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Fast Pitch
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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone comes a challenging and heartwarming coming-of-age story about a softball player looking to prove herself on and off the field.Shenice Lockwood,...
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone comes a challenging and heartwarming coming-of-age story about a softball player looking to prove herself on and off the field.Shenice Lockwood,...
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Description-

  • From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone comes a challenging and heartwarming coming-of-age story about a softball player looking to prove herself on and off the field.
    Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds, is hyper-focused when she steps up to the plate. Nothing can stop her from leading her team to the U12 fast-pitch softball regional championship. But life has thrown some curveballs her way.
     
    Strike one: As the sole team of all-brown faces, Shenice and the Firebirds have to work twice as hard to prove that Black girls belong at bat.
     
    Strike two: Shenice’s focus gets shaken when her great-uncle Jack reveals that a career-ending—and family-name-ruining—crime may have been a setup.
     
    Strike three: Broken focus means mistakes on the field. And Shenice’s teammates are beginning to wonder if she’s captain-qualified.
     
    It's up to Shenice to discover the truth about her family’s past—and fast—before secrets take the Firebirds out of the game forever.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Batter Up 

    We have to win this game. . . . 

    Like gotta win. No other option. 

    I’ve been playing base-related ball—first tee, now soft—since the minute I could hold up a bat. Just like my daddy. And his daddy before him. And his daddy before him. It’s in my blood. And I learned the meaning of “love/hate relationship” in a game situation like this one. 

    It’s the bottom of the sixth and we’re up by three, but the opposing team is at bat. Bases are loaded, two strikes, two outs. Any time I say something is stressful, my mama rolls her eyes and says, “You’re twelve, Shenice. You have no idea what that word means.” But this? Is stressful. 

    As I drop back into my squat behind home plate, my eyes scan the field, and I inhale deep. Impossible to not notice—for me at least—how different our two teams look. While every player on mine, the Fulton Firebirds, has some shade of brown skin, all of the Stockwood Sharks girls are white. 

    Which is the case for most teams in the 12U division of the Dixie Youth Softball Association. DYSA, if you’re feeling fancy. 

    Not only are we Fulton Firebirds the first all-Black team in this league—which even considering the name is a huge deal—we’re the only team in the entire DYSA with more than three Black players on the roster. 

    Across eight states. All of which were on the pro-slavery side during the Civil War. Something my daddy reminds me of every time he sees “DYSA.” 

    “It’s a weight no one your age should have to carry, but can’t ignore,” he says. And he’s right: Every win feels . . . historical. 

    I hate it . . . but also love it. 

    Victory is almost ours. 

    I hear the ump—a short dude whose middle is shaped like the highlighter-hued ball that gives this game I love so much its name—hock a loogie above my head. It slams into the dirt on my right with the force of a slimy bullet. 

    So gross. 

    I breathe in again, though it definitely makes me feel like the hot dog I ate earlier is going to join ump guy’s blob of mucus beside me. The air has to be full of phlegm germs right now. 

    I gotta get my head back in the game. Yes, we’re up, but I’d be lying if I said the Sharks aren’t good. 

    They’re real good, in fact. 

    But so are we. 

    We have to win this game. 

    Their best batter is at the plate—Steph Mahoney. I know her name because of her rep as a home-run hitter. Not surprising once you see the latest Louisville Slugger LXT choke-gripped between her half-covered hands. Her batting gloves are fingerless, which I’ve never seen in our league. But considering that bat costs 350 buckaroos, it’s clear good ol’ Steph is serious about this sport. 

    I lock gazes with our pitcher, Cala “Quickfire” Kennedy. My “teammate” since the days of rolling one of Daddy’s baseballs back and forth in our shared playpen (though we haven’t always played on the same actual team). She’s the best, most epic fast-pitch heat thrower in the state. Likely even in all of Dixie, and maybe the whole country. 

    All she’s gotta do is throw one more strike. 

    In my peripheral vision, I see the blond, freckly-faced girl on third base take a quick peek at her coach, who tugs at his right earlobe, and then brushes a finger beneath his nose. After a slight nod, she subtly steps one foot off the slightly raised white square, and shifts into a ready-to-run...

About the Author-

  • NIC STONE is the New York Times bestselling author of Clean Getaway, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, who called it “an absolute firecracker of a book.” She is also the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling and William C. Morris Award finalist Dear Martin, its New York Times bestselling sequel Dear Justyce, and the acclaimed novels Odd One Out and Jackpot for teens.
    Nic spent several years on the softball field as a kid, and Fast Pitch grew out of her love of the sport and the movie The Sandlot, and her desire to see more Black female athletes represented on the field and on the page. Nic lives in Atlanta with her adorable little family. You can find her online at nicstone.info.
     

