Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
"You mean in cricket?"
"In cricket, too."
Disclosure: I had a vague idea about cricket, based solely on passing references in literature. It was evident, beginning on page one, that cricket was going to be an important element to the story. Every single chapter begins with a quote describing cricket protocol.
I put Pay Attention, Carter Jones down and scurried off to You Tube for a crash tutorial. While a knowledge of cricket is not required to appreciate the story, I found it helpful to learn a few basics.
Carter Jones' life is in disarray. Dad is stationed in Germany. The family car is beyond repair. His three younger sisters function in crisis mode. Their dog is constantly barfing. The Joneses are trying to keep the family together and their heads above water. They are not succeeding.
Then the doorbell rings.
It's the Butler. Thanks to arrangements from a deceased relative, the family now has a Butler. But this is no ordinary gentleman's gentleman. His major task is restoring order to a crumbling household. Homework, piano practice, and a proper breakfast are promptly instituted.
The Butler takes the unusual step of introducing Carter to cricket and organizing a group of boys, teaching them the game's fundamentals. Separate story threads come together on a blustery Saturday morning when Team Britannia meets Team India on the local middle school football field for an exhibition game. Schmidt brings the contest between the two teams to a riveting finish that will have readers holding their breaths until the final moments of the game. No one will want to stop for coffee.
I was there.
In the Blue Mountains of Australia.
I was wet and cold and the wind was up, and my father had scattered my fire and now he was kneeling by the fire he had built and now he was stacking twigs onto it.
Keeping it real, Master Jones. Thanks for keeping it real.
Read it alone. Read it with a friend. Read it aloud. Read it while eating Irish steel-cut oatmeal or pizza, your choice. It works any way and every way. Pay attention to this one!