight. I was pretty relieved when the truth was uncovered, which lead to a lot of investigation by April and Darren. Why did you choose to look at that particular time in baseball history?

R M: The Negro Leagues had some of the most talented, yet underappreciated baseball players ever to grace the diamond. It was worth reminding the readers of the struggles so many of the Negro Leagues player went through, like segregation, prejudice, poor transportation and facilities, low pay, and little or no chance of making the majors. It's a stark contrast to the modern amenities of current professional players and only a 12-year-old girl and her friend are able to make the connection.

Nayu: 4) You touched on an important current topic with April's dad's situation. I was surprised that he wasn't caught by the authorities at the end - had you considered that happening at all? Will there be a book 2?

R M: Unfortunately, everything he did (going on and staying on disability) was perfectly legal. I even based him on a composite of people I know who have worked the system for many years. If only the real-life folks would have an epiphany like April's dad!

As for book 2, I have considered it and I even have a few notes scratched out somewhere. I think April is ready to move on from bat retriever and become a baseball scout.

Nayu: 5) Where is your favourite place to write? What kind of food and drink to you like to keep you going?

R M: I sit on a rather uncomfortable stool in my kitchen when I write, which keeps me focused on the task at hand. I prefer not to be distracted by any kind of sustenance. One might even say I suffer for my craft.

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