Karen Keyte's Reviews > Shakespeare Bats Cleanup

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge
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Jul 01, 11

bookshelves: tween-boys, teen-boys-realistic, novels-in-verse
Read from June 29 to July 01, 2011


“It feels weird smuggling something about poetry up to my room like it’s the new Penthouse. / 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.” - from “Inquiring Minds Want to Know,” by Kevin Boland

Up until now, Kevin Boland’s life has been pretty simple, fairly straight-forward. He goes to school, plays baseball. He’s even kissed a couple of girls. Except now, he can’t. He can’t do any of those things - no school, no baseball, no kissing girls. Fourteen, and stuck in bed with mono. It’s the baseball he misses the most, but there are other things, too. When his Dad, who is a writer, gives Kevin a blank journal, it’s just so he can write a few things down if he gets bored. You know, something to take his mind off the fact that he’s stuck in bed. And at first it seems kind of crazy, but Kevin decides he wants to experiment a little bit with poetry. After all, it’s just in the journal - it’s not like anyone will ever know.

Through couplets and free-verse, sestinas and a pantoum, Kevin uses poetry to reflect on his friendships, his love of baseball, his relationships with girls, and the still sharp grief he feels after the death of his mother. At first, he’s most concerned with how rotten it is to have mono and how much he misses baseball but, as the days pass, Kevin finds that poetry allows him to think and feel in a way that nothing else can.

I love novels in verse - the way they use words economically, the way a poem can sometimes say so much more about a person or a situation than prose can. I especially love novels in verse when they are as thoughtfully written as this one by Ron Koertge. Kevin isn’t an angsty, emo teen or someone with a dark and tortured soul, he’s merely an average eighth grade boy interested in experimenting with the power of language and the varied ways a poet can express what’s inside himself. Like most novels in verse, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup reads quickly, but it is worth savoring, too. The forms and power of poetry deserve at least that much.
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