HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Finding Buck McHenry
Author: Alfred Slote
Jacket Illustrator: Robert Blake
Publisher: HarperCollins, reprinted 1993
ISBN-13: 978-0060216535 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0060216530 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0064404693 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0064404692 Paperback
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Category: General youth fiction
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Slote, Alfred. Finding Buck McHenry (Publisher in 1991 by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022). Eleven year old Jason Ross lives with his father Dick, a lawyer, and mother Jean, an artist, at Arborville in southeastern Michigan. A student at Samson Park School, he loves playing baseball, but likes collecting baseball cards even more. Unfortunately, Jason is not a very good baseball player and is cut from his Little League team, the Baer Machine. Seeking solace at The Grandstand, a local baseball-card shop, he finds a card for ‘Buck McHenry,’ star pitcher of the Negro Leagues who left baseball early and became a school custodian, and thinks that Buck could be Mack Henry, the custodian at his former school, Eberwoods, where the Baer Machine plays their home games. Jim Davis, owner of The Grandstand, decides to sponsor a new expansion team made up of rejects like Jason, and the boy wants Mr. Henry to coach it.
Could Mack Henry possibly have some connection with former baseball great Buck McHenry? Will he agree to coach the new team? How does The Grandstand team do? In addition to some common euphemisms (e.g., “heck” and “darn”), the book does use phrases like “for God’s sake” and “Oh God” as exclamations a few times. Finding Buck McHenry was a Finalist for the 1992 Edgar Allan Poe Award Juvenile Category, given by the Mystery Writers of America, and as one reviewer noted, “Mr. Henry’s identity, in doubt through much of the book, provides a mystery, a bittersweet revelation, and a satisfyingly dramatic denouement.” The plot may seem a bit of a stretch, but for the most part, the book is enjoyable, teaches some important lessons about friendship, honesty, compassion, and the realities of life, and contains a little history about the old Negro Leagues as well.