Review: Bat 6

Bat 6
Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bat 6 is a very unique novel and almost reads like a non-fiction recount of eye witnesses who were on the field the day the two 6th grade girls’ softball teams met for the first and only time to play the traditional game for the 50th time in the history of the their two home towns. For all the girls, this game is the culmination of an honored tradition for their grade. Nine girls are chosen from each town to represent it and play a friendly softball game. They have all year to prepare for this one game and then the torch is passed on to the next group of 6th grade girls. But this year is different: it is 1949 and for some, the scars of WWII are beginning to heal; for others, the wound is still bleeding. The two towns in this story represent the to polar ends of the reality of a recovering nation following the war, particularly in the west, where Japanese families returning from internment camps were faced with both welcoming arms and resentment from their neighbors.

This story is told by all 21 players who were there for the game, including Shazam, whose father was killed at Pearl Harbor, and Aki, whose family has just returned to her home town after several years in a Japanese internment camp. That these two have something to fight about seems obvious after the incident, but leading up to the game, none of the players would have guessed there would be a conflict on the field. Now that they all are forced to admit there is something wrong, they all must see the point of view of both of these players and acknowledge their own feelings in the process.

This book is really fascinating in its use of the voices of these 21 6th grade girls. Author Virginia Euwer Wolff uses these authentic perspectives to draw in young readers and give the story its authentic and true-story feel. This story presents the difficult issues of intolerance, injustice, prejudice, and racial discrimination in a way that tweens can understand. Some of the characters had some clues about how Shazam felt about Japanese people but they did not know how deeply those feelings ran or how violently they might be axpressed. For Aki’s friends, they were happy to have her back – a missing part of their community and their school, she is welcomed home after her family is released from their imprisonment.

This story and others like it open up a conversation about discrimination and unfair treatment that gets tweens thinking of their own feelings and perspectives. Aside from conveying important facts about the Japanese internment camps and life after WWII, this story brings up basic things like actions and consequences, prejudices, fairness, conflict and anger, and gives young readers an opportunity to consider where their own judgments and conflicts might be. Multicultural novels like Bat 6 are critical in providing perspectives other than our own, and this is especially valuable for tweens and teens. By placing young people in the shoes of others, they are given a glimpse into that person’s feelings and experiences. This is one of the most effective ways to experience empathy and this type of literature plays an important role.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 1, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0590898000
ISBN-13: 978-0590898003

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