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Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters

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Red Chair Press/One Elm has bought world rights to Suzanne Kamata's middle grade novel Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters. The novel depicts 13-year-old Satoshi Matsumoto as he learns to adjust to life in rural Japan after living in Atlanta for three years. Publication is slated for March 2020.


First published March 1, 2020

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About the author

Suzanne Kamata

27 books252 followers
Five-time Pushcart Prize nominee Suzanne Kamata is the author of the memoir Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair (Wyatt-Mackenzie, 2019); the novels Indigo Girl (GemmaMedia, 2019), The Mermaids of Lake Michigan (Wyatt-Mackenzie, 2017), Screaming Divas (Merit Press, 2014), Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, 2013) and Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008); and editor of three anthologies - The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, and Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2009). Her short fiction and essays have appeared widely. She was a winner in the memoir category of the Half the World Global Literati Award.

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5 stars
23 (41%)
4 stars
23 (41%)
3 stars
5 (9%)
2 stars
2 (3%)
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2 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 24 of 24 reviews
Profile Image for Apoorva.
190 reviews171 followers
March 16, 2021
I have never read/listened to a novel based in Japan; never saw even a single baseball match; been a long time since I read/listened to a middle-grade work & listened to an audiobook. This one appeared to be an ideal pick to tick several of the boxes in my checklist. Let me assure you to not get tricked by the book's genre. It has its readers hooked, not only the children but grown-ups too.

For readers who have been to many nations, all would notice that it is relatable to them. Two diverse experiences of the USA & Japan are carefully blended through the perceptions of our youthful lead, Satoshi. Children sometimes see it hard to adapt to different lifestyles; like discussed in the novel, just switching in indoor or outside sandals in the schoolhouse.

Youngsters usually feel a little out of place in school, where there are previously groups set & you aren't taken into consideration as you aren't one of them. The author's study & implementation of Japanese culture into the novel was so deep. It essentially emphasizes how it feels to be a kid acclimating to a new setting & I quite liked it. This narrative teaches the importance of relationships, loyalty & teamwork.

Thank you, NetGalley, Author Suzanne Kamata for an ARC Audio copy of this book.
Profile Image for Christi M.
345 reviews54 followers
April 3, 2020
It was winter when I was first offered this book to review and I was missing baseball. I enjoy watching youth/little league games – there is much more action (and scoring) than major league and this book was a good way to tide me over until baseball season started. But as February and then March events occurred, we now know that baseball season is delayed or will not be starting this year due to the pandemic. So, as I am missing one of my favorite sports I found this book to be the perfect read for me as it reminds of all that I enjoy in the sport.

In Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters, Satoshi Matsumoto is returning to Japan after a few years of living in Atlanta, Georgia. He misses his friends from America and quickly realizes returning isn’t as easy as he had hoped. In addition to readjusting to the different customs and culture, he also has a special needs sister, a grandfather with dementia, and has to deal with bullying at the school by both students and a teacher. He has one goal though – to join the baseball team. Back in America he was a fairly good player and he once again hopes to impress the coach to let him be on the team.

The story itself includes quite a bit of baseball. There is base-stealing, sign-watching, bunts, and play-by-plays. Just a lot of baseball fun in general. It also includes references to not only Japanese culture, but also words and phrases they may use. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a glossary or appendix at the end and wished there had been. So, while reading the story your middle grader may need to come to you to help explain a phrase or two.

I love books that teach me something new and this one provides just that. Satoshi’s school is named Tokushima Whirlpool Junior High School. In my personal experience, I have found that middle schools in the United States are often named after people, so the name of Satoshi’s school rather intrigued me. Thankfully, the author provides information on just how it got its name, which is named after naturally occurring whirlpools, such as what forms in the Naruto Strait, which is located in the Tokushima Prefecture.

Overall an easy and fun read focusing on baseball. It also offers quite a bit of illustrations too to help young readers better understand the context of the story. I already know which young baseball player I plan to share the book with.

Thanks to Red Chair Press for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.
Profile Image for KatiesBibliotherapy .
25 reviews7 followers
August 20, 2022
Thank you to NetGalley and Red Chair Press and BooksGoSocial Audio for the opportunity to read and review this book.

This is an easy read for kids and its great for them to learn the importance of working together as a team and communicating.

I know a couple kids I would recommend this to.

My favorite quote from the book is “Although we are many individuals, it sounds like one big voice”.

I received this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Margo Kelly.
Author 2 books144 followers
March 3, 2020
Suzanne Kamata knocked it out of the park with her middle-grade novel, Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters!

