Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, April 10, 2014

Plot Summary:
Rabi loves baseball, but the problem is that he is a better strategist than a player. In fact, Rabi does this super human trick where he can use statistics to determine the outcome of a game that not only amazes his fellow players, but rubs his coach the wrong way. The real problem with the team isn't Rabi's lack of batting ability, but Coach Cocoran's inability to put together a logical batting order and general managing all together. What should have been an easy victory ended up being a disaster. Along with a poor batting average, Rabi struggles with the fact that he is the only mixed kid on the team, which his teammates make evident when they bully him by calling him "red dot." Well, after this last game, and escaping the clutches of Sammy and company, Rabi decided that he needed help with his swing so he, Miguel, and Joe went off to practice in a park near Milrow Meatpacking Plant. What was supposed to be a quiet afternoon, ended in chaos when plant workers stormed out of the meat packing facility including Miguel's aunt and uncle. What was said to be as a building maintenance, it was much bigger and worse than that, especially when Coach Cocoran tried to eat Rabi's brains. Furthermore, amidst all of the chaos, Miguel's aunt and uncle were take away by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) since they witnessed the incident that occurred at the meat packing plant.  Although the boys have only seen two zombies, more and more emerge from the plant and when they tried to tell "responsible adults" more poor decisions were made forcing them to run from the authorizes. Is it possible that the zombie apocalypse is real? If so, Rabi, Miguel, and Joe must save their town from imminent destruction, but the problem is how can they get anyone to believe them that zombies actually exist?

Critical Evaluation:
After reading Paolo Bacigalupi's award-winning noel, Shipbreaker, I am so glad to see another side of his writing in Zombie Baseball Beatdown. This story is a lot of fun because not only is there action and zombies, there are a whole set of very real issues that most teen readers will not be familiar with. For example, our dynamic trio are a bunch of misfits who have a lot in common despite their difference. For example, Rabi is part Indian and Caucasian, which makes him stick out like a sore thumb in his quiet little town. Miguel, whose parents (undocumented workers) were deported because they had the courage to speak out about the awful conditions of the meatpacking plant. Lastly, there is Joe whose father is an alcoholic and a single father. Although the boys don't see their friendship based on their family lives, they stick together because they help one another in may ways that solidify this relationship. In fact, it is very apparent when Miguel's aunt and uncle are taken away by ICE  both Rabi and Joe tell him that he can stay with their families because Miguel "didn't ask to be an orphan). Actually, Miguel's family situation is a whole different plot of the story because Sammy's father (Rabi's arch-nemesis) is responsible for their deportation because they were going to bring down the whole meat packing facility, which means Sammy and his family would lose all their money; Sammy's family is the most affluent family in town so rather than doing what is right by the people, Sammy's father reported Miguel's family to ICE so they are no longer a threat to the company. Another thing that I love about this story is that is reminds me of the many wonderful stories by Roald Dahl where the grown-ups are beyond ridiculous and not at all responsible for their own actions.There is a lot going on in this little 292 page book that some readers might find their heads spinning; however, Bacigalupi is able to tie all of this together to create a very serious story, but with a fun twist that make this book difficult to put down.

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Paolo Bacigalupi’s writing has appeared in WIRED Magazine, High Country News,, OnEarth Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. His short fiction been anthologized in various “Year’s Best” collections of short science fiction and fantasy, nominated for three Nebula Awards, four Hugo Awards, and won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best science fiction short story of the year. His short story collection PUMP SIX AND OTHER STORIES was a 2008 Locus Award winner for Best Collection and also named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly
His debut novel THE WINDUP GIRL was named by TIME Magazine as one of the ten best novels of 2009, and also won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. Internationally, it has won the Seiun Award (Japan), The Ignotus Award (Spain), The Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis (Germany), and the Prix Planète-SF des Blogueurs (France).
His debut young adult novel, SHIP BREAKER, was a Micheal L. Printz Award Winner, and a National Book Award Finalist.
His most recent novel, THE DROWNED CITIES was a 2012 Kirkus Reviews Best of YA Book, A 2012 VOYA Perfect Ten Book, and 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist.
He currently lives in Western Colorado with his wife and son, where he is working on a new novel.

Tween Fiction, Tween Humor, Tween Comedy

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 4-7

Books Similar to Zombie Baseball Beatdown:

Awards & Recognition:

"Printz-winning Bacigalupi writing a middle-grade zombie novel? Yes, it really happened, and yes, it's pretty darn good....Simultaneously smart, funny, and icky, this book asks a tough question: Is it worth looking the other way in order to save yourself?"—Booklist

"A high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse....a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat....sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti."—Kirkus Reviews

"Defies the expectations of the comedy-horror genre, turning this zombie novel into an effective bit of social commentary while staying true to the story's grisly and goofy roots....Casual readers will have a blast, and those who look deeper will learn something, too."—Publishers Weekly

"It's a testament to the author's skill that [the characters] express values of courage, friendship, and integrity as naturally as they toss off hilarious observations....[A] fast-paced home run."—School Library Journal

"[Introduces] reluctant readers to activism through literature.... a dark comedy with a bit of heart."—The Bulletin

"Batting comes in handy beating down zombies....Will appeal to reluctant readers."—Library Media Connection

{ 1 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Baseball lovers are a unique breed; faithful to a mistake, dependent on research, and as irrational as a wizard at nighttime. What is it about baseball that motivates such devoted obsession?


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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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