Painting the Game

by Patricia MacLachlan (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

In this final middle grade novel by Newbery Award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan, a young girl tries to untangle her love of baseball from her complicated relationship with her professional pitcher father.

Lucy's father is a minor league baseball player, a professional pitcher hoping to get called up to the majors, and Lucy inherited his passion for the game. But she's never played pitcher. She worries her skills would be compared to her dad's and she'd never measure up. And his pitching may mean big things for his career and their family, but it's also what keeps him away from home so much of the year. Sometimes, Lucy isn't sure what would be worse: being bad at pitching or being great. Still, this summer, Lucy wants to learn to throw the perfect knuckleball. She wakes up at the crack of dawn to practice in secret, without her friends Tex and Robin--or even the goats who watch them play.

Even as she trains relentlessly, Lucy wonders if she'll ever feel brave enough to share her progress with her mom or dad. Can she prove to them, and herself, that she has what it takes?

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This will appeal to baseball fans and those looking for warm family dynamics. 

Publishers Weekly

The late Newbery Medalist blends themes of baseball and painting with loving family and friends in this slim work--her final novel--about the daughter of a minor-league pitcher and a painter seeking courage and her own path to pursuing her dreams. Eleven-year-old Lucy's mother explains that Lucy's father is "trying to paint the game. Like me painting a picture. Trying to make the game come out the way he wants." But when Lucy stands on the pitching mound, it's "the scariest place I've ever been." Determined to find the courage to overcome her fear, she secretly practices pitching in pre-dawn hours, choosing to perfect her father's signature knuckleball. In this quiet story, everybody has a secret as well as encouraging partners: for Lucy, it's her friends Tex and Robin, who coach her in private. Affectionate, conflict-free relationships and myriad expressions of support and respect among the compassionate characters nudge the tale toward sentimentality, but Lucy's gentle, understated narration and persistence toward her goal keep it grounded in authenticity. All characters other than a Puerto Rican-born adult present as white. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)

Copyright 2024 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Patricia MacLachlan
Patricia MacLachlan (1938-2022) was the author of many well-loved novels and picture books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal; its sequels, Skylark and Caleb's Story; Edward's Eyes; The True Gift; Waiting for the Magic; White Fur Flying; Fly Away; and Snow Horses. She lived in western Massachusetts.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date
April 20, 2024
BISAC categories
JUV013060 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Parents
JUV014000 - Juvenile Fiction | Girls & Women
JUV032010 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Baseball
Library of Congress categories
Self-confidence in children
Fathers and daughters
Minor league baseball
Pitchers (Baseball)
Baseball for children
Athletic ability

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