Cheaters Are Outta Here!
Teach kids about the pitfalls of cheating with these three baseball books.
The closest we’ve come to a home run is a lazy afternoon sipping ice tea and watching a Tom Hanks flick. But if there’s one thing we do know about America’s favorite pastime, it’s this: “There’s no crying in baseball.”
There is, however, cheating. We live in a culture crowded with stage moms, tiger teachers, and helicopter dads — all hovering and judging and criticizing their kids. It’s not uncommon to hear such overly enthusiastic parents shouting at their little leaguers from the sidelines, drowning out the coach, teammates, onlookers, and, really, everyone else in between. When it comes to competition, it’s easy to forget that the real joys of little league are worth more than the final score.
Chances are your mini ballers won’t remember a regular-season loss. But they will wax nostalgic about the spirited pep talks in the dugout and joining their teammates for postgame pizza. Still, the ugly truth remains: The need to succeed can pervade through simple pleasure and blur the line between wrong and right.
Parenting doesn’t come with a manual; we get it. Teaching kids about the intangible sense of shame and plummeting morale that accompanies cheating can be tough. So let authors Fred Bowen, Mike Lupica, and Matt Christopher do the dirty work for you. The trio each have juvenile books that explore cheating from the refreshingly simple perspectives of young ball players either faced with or exposed to such temptation, and the lessons they learn as a result.
Twelve-year-old Kyle is so determined to secure his team’s place in the Rising Stars League that he secretly fakes a catch while playing center fielder and clinches the win for his team during a pivotal game. Despite the jubilant celebrations that ensue, Kyle is unable to quiet his own conscience enough to enjoy the steady stream of praise he receives as the supposed new champion.
With a thought-provoking stance on guilt and the concept of culpability, Bowen helps third- through fifth-grade readers to understand that while mistakes are an inevitable part of life, not all is lost for those who are willing to redeem themselves by facing the truth.
When the first wave of the MLB steroids scandal broke in 2004, fans were forced to face the mortality of fallen gods such as Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire in a devastating new light. Sportswriter-turned-author Mike Lupica deftly captures this loss through the eyes of young protagonist Brian Dudley, a 14-year-old who recently landed his dream job as batboy for the Detroit Tigers. When Brian’s longtime idol Hank Cooper is signed to the team, his excitement quickly sours as he realizes Cooper’s brash attitude directly stems from a struggle to kick his longtime addiction to personal enhancement drugs.
Approaching this sensitive topic through Brian’s unerringly sincere perspective, Lupica weaves a poignant tale that will resonate with middle school readers struggling to make sense of their heroes’ declines, and a familial subplot may aid those grappling with hard realizations in their own lives.
This baseball staple follows young Martin as he struggles to make his way through a new neighborhood— and a new baseball team. Having placed all his faith in his “lucky” baseball bat, Martin is mortified when he loses the bat and accuses another teammate of stealing it. But will he let his frustration with the allegedly cheating teammate consume him, or will he be able to overcome his own lack of faith in himself and power through?
Readers around 7 to 9 years old will be captivated by the choices Martin must make when dealing with what he believes to be foul play, as well as the quaint anachronistic dialogue and details from the 1954 classic.