I'm so excited to have the A Long Pitch Home Blog Tour stopping by today...
A Long Pitch Home
by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
September 6, 2016
Ten-year-old Bilal liked his life back home in Pakistan. He was a star on his cricket team. But when his father suddenly sends the family to live with their aunt and uncle in America, nothing is familiar. While Bilal tries to keep up with his cousin Jalaal by joining a baseball league and practicing his English, he wonders when his father will join the family in Virginia. Maybe if Bilal can prove himself on the pitcher’s mound, his father will make it to see him play. But playing baseball means navigating relationships with the guys, and with Jordan, the only girl on the team—the player no one but Bilal wants to be friends with.
Praise for A Long Pitch Home
“As she did in Flying the Dragon (2012), Lorenzi sympathetically captures the challenges of cultural relocation. A warm, sensitive, realistic portrait of a Muslim boy adjusting to contemporary America.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
“Filled with details about Pakistani and Muslim life…Lorenzi’s novel offers a sensitive look at the cultural merging that accompanies immigration.” ~ Publishers Weekly
What three words best describe your book, A Long Pitch Home?
• fish-out-of-water (That counts as one word, right? ☺)
Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give A Long Pitch Home a try?
Bilal is a cricket-playing boy from Pakistan who must unexpectedly leave everything behind to start a new life in the U.S., which is about as easy as hitting a 65-mph knuckleball at the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded.
Grab a copy of A Long Pitch Home and answer the following:
Chapter 28 is one of my favorite chapters, because that’s when Bilal learns the meaning of friendship—not only how to be a friend, but what it means to have a friend who is true.
If I tell you my favorite page, it would give too much away, so I’ll tell you that my second favorite page is the very last line on page 217. This line is full of possibilities for Bilal—possibilities that could either save the day or go horribly wrong.
Nat’s Stadium, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team. When writing A Long Pitch Home, I took a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, and it is absolutely awe-inspiring.
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
When Bilal is making a list of things that his best friend and cricket teammate back in Pakistan should know about American baseball, he says this:
“Home runs are only worth four points at the most, and only if the bases are loaded. If someone hits a home run with the bases loaded, do not high-five everyone as they cross home plate and yell, ‘Six points for us!’”
(This line pretty much typifies Bilal’s epic struggle to learn this strange, new game called baseball.)
What inspired A Long Pitch Home? How did the story come to be?
I wanted to take a minor character from my first middle grade novel, Flying the Dragon, and tell that story. As an elementary school teacher, I’ve taught many Pakistani and Pakistani-American kids over the years, yet I couldn’t find any middle grade novels with characters from that culture. I spent many hours researching in order to craft a proposal for my publisher, Charlesbridge, which consisted of three chapters and a synopsis. Once Charlesbridge acquired the novel, I then had to write it! That meant more and more research…
How did you approach writing, for the middle-grade audience, about a character from another country and culture? For you, why is it so important to include diverse characters and experiences in kids lit?
The more I researched Bilal’s culture, the more I realized how much I still had to learn. I turned to three people who are familiar with Pakistani and Pakistani-American culture, including fellow children’s author Hena Khan. They answered my endless questions and read through my manuscript several times. Without their feedback, Bilal’s story never would have been a published book. You’ve heard of books as mirrors and windows, and I hope A Long Pitch Home will be a mirror for some readers and a window for others.
Can you tell us a bit about your character, Bilal? What makes him special and what do you love about him?
Bilal is a lot like I was in 5th grade—the new kid in class who is clueless about American culture. That wasn’t completely true in my case—my parents are American—but I had lived in Germany from the age of 7 to 10. At the end of September of my 5th grade year, we moved to Texas, a place I’d never been before. Unlike Bilal, I had no trouble with English, but I felt far removed from my peers who were well-versed in popular culture—songs, movies, and TV shows (and this was in the pre-Internet days!). As tough as that year was for me, Bilal has an even tougher time as he struggles with English, trades his favorite sport, cricket, for the unfamiliar sport of baseball, and all the while hopes for news that his father will be able to leave Pakistan to join the family. Bilal definitely makes mistakes, but his vulnerability is what makes him endearing to me.
What do you hope readers will learn or walk away with after reading A Long Pitch Home?
Along those same lines of mirrors and windows, my hope is that readers who are familiar with Pakistani-American culture will recognize a bit of themselves in the pages, and readers who are unfamiliar with the culture will walk away with understanding and empathy for what it’s like to leave everything behind in your country and start at new life.
What’s the best part about being a middle-grade author?
Being a school librarian, I love hearing feedback from my students—not just about my books, but about middle grade books in general. They don’t hold back in telling what they love (and don’t love!) about the books they read, and it’s all good fodder for my own writing.
Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at matching readers with books that they like, which is a big part of my day job as a school librarian. Although I don’t always get it right, I appreciate the discussions that I have with my students about what makes them tick as readers.
I’m really embarrassed to admit that I have absolutely zero sense of direction. GPS is the best thing that could have ever happened to my car.
The last great book I read was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’d read it back when it was first published, and now my daughter is reading it for her summer English assignment for high school. She asked me to reread it so we could talk about it, and I was reminded all over again what a masterful story it is.
If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by A Long Pitch Home, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
I think that Bilal would appreciate a jalebi-topped cupcake! Jalebi is a typical sweet found in Karachi, Pakistan, an orange treat made from deep-fried wheat flour batter formed into a spiral shape and dipped into a sugar syrup, which would make the perfect cupcake topper. For the cupcake part, I’d choose a chocolate malt cake with fudge frosting, which is the type of birthday cake that Bilal was supposed to have before the family had to up and move to the U.S., leaving his cake sitting in the Pie in the Sky bakery back in Karachi, Pakistan.
Natalie Dias Lorenzi is a teacher, librarian, mother, wife and traveler. She has lived in seven US states, and in Germany, Italy and Japan, and traveled to more places than she can count (and she can count pretty high). Like Skye and Hiroshi, the main characters in her debut middle grade novel Flying the Dragon, Natalie knows what it's like to make a complete fool of herself in another language. That said, she highly recommends the technique of throwing yourself into a new language, even if you're not ready. Visit Natalie at www.nataliediaslorenzi.com (no passport required). Website / Facebook / Twitter
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