Whether you live in the United States, Japan, or elsewhere in the world, Pop Flies by Kamata allows insight into two cultures by comparing and contrasting many moments throughout the story via the lens of a middle-grade boy. Even the act of changing from outdoor shoes to indoor shoes and to bathroom slippers gives awareness to variances between the USA and Japan, often making me, and other readers, pause to ask the question, "Why don't we do that?" But then also the question, "Why do they do that?" Such as when Kamata writes, "I remember how my classmates in Atlanta made fun of me when I peeled my grapes before eating them ... I never knew what I was doing to make people laugh." The story also gives examples of similarities between the two countries, not just baseball but also malls, Rock, Paper, Scissors, bullying, and teamwork.

Reading Pop Flies together as a class would allow middle-grade students to discuss not only cultural differences but also household and friendship differences, which would expand their understanding and compassion for classmates.

This story was a breath of fresh air. In addition to the cultural comparisons and explorations, I thoroughly enjoyed the various dynamics of the characters' families, including the well-described use of sign language. And whether intended by the author or not, I was struck by the parallels between sign language gestures, cultural gestures, and friendship gestures. All have great meaning. "A piece of fruit is hardly enough to thank them ... Still, gestures count."

The artwork is engaging and captures pivotal moments of the story. For that reason, I would highly recommend purchasing this book in the print form to best appreciate the artwork.

Great writing. For example:

"I churn my legs like mad, trying to make up for lost time, but I'm still a hundred feet away from the front door when I hear the chime for first period."

"The guys from Ikeda are wiping at their eyes and noses. I'd almost forgotten about the crying. In America, if you cry after losing a game, you're a total wuss. In Japan, crying after a loss is almost required."

"Now that the rain has lifted, the heat and humidity of summer have moved in. Even this early in the morning it feels as if a dragon is breathing down my back."

Bottom line?
Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters by Suzanne Kamata is a must read and must purchase for anyone who enjoys baseball, middle-grade novels, Japan, cultural exploration, and reading in general.

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]
Profile Image for Ian Josh.
Author 1 book22 followers
April 8, 2020
Great for baseball lovers, or anyone who ever felt a little outside.

Despite being a perfectly accessible read for younger readers, this book contained a really wonderful amount of insight into japan; the culture, the people and what it's like to be a kid, there and anywhere.

Really enjoyed this, and my kids did as well, Kamata continues to show her skills here, excelling in her ability to understand being an outsider and an insider in a land that only becomes more interesting with the author as our insightful guide:

Full Review Soon on my blog:

April 29, 2021
My 7yr old son loves baseball, so I requested and was approved to read/listen to this book off of NetGalley. At nearly 4 hours long, we listened during breakfast and sometimes dinner. It made for fun family time and felt very organic and off-the-grid.

This middle grade novel takes place in Japan. 13 yr old Satoshi is forced to readjust to life back home after spending a few years in America. He liked his time there, where he played baseball, was considered good and had friends. Transitioning to life in a small Japanese town high school proved to be a handful. At home he has to take care of his ailing grandfather who has a robot for a pet, his special needs sister and be a good son for mom while dad is away at his job in Tokyo. Soon he becomes reminded of his love of baseball and is determined to join the team. This book was great as it taught different cultures side-by-side. In Japan it’s more than just about being on the team, the respect is more important than the game. Satoshi faces hard realities and not everything is rainbows and unicorns. I especially liked that aspect with my son listening to it... we don’t always get everything we want. #LifeLessons

And speaking of listening, this audiobook is amazing for children as even in the first 30 seconds, the sound effects are on full blast. Every chair that moves across the ground, every baseball strike, you hear it.

The pacing is perfect and nothing is too in-depth for the kids. The narrator also does a fabulous job.

Thank you once again to the author and NetGalley for the opportunity to listen!
Profile Image for Books on Asia.
228 reviews53 followers
April 13, 2020
Kamata deftly weaves a story of two cultures, one boy, and his dreams of baseball. Thirteen-year-old Satoshi's ability to recognize pain in others is his virtue. Various characters throughout the story need some amount of rescuing, and the young baseball star willingly steps up to the plate. He's batting for everyone, and has just the amount of equanimity to make it all come together, even in the worst of times. This story ticks all the boxes. I couldn't put it down.
Profile Image for Shauna Holyoak.
Author 4 books37 followers
July 8, 2019
A heart-warming story about a baseball player who learns that teamwork is much more important than being the star of the team. I loved the family dynamics and depiction of life, and especially baseball, in Japan.
Profile Image for CZ.
153 reviews2 followers
March 26, 2021
Satoshi is back in Japan after living in the US and he feels like a total outcast. He's been gone a long time, he's way too good in his English class, and he worries that his disabled sister and confused grandfather will attract unwanted attention. On top of it all, there's only one spot left on the baseball team! Can he juggle his school, sports, and home life while still fitting in with his friends?

Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters paints a wonderful portrait of school-age awkwardness and the desire to fit in. This story takes place entirely in Japan, where the cultural differences between Japanese and American school systems are highlighted, especially with student-teacher relations. The culture shock goes both ways for Satoshi and his friends, making this a poignant read for children who feel like they just don't fit in anywhere.

