Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh

By School Library Journal

All fifth grader Maria Singh can think about is playing baseball. She confronts many challenges in pursuit of this dream, from convincing her father to let her wear shorts to getting the city council to approve a baseball field for her neighborhood. Maria is part of a community of families in World War II–era California. Many of the fathers in this community emigrated from India and married Mexican American women. Maria begins to see how much the institutionalized racism and individual prejudice they face weigh on her parents. Characters are well developed, and relationships are richly complex. Even the local mean girl becomes sympathetic as Maria learns that she and her family are being discriminated against because of their German ancestry. Krishnaswami skillfully handles issues of racism and sexism in a realistic and age-appropriate way. Although the cultural setting is very well defined, sometimes the historical background information can feel wedged into the story. However, this is a minor flaw, and Maria’s realistic challenges and passion to play ball will keep young readers engaged. VERDICT This historical sports story will appeal to many elementary-aged students and provides a rich basis for a discussion of prejudice and the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs. Recommended.