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 21, 2021
    Black girl magic hits a home run in Stone’s (Clean Getaway) latest novel. Twelve-year-old Shenice “Lightning” Lockwood has been playing “base-related ball” her whole life—just like her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before her. Now captain of the Fulton Firebirds, the first all-Black team in Georgia’s Dixie Youth Softball Association, her goal is to lead her team to the championship and send a message that “girls like us do belong on the field.” When that goal sees a setback, Shenice’s father gives her Great-Grampy JonJon’s mitt “as a reminder of what’s in you.” But the item that truly captures her attention in JonJon’s off-limits trunk is his leather journal—and his story. When Shenice meets her great-uncle Jack, JonJon’s brother, in an assisted living facility, she learns that her great-grandfather was almost one of the first Black MLB players—until he was kicked out of the league for a theft that Jack insists JonJon was framed for. Considering her family legacy, Shenice struggles to maintain her focus as captain while following Jack’s clues to clear JonJon’s name. Fast-paced and heartwarming, this story captures the essence of familial duty through a warm family dynamic and a child protagonist with genuine agency. Ages 8–12.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2021
    A girl with a family baseball legacy that's a weight on her shoulders attempts to clear the name of her great-grandfather and win a historic title for her team. Twelve-year-old Shenice "Lightning" Lockwood has baseball in her veins and plans to lead her all-Black fast-pitch softball team (a first in the Dixie Youth Softball Association), the Fulton Firebirds, to victory at the district championship. After a devastating loss, her father shows her memorabilia from her family's baseball lineage, which spurs a trip to visit her great-uncle Jack. He tells her the story of her great-grandfather's rise from the Negro Leagues to the majors and how racial prejudice played a part in his being framed for the theft of a famous baseball glove. Shenice is compelled to seek answers, but the more she focuses on the past, the more she puts her future at risk. Following Clean Getaway (2020), Stone returns with another middle-grade novel that discusses race at a level her readers will understand but without condescension. Shenice's story is dripping with images of positive Black representation without shying away from the historical realities of her family playing baseball in the American South and how it affects her present as she attempts to make history herself. Notably, her coach is a White woman in a same-gender marriage. This energetic, engaging, complex novel will appeal to readers whether or not they are fans of baseball. A grand slam of an adventure. (Fiction. 8-12)

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    July 1, 2021
    Grades 3-6 Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds, is a legend when it comes to her love of the ball field--playing goes all the way back to her great-grandfather, who was nearly in the pros. She and her team are the only all-Black girls team in their softball league, and they're charging their way toward the championships. But can Shenice stay focused on their games instead of a newly discovered family mystery? Her great-uncle Jack recently spilled the beans that the crime that cost Great Grampy his career was a setup! Tensions are high as the plot bounces between gameplay and sleuthing, ultimately reaching a satisfying conclusion. Stone compellingly weaves a love of sports and family with mystery, using lifelike dialogue and realistic relationships, while interspersing historical facts that flesh out the narrative arc between the past and present. Readers of all ages will cheer for Shenice and appreciate Stone's note, which shares her history on the field and how her characters got their names. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling, award-winning Stone has legions of fans eager for anything with her name on the cover.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    August 1, 2021

    Gr 5-8-A sports mystery that will keep readers engaged from start to finish. "Base-related ball" runs in Shenice's blood. Her dad played, and his dad played, and now Shenice is the captain of the Fulton Firebirds, the first and only all-Black softball team in the Dixie Youth Softball Association. More than anything, she wants to prove that Black girls do belong on the field. The day after a tough loss, Shenice's father decides it's time to introduce her to her Great-Grampy JonJon's infamous trunk. The trunk holds all kinds of baseball treasures, but her father gives her JonJon's mitt and closes the trunk. Shenice is curious about other items she saw but doesn't know how to learn more about them until she discovers her Great-Grampy's brother, Uncle Jack, is still alive. When they meet, Uncle Jack tells Shenice the reason JonJon stopped playing ball: he was framed for stealing the glove of Joe DiMaggio from a charity auction. Her parents told her Uncle Jack isn't always lucid. Is the story true? Can Shenice clear JonJon's name? Discussions about race and civil rights are seamlessly woven into the narrative through Shenice's own experiences, her schoolwork, and conversations with her language arts teacher. The climax feels unnecessarily prolonged, but this may keep younger readers on the edge of their seats. Softball terminology isn't always explained, so it would benefit readers to have some background knowledge of the sport. VERDICT Purchase this title where Stone's work, sports stories, and light mysteries are popular.-Lisa Buffi, Sterling M.S., VA

    Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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