________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 3 . . . . September 16, 2011


Saving Arm Pit.

Natalie Hyde.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011.
136 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55455-151-4.

Subject Headings:
Baseball-Juvenile fiction.
Community life-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Ellen Wu.

*** /4



I looked from face to face. What was wrong with them? Didn’t they know what was at stake here? Didn’t they understand that we were on the verge of losing everything?

“That’s it?” I said. “You’re all okay with Coach Blackmore leaving? You’re not going to do anything?”

“What do you want us to do, Clay? You know what they say,” said Tom. “You can’t fight Canada Post.”

“I thought the saying was, ‘You can’t fight City Hall’?” Sophie asked.

“Yeah, well, we don’t have a City Hall anymore, remember,” Tom said, gloomily.

It was like they had already given up already. Well, I wasn’t about to sit back and just let some big shots come in and wipe out our post office, not to mention our baseball team.

Clay lives in the small Ontario town of Harmony Point, just beyond the bluffs from the big city of Holmesville. Their city hall has been absorbed by Holmesville, their city sign has been defaced from “Harmony Point” to “Armpit,” and their Little League baseball team, the Harmony Point Terriers, is at the bottom of the league, never once winning a game. They don’t even have matching uniforms, and other teams openly heckle them.

      Change is just around the corner, though, as their old coach moves away, and their long standing postmistress retires. To replace both posts is an outsider, Mr. Blackmore, who brings optimism, baseball smarts, and the encouragement the team needs to get better and better. The Terriers have just tasted their first tie, then their first win, but receive bad news: their town is so small that Canada Post has decided to shut down their post office! Another blow to Harmony Point. That means no more Mr. Blackmore. And if he goes, so will yet another town member: Ms. Apfelbaum, their key supplier of Danishes and cakes, with whom Mr. Blackmore’s fallen in love.

      Clay’s not going to let out of town bigwigs take away more of their town spirit, and just as importantly, Harmony Point’s citizens, so he devises a plan with his best friend Scott, Sophie, Brewster, the twins Tim and Tom, to boost up mail traffic to their town. They want to put the post office under a deluge of incoming mail before more of their town’s identity is stripped away. In between long practices and gruelling matches, Clay’s summer of amassing mail becomes one of the most important in his life. Will their team’s efforts on and off the pitch be enough to save their team’s dignity? And their town’s mail office?

      Saving Arm Pit has a nostalgic charm and a gentle goodwill and humour reminiscent of a bygone era, even as it deals with concerns strongly entrenched in the present. Natalie Hyde captures the small town flavour of the setting spot on. The plot does not have an antagonist in the form of a person. Instead, the key threat to the town’s livelihood is the big city, leaching away talent, business and people away from Harmony Point. Hyde tackles this more serious issue with a light touch, not vilifying the big city, but still showing its devastating effects on the town. While Clay is not a particularly unique character, the point is not so much that one character in the book stands out, but that the townsfolk create one community and one entity with passions and talents that make Harmony Point what it is a caring, tight knit community.

     Saving Arm Pit is a heartwarming story, with funny extra textual components in between the chapters in the form of mail or email correspondence that the kids solicit (fudge recipes, summer camp advertisements, heritage organizations’ emails). There’s also plenty of action and sports lingo on the baseball diamond to draw in a young readership who loves or could be interested in baseball (with a glossary of sports terms at the back, which helped me immensely). The only unfortunate barrier to kids cracking the book open is perhaps the cover which looks distinctly amateurish, with not the most attractive illustrations. If readers can get beyond the ugly cover (and here’s hoping they will), they will find a story with both heart and humour a home run of a tale.


Mark Ellen Wu holds a MFA in children’s literature and will be completing her MLIS from the University of British Columbia this December.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.