A boy who loves baseball must get past his hard-working immigrant parents—and the rhino in the outfield—to become a batboy in this laugh-out-loud middle-grade novel in the tradition of The Sandlot.
Stacy DeKeyser is the award-winning author of novels for kids. Her books have been on school and state-wide reading lists all over the country. She loves to travel, especially when she can take long long long long hikes. In the summer she lives in Connecticut (trying not to get chased by bears), and in the winter she lives in Florida (trying not to get chased by alligators).
Where did you originally get the idea for this book?
This book was inspired by the stories my dad told about his childhood. He and his friends played in the city zoo in the 1940s.
Were there any pivotal changes that your story/illustrations underwent throughout the writing/editing process?
It started out as a story about a kid who wanted to win a yo-yo contest. My editor said that baseball would be more fun to read about than yo-yos. She was right!
During which stage of the ideation/creation process did you know that this particular idea was going to go somewhere?
About halfway through the second draft, when I realized what the ending should be.
Did a particular person/animal inspire the creation of Nick?
Nick is absolutely a version of my dad (whose name is also Nick). His Uncle Spiro is based (very loosely) on my real Uncle Spiro, and Nick’s parents are my grandparents. Even their last name, Spirakis, was my grandmother’s maiden name.
Did kids really play baseball in a zoo?
Yes! The zoo in the book is modeled after the Washington Park Zoo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s true that the animals were almost close enough to touch.