4th Grade and Up
Nick wants to change his life. For twelve years, he’s done what his hard-working, immigrant parents want him to do. Now he’s looking for his own American dream and he thinks he’s found it. The local baseball team is having a batboy contest, and Nick wants to win.
But the contest is on a Saturday—the day Nick has to work in his father’s shop. There’s one other tiny—well, not so tiny—problem. A 2,580-pound rhinoceros named Tank. Nick and his friends play ball in the city zoo—and Tank lives just beyond the right field fence. Nick’s experience getting the ball out of Tank’s pen has left him frozen with fear whenever a fly ball comes his way. How’s a lousy fielder going to win the contest?
Nick practices every day with his best friend, Ace, and a new girl who has an impressive throwing arm! But that’s not enough—to get to the contest, Nick has to lie to his parents and blackmail his uncle. All while dodging the school bully, who’s determined to win even by playing dirty.
The first thing that caught my attention was the title: Rhino in Right Field? What? Is this story going to take place somewhere in Africa and the kids are playing baseball with wild rhinos roaming around? Then I read the summary above and think: Wait? These kids are playing baseball in a zoo? How is that allowed?! Turns out this story takes place during the year 1948 in Wisconsin where there is a zoo/park that the kids play baseball in.
Tank, the rhino in this story, is an African Hook-lipped Rhinoceros a.k.a. a Black Rhinoceros. With a keen sense of hearing and smell, they are likely to charge anything they see as a threat. But black rhinos can’t see well, so they sometimes charge objects like trees and rocks, mistaking them as a threat. And with a top running speed of 34 MPH, you do not want to be in an enclosed space with a black rhino. Why these kids would risk their lives jumping into a rhino pen to retrieve a baseball, I have no idea. FYI: a baseball back in 1948 cost 93 cents.
One of the many side plots in this story didn’t stand out to me until later, that side plot being Nick’s uncle and frozen custard. I kept thinking “what’s the big deal about frozen custard?” When I finally tasted chocolate frozen custard at Shake Shack, I realized what the big deal was. IT IS DELICIOUS! It is so thick and creamy, and it doesn’t melt as fast as ice cream.
As you read this book, remember that this story takes place back in 1948. This story is full of outdated slang like swelland spiffy. My favorite phrase was dollars to donutswhich means almost certain.
In conclusion, this story is a quick easy read. I waited a long time to get my hands on this book and it did not disappoint.
Also, be sure to read the Author’s Note to find out where Stacy Dekeyser got the idea for this book.
This weeks’ Weird but True Fact about Rhinos
A group of rhinos is called a crash.