What You Need to Know:|
• Some of the vocabulary and sentence structure is typical of the time period and region of the country in which it
takes place. For example, the word "colored" is not acceptable today, but it is used in the story by the author
because of the era in which the book occurs.
• In 1952, prejudice and discrimination come to the forefront when an ex-Negro League baseball player befriends
a young white boy and his baseball teammates.
• Although the main character is generally thoughtful and honest, he does occasionally lie to his mom, and he sneaks
out of his house.
• While baseball is a big part of the story and some sports lingo is used, a knowledge of the sport is not a necessity.
• The main character is dealing with the loss of his father who died several years earlier in the Korean War.
• There are a few fights, and a knife is used to threaten someone. There is also a fatality which is referred to but
not described in detail.
• While the story will attract boys, it should appeal to girls as well, and will inspire conversation/discussion for both.
• Stumptown Kid has won many awards including the 2008-2009 Sunshine State Young Reader's Award and the
2006 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People.
Stumptown Kid is not your typical sports book. It includes some baseball lingo, game strategy and play-by-play, but it goes way beyond that too. Using very clear, straightforward language, it explores the impact of racial conflict on a community, a family and even the world of baseball.
When eleven year-old Charlie Nebraska meets a black baseball player named Luther Peale, his life is changed forever. It’s 1952 and Charlie’s hometown of Holden, Iowa, is an all-white community. When Luther wanders into town, it’s an unusual sight. Charlie notices him but is more focused on ignoring Lobo, the town bully, and trying out for his dream baseball team, the Wildcats. When he learns the disappointing news that his best friend, Will, made the team and he didn’t, it’s Luther who offers him some surprising support. He gives Charlie a few baseball tips, and, in return, Charlie invites Luther home to meet his mom. Unfortunately, her irritating boyfriend, Vern, shows up and exhibits a prejudice that is sadly typical of many in the town.
Over the next few weeks, Charlie and Luther share their problems and their love of baseball as they develop a unique friendship. Charlie turns to Luther when he misses his dad and wonders if there is any way he could somehow be alive in a Korean prison. He is grateful to have Luther in his life as he worries that Lobo will beat him up, Vern will marry his mom, or Will won't be his friend anymore. Luther offers to coach the Stumptown baseball players (Charlie's neighborhood team), and he opens up to Charlie about how he accidentally killed a drunken white baseball player when he pitched to him during an exhibition game. He even had to leave town to avoid the revenge of the player's enraged brother, Ruckus. As they get to know each other and prepare for a big baseball game against the Wildcats, Charlie gets a glimpse into how difficult life is for Luther. He tries to understand human nature and what could possibly make people behave as horribly as they do.
The first person narrative allows readers to connect with Charlie and what he's thinking. They may share his disappointment in the neighbors who make judgments because of the color of someone's skin or who act differently depending on the situation. The book also includes positive role models like Charlie's mom and Luther's new landlady and boss, who all offer Luther their support and kindness. Intertwined with the story of discrimination is the love of baseball that serves as a common bond for the community. Despite the concerns of some bigoted neighbors, they all benefit when Luther shares his baseball knowledge. The kids follow his three “C’s” of hitting and learn that a big part of baseball is played within the players’ own heads with an emphasis on believing in oneself. Fiction meets reality with the inclusion of true historical elements like the Negro League and players like Jackie Robinson. Although there are a few mildly tense scenes where Charlie jumps Lobo or Ruckus waves a knife menacingly at Charlie and Luther, the physical contact is limited and the good guys prevail. In the end, this is a feel-good story about loyalty, bravery, doing the right thing, and overcoming prejudice. And, of course, baseball.
Carol Gorman & Ron J. Findley
2007, 224 pages
Books for Boys, Bullying, Character/Values, Community, Discrimination, Friendship, Good Book Club Selection, History, Illness/Death, Sports
• What does prejudice mean? Why is it wrong?
• Why does Luther camp out when he first comes to town?
• Why are Vern and the other townspeople suspicious of Luther?
• Was it Charlie’s fault that Luther’s story got out? Why or why not?
• Was it Luther’s responsibility to tell people why he came to Holden? Why or why not?
• Why was there a separate baseball league for “colored” people?
• How do you react when you see someone who looks or sounds different?
• Should people be treated differently because of how they look? Why or why not?
• Was Will a good friend? Why or why not?
• What would you do if a friend was being bullied?
• Is it ever OK to lie to your parents? If yes, when?
• How did Charlie handle Lobo’s bullying? What else could he have done?
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