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Shakespeare Bats Cleanup - Ron Koertge Short book, only 116 pages. Since the cover mentioned poetry I assumed it was going to written in something like free verse and I would be able to skim through it over lunch. Instead I wound up reading it closely and learned a few things about poetry from it.

Kevin is 14 and lives with his dad; his mother died of cancer several years earlier and to a certain extent they're still bumbling along without her. Kevin lives for baseball and lurching through clumsy relationships with girls.

Suddenly he comes down with mono and can barely crawl out of bed. He misses weeks of school and the back-up 1st baseman now has his position on the team. His friends avoid coming by to visit so he feels pretty isolated. Eventually he feels just well enough to be totally bored.

His dad is a writer; looking for something to read he finds a book on poetry. But 14 year old jocks don't read poems. Afraid that dad will find out he sneaks the book into his room and starts experimenting [he equates it to sneaking a Penthouse into his room, which shows the story was published in 2003 because I don't think the magazine even exists anymore].

He starts with haiku, then moves on to sonnets, pantoum, ballads, blank verse, sestina, couplets, pastorals, elegies, and free verse with examples of each and an explanation. So it was an educational teen angst novel.

Meanwhile he has recuperated enough to re-join the baseball team but he is now sitting at the end of the bench and rarely playing. He gets spotted working on a poem in the dugout during a game by a new girl named Mira. She tries to question about it but he gets flustered and denies it. Then he realizes he kinda likes her and tries to get to know her better.

Mira is of Hispanic descent and her dad isn't too warm and fuzzy about Kevin. Kevin's Dad helps smooth things out and they are invited to her grandmother's house to meet her extended family. Things go well for the most part and that's where the story leaves off. There is a sequel called Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs which I now feel obligated to find.