Jason loves baseball — playing it, watching it, and collecting baseball cards. When he first learns about the Negro leagues, where African-American players were relegated before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, he starts collecting those cards, too. Then Jason gets cut from his team. If he wants to play, he’ll have to join the new Little League expansion team — the reject team, which doesn’t even have a coach yet. Jason’s spirits lift when he realizes he knows the perfect person to coach: Mack Henry, a school custodian who’s given Jason some pointers before. Jason is convinced that Mr. Henry is really Buck McHenry, who was once a star pitcher in the Negro leagues.
Getting Mr. Henry to coach the team is easy, but getting kids to play on it is something else. After tryouts, there are only three players: Aaron, Mr. Henry’s grandson, Kim, the daughter of newscaster Chuck Axelrod, and Jason. So even though Mr. Henry said not to talk about Buck McHenry to anyone, Jason can’t help himself. When people hear who’s coaching, every eleven-year-old in town will want to play! But Jason is still uneasy about spilling the secret, especially when Mr. Axelrod and his news cameras pick it up. When Jason and his friends overhear Mr. Henry’s reasons for wanting it kept quiet, they learn more than they ever expected about history, truth, sportsmanship, and friendship.
Alfred Slote, the popular author of many novels for young readers, fills this exciting and moving book with mystery, suspense and sports history. Readers will be moved by the stories of Mr. Henry’s past, and by the modern-day evolution of a Little League team. Not just for sports fans, Finding Buck McHenry is a powerful and memorable middle-grade novel.