The Loft's Reviews > The Girl Who Threw Butterflies

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane
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's review
Oct 17, 09

bookshelves: ya-sports
Read in October, 2009

Life is as unpredictable as a knuckleball. Molly learns that the hard way — her father has just died in a mysterious car accident. Her mother is in that ”distant, ticked-off, unreachable place.” Molly is left to navigate on her own the morass of 8th grade and grief. And the one thing that she knows can help her the most is BASEBALL.

Remembering the long afternoons playing baseball with her father, mastering the art of throwing a knuckleball, Molly decides to try out for the baseball team — the boy’s baseball team: “‘You don’t just aim a butterfly,’ her father used to say. ‘You release it.’ ” He told her that the knuckleball isn’t just a pitch but an attitude toward life, a way of being in the world — a philosophy…

In Mick Cochrane’s The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, the characters are so well-drawn, the descriptions of baseball make me want tickets to the World Series and drew me into the magic of the game, and the rich metaphors and story brilliantly capture the transitions and struggles in the life of an 8th grader. For example, from her father “Molly understood that keeping score was a kind of storytelling, an almost magical translation of loud and dusty events in the world — a stolen base, an around-the-horn double play, a triple — into pencil marks, a kind of secret code, numbers and lines and shapes, like cuneiform or hieroglyphics, the handiwork of some ancient scribe.” From the baseball team Molly discovers that as the pitcher, if there’s a runner on first base, it’s her responsibility to talk to the shortstop and second baseman. It’s her job to call out who should take a bunt if the first and third basmen are both charging it. If Coach Morales touches his forearm, it means steal a base. If he touches the bill of his cap, it means bunt. Molly loves this entire system of wordless communication.

She wonders if she could apply this system to the rest of her life, like when her locker is defaced, or when she’s sitting across the table from her mother at dinner. She would love to try and communicate some of their dinner conversations using signs. But then again there are many nights when she doesn’t see how she possibly could, because half the time she doesn’t even know what she wants to get across.

Even the signs and scorebook don’t show just how nervous a pitcher is, or how exuberant a teammate is when he clears the plate with a double, with all the attendant whistling and cheering. Or how terrible Molly feels if her knuckler has gone completely wild. “You’re cruising along one minute, feeling like you can do no wrong. Life is good, all’s right with the world. And then all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, things change.” Baseball = 8th grade = life.

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