I listened to this with my 9 year old who absolutely loved it! He did struggle to keep the names straight, but the story is fast-paced, exciting, and kid-friendly without being babyish. The story trusts that the middle-grade readers will be able to handle heavy subjects like dementia right along with things like the desire to get good grades. It struck a great balance, and we both looked forward to each listening session.

We did find that the sound effects were intrusive at times. It was a great addition, especially at the baseball games, but some sounds went on way too long and became distracting (like when Satoshi gets a haircut). We had mixed feelings about the ending, too, but overall, we loved it!

Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters is a refreshing middle-grade story about fitting in, friendship -- and of course baseball! It's a gem of a story that's perfect for any sports-loving kid.

CW: Parents, there is some mild language and 2 plot-pertinent uses of the R-word.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Meg.
1,452 reviews10 followers
September 15, 2022
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to listen to this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. I am new to NetGalley so while this book isn't in my usual genre, I do like baseball so I decided to give it a try. Satoshi recently moved back to Japan after living for years in Atlanta for his father's job. While in Atlanta he played on the baseball team and he and his grandfather share a love of the sport. In Japan, he hopes to join his school's team but first he has to assimilate back into the Japanese culture, learn how to deal with school bullies, find a way to please his teachers and manage his stresses at home which include his beloved grandfather's increasing dementia and his sister's special needs. The book is a coming-of-age of story as we watch Satoshi make poor decisions but also learn from his mistakes.
The audiobook was a delight as it was peppered throughout with appropriate sound effects such as the crack of the bat while hitting a baseball, the chimes of the ringing school bell signaling the end or beginning of class and the rustle of paper while taking tests at school. They were all brief and would add to the enjoyment of younger readers. The only one that I found to be too distracting was the buzzing of the electric razor at the barber shop which was loud enough to make the dialogue difficult to hear and lasted for longer than was necessary.
Overall I would recommend this book for young readers who enjoy baseball or who are interested in learning more about Japanese culture.
Profile Image for AFIFA ALAM RAISA.
86 reviews4 followers
March 3, 2021
A fun and relaxing story.

‘Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters’ features Satoshi Matsumoto, a young Japanese boy who has recently moved back to Japan from the United States. It does not take long for him to realize that he has become a stranger to his own home, and adjustment is not going to be easy. That is when baseball appears to relieve him from a part of his struggles. Satoshi is a talented and passionate player, and despite the troubles that keep slowing him down, he is all set to steal the glory for his school team.

The book lets the readers catch a glimpse of what life is like in rural Japan. The beautiful cultural representation comes in a simple and smooth language, making it a suitable read for middle-graders and younger kids alike.

The story is most likely to appeal to baseball fans and readers who are always looking forward to learning about diverse cultures and nations. There are no insane twists and turns, or crowd of events, and therefore it is ideal for anyone wishing for a light read. Apart from that, the story comes with a beautiful lesson of how unity can lead to victory.

As a foreigner who is not quite familiar with Japan, it was difficult for me to follow the characters (especially because of the names and the suffixes). But the author is certainly not the one to be blamed here.

Recommended for baseball fans and anyone looking for a book that is different.

(I received a copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily)
Profile Image for Bruce.
Author 18 books64 followers
April 16, 2021
Thirteen-year-old Satoshi Matsumoto is back in Japan, trying to make new friends and play baseball. We meet his parents, his elderly grandfather and his friends at school. Satoshi is typical and makes typical mistakes along the way, making him feel human. And there is baseball, and the threat that if the team doesn't impress or win something big this year, the school will give up baseball.
Well and good. The narration is excellent, the characters are 3-D, there is excitement in the field, relationships fall apart and are mended. And then the story just...stops, It doesn't end. There is no resolution and we are left wondering if the team was able to win their place in the school for next year. And that is why it went from a 5 star to a 2 star. One of the most frustrating things for me as a reader or a listener is when there is no resolution to a story. It makes me want to wait to listen (or read) until others give their take, so I don't have to be disappointed like this. I will not listen to the next installment if there is one, since the author has not taken the time to wrap up what should have been a fairly easy dilemma.
Profile Image for Angie.
2,849 reviews11 followers
February 26, 2020
My Review: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley, the following is my honest review and opinion. I am always on the lookout for baseball themed books for Munchkin and I was rather curious about this one because of the title. What I wasn't expecting from this book is all the interesting Japanese baseball history, I had no idea about many of famous baseball players of the past. The Japanese setting of this book also added a unique element to the story and I feel like it brings a little more understanding that while people come from all parts of the world, there are still many similarities. While throughout the book Satoshi does tend to act like a typical middle school aged student with so much focus on favorite activities and occasional moody outbursts and worries about who to hang out with, Kamata does a great job of bringing the focus back to family and friends, responsibilities and dedication, and the way a simple decision and act can change the whole outlook.
Profile Image for Cornelia.
102 reviews23 followers
September 25, 2022
The cover of this audiobook is absolutely lovely - it caught my eye right away and made me want to listen to this book. While it's a middle-grade novel, I still found it enjoyable to listen to as an adult.
It's centred around the main character, 13-year-old Satoshi Matsumoto, who has moved back to Japan after having lived in the US for three years. Satoshi, experiencing reverse culture shock, feels like an alien in his home country, the only familiar thing being playing baseball, through which he slowly manages to feel more at home in Japan again.

