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The Prince of Fenway Park

Review

The Prince of Fenway Park

I am lucky enough to live about eight blocks away from one of the most storied spots in baseball: Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Fenway has been the site of some of the most legendary (and infamous) episodes in baseball history. And now, in the pages of Julianna Baggott’s terrific new novel, THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK, it also plays a starring role in a great story about fathers, sons, history and the enduring power of baseball. 

The book is set during what many still regard as the best League Championship Series in history: the 2004 ALCS showdown between the Red Sox and their archenemies, the New York Yankees. As any fan knows, the Red Sox became the first team ever to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, to beat the Yankees and eventually best the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series since 1919.

To the youngest Red Sox fans, these events might seem like ancient history, as the Red Sox have actually won the Series twice in their short lifetimes. But to their parents and grandparents, most of their lifelong relationship with the Red Sox could be summed up in two words: The Curse. The Curse refers to the long-held belief that the Red Sox were cursed when they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees, a pivotal event that happened just after the last time the Sox won the Series and ensured that they would never again win baseball’s highest honor.

Sox fans used to take The Curse more or less seriously. In THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK, 12-year-old Oscar Egg knows all about The Curse, but he’s sure it’s just a myth. That is, until Oscar winds up moving in with his mysterious, secretive father when his mother goes to Baltimore to be with her new boyfriend. Oscar --- a black boy who was adopted by white parents --- has always wanted to find out more about his elusive father. All he knows is that he lives near Fenway Park. But, when he follows his dad through a manhole and into a whole new world, he discovers that his dad lives not just near Fenway Park, but right in it --- to be specific, in a cozy little room right under the pitcher’s mound.

There, Oscar discovers that Fenway is full of creatures --- Cursed Creatures --- even when there’s not a home game. It turns out that that nefarious curse affected far more than just the Sox’s chances of winning the Series. These miserable creatures are doomed to live miserably forever in the bowels of the park, existing in parallel to the more public faces of Fenway. The Curse has ruined all of their lives, and can only be broken by one very special person. Could it possibly be Oscar himself?

In THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK, Julianna Baggott cleverly combines sports mythology and classic folklore with real baseball history. In particular, she ties the history of The Curse in with the Red Sox’s equally infamous (and far more insidious) history of racism. Fantasy and real life combine as Oscar defines himself in terms of who he is and what he does, not in terms of who his birth parents are or what color his skin is. Given its focus on sports and its rich father-son relationships, THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK would be a great book for dads and kids to read aloud together. Great storytelling means that this sports novel will reach beyond Red Sox Nation to appeal to fans of all kinds of teams --- maybe even a Yankees fan or two!

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 22, 2011

The Prince of Fenway Park
by Julianna Baggott

  • Publication Date: February 22, 2011
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060872446
  • ISBN-13: 9780060872441