The Rhino in Right Field

by Stacy Dekeyser (Author)

The Rhino in Right Field
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

Nick wants to change his life. For twelve years, he's done what his hard-working, immigrant parents want him to do. Now he's looking for his own American dream and he thinks he's found it. The local baseball team is having a batboy contest, and Nick wants to win.

But the contest is on a Saturday--the day Nick has to work in his father's shop. There's one other tiny--well, not so tiny--problem. A 2,000-pound rhinoceros named Tank. Nick and his friends play ball in the city zoo--and Tank lives just beyond the right field fence. Nick's experience getting the ball out of Tank's pen has left him frozen with fear whenever a fly ball comes his way. How's a lousy fielder going to win the contest?

Nick practices every day with his best friend, Ace, and a new girl who has an impressive throwing arm! But that's not enough--to get to the contest, Nick has to lie to his parents and blackmail his uncle. All while dodging the school bully, who's determined to win even by playing dirty. Nick will need to keep his eye on the ball in this fast, funny story about a game that can throw you some curveballs--just like life!

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Laugh-out-loud fun with a wonderful cast of characters. A winner in every way.

School Library Journal

Gr 3-5—Going to Greek school and working at his dad's store are part of 12-year-old Nick Spirakis's routine, but baseball is everything to him. Nick is excited to enter a competition to become "batboy-for-a-day" for the local adult minor league baseball team, the Mudpuppies, but it takes place on a weekend when Nick is supposed to help out in at the store. Complicating matters is Tank the Rhino, the 2,000-pound rhinoceros who lives in the city zoo adjacent to the field where Nick and his friends play ball. Nick is petrified of the creature. In order to enter the contest, Nick will have to lie and manipulate his friends and family. The details about Greek culture enrich the story. DeKeyser skillfully melds historical details of 1948 Milwaukee with fast-paced action and humor, giving readers a window into life in that era. Themes involving parental expectations, friendly competition among peers, and learning to find the right balance between family and social circles make this accessible and relatable. The author's note explains that Nick's story and historical era details are loosely based on DeKeyser's own father's life. VERDICT A recommended purchase for large middle grade collections. Hand to readers looking for historical fiction or baseball tales.—Eva Thaler-Sroussi, Needham Free Public Library, MA

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

It's 1948, and 12-year-old Nick is chafing under his Greek immigrant parents' rule that he work at his father's shop on Saturdays. Instead, Nick wants to play baseball with his friends, even though their field butts up against the town zoo and fly balls can end up in Tank the rhino's pen, requiring the boys to hop the fence and outrun Tank to retrieve them. After the town's minor league baseball team is acquired by a new owner, who announces a contest for the opportunity to be batboy on opening day, Nick longs to enter and is bitterly disappointed to learn that the contest is on a Saturday. But when his arch-nemesis, Pete, taunts him about the contest, Nick is determined to find a way to realize his dream. Dekeyser (The Brixen Witch) based this funny and good-hearted story that warmly portrays life as the son of Greek immigrants on her father's childhood growing up in Milwaukee. Details such as the five-cent charge for new shoelaces bring the era to life, and the conclusion hits the story out of the park. Ages 8-12. (July)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date
May 20, 2019
BISAC categories
JUV019000 - Juvenile Fiction | Humorous Stories
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV002260 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Zoos
JUV039000 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | General
JUV016150 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - 20th Century
JUV032010 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Baseball
JUV002330 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Hippos & Rhinos
Library of Congress categories
20th century
Family life
White rhinoceros
Greek Americans
Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List
2020 - 2021

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