This book really shows what it feels like to be a teenager, feeling like an alien constantly - and not only because one has moved countries. I'd therefore very much recommend it to kids aged 8-14 especially.

Nicholas Richardson did an amazing job narrating the book, making it a lot of fun to listen to by adding sound effects with his voice.

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this audiobook!
Profile Image for Laura.
2,656 reviews82 followers
January 1, 2020
This is an interesting take on both a fish out of water as well as one on teamwork, that works well together.

Satoshi has returned from three years of being in Atlanta, Georgia, in the states, so, while he grew up in Japan, he is now considered an outsider. He wants to impress his old friends. He wants to be part of the team, and he doesn't want to have his sister, who is disabled, made fun of. He also needs to watch out for his grandfather, who has dementia.

Does it sound as thought that is too much to fit in a book, meant for middle-graders? It works, most of the time.

I love how we learn about things in Japan, from the eyes of a Japanese boy who can compare it to how things were in the states.

My only problem with the book is that the ending felt a bit rushed.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bobbi Radford.
174 reviews
September 20, 2022
So I got this book for my grandson but as usual with any book I get for him, I listen to it as well. This was a cute fast story about baseball and family and forgiveness. I loved all the sound effects on the background, it helped bring the story to life!

My grandson liked it but for him, it was a bit too long. He and I both talked about Japan afterwards. That was nice to learn new things about Japan with my grandson.

I would recommend this book and I would buy more books from this author. The narrator did a fantastic job!

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me and my grandson to listen to this book. We both liked it!
Profile Image for Melanie Dulaney.
1,323 reviews65 followers
September 27, 2020
Satoshi is of Japanese heritage but has spent the last three years in Atlanta, GA. Returning to his place of birth is a major adjustment with baseball being his common ground. Things are different with all his friends from "before," however, and Satoshi is struggling to fit in on and off the field. Readers who enjoy baseball and/or learning about other places and cultures will enjoy this one and it's relatively short length will make it approachable for even more reluctant readers in grades 4-6. Thanks for the dARC, NetGalley.
19 reviews
March 31, 2021
I love everything about this book. It deals with handicaps, elderly different ethnic groups and coming back home after living in a different country. At this time especially in our lives I feel both children and adults should read this as everyone will gain something from it. Excellent way to blend it all in one book. I also love the sound affects. We don't always get them in audio books readings.
Profile Image for Danielle.
163 reviews2 followers
August 8, 2020
I read this book with my 9 year old son. We enjoyed the story and the characters. I lived in Japan for a year in grad school and my son has visited too, so Japanese culture and language references were familiar to us. I don’t know they they would be for everyone. This is a unique story about culture shock, sticking out, and fitting in. Perfect for our global society!
Profile Image for Danielle.
163 reviews2 followers
August 9, 2020
I read this book with my 9 year old son. We enjoyed the story and the characters. I lived in Japan for a year in grad school and my son has visited too, so Japanese culture and language references were familiar to us. I don’t know they they would be for everyone. This is a unique story about culture shock, sticking out, and fitting in. Perfect for our global society!
Profile Image for Brenda.
936 reviews
April 12, 2020
This was a pretty good story. I liked the characters and rooted for Satoshi to be accepted back to his school and that baseball would be what he needed. I thought there was a great lesson to be learned in this book, but it didn't hit you over the head.
Profile Image for Caroline.
Author 4 books40 followers
December 11, 2020
Satoshi, the 13-year-old baseball player at the heart of Suzanne Kamata’s middle grade novel, is a boy to root for, and the book’s frank approach to big topics like bullying, racism, and disability is a breath of fresh air.⁣
Profile Image for Brett Hardy.
9 reviews
February 2, 2021
A fun book, but not what I expected. It was much better than I thought it would be. An easy read with a lot of visual cues; it puts the reader right into the action. Highly recommended for both male and female middle grade readers.
Profile Image for Brett Hardy.
9 reviews
June 18, 2020
Fun read, and interesting insights into Japanese family life and the importance of baseball. Highly recommended.
Displaying 1 - 24 of 24 reviews

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