by Joyce Grant James
Lorimer & Company, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4594-1284-2 (pb) $12.96, 136 pp, ages 10 – 13
I remember days long ago playing baseball with my friends in the West End of Toronto. Hot, stifling days. We were young enough to run and play in the extreme heat from the early summer morning until the sun began to set and the lights came on, showering the diamond in an eerie yellow glow. Living a middle-class life with no concerns, our only thoughts were of ball, friends and the ever-approaching end to summer. Those were magical days, and later, long after I had grown up and moved away, I would revisit those experiences reading the baseball novels of W.P. Kinsella such as Shoeless Joe, Come to Iowa and Butterfly Winter. Reading Sliding Home brought many of these memories back, but like in all good novels, in this book baseball is only the vehicle to address larger themes. Centering the story in Toronto, Joyce Grant uses her many experiences to relate the story of Miguel, a young boy struggling to maintain friendships while trying to bring his father to Canada from El Salvador. While Miguel works each day to earn money babysitting to help his mother pay bills and save funds to help his father immigrate, he must negotiate the teen world of status and friendships. Through baseball, he is able to establish relationships and learn that a community of friends, when they band together, can surmount great odds when his team holds a festival and competition to raise the necessary money to finally bring Miguel’s father to Canada.
Classroom Connections: Sliding Home can be used to address many issues in the contemporary classroom. Many students will be able to identify with the stress and worry that Miguel experiences as they consider their own personal situations. When interacting with their friends they may learn that sometimes we make unfair judgements about others, and that it is ok to change our opinions of people through learning about them. But I think the greatest lesson is about Canada. In the end, Sliding Home shows Canada to be a welcoming country where people together endeavour to improve the lives of all citizens and through the strengths and capabilities of newcomers, we all become winners.
Review by Kent Miller.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Fall 2019 issue.