Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!

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Annotation: Eleven-year-old knuckleball pitcher Vivy Cohen, who has autism, becomes pen pals with her favorite Major League baseball player after writing a letter to him as an assignment for her social skills class.
Catalog Number: #211042
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 326 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-525-55418-1 Perma-Bound: 0-605-01727-1
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-525-55418-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-01727-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2019018644
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 5-8 For readers who love baseball and heartwarming realistic fiction, this new title from Kapit is a standout. Vivy is a girl with a passion for baseball; she wants to be a pitcher more than anything else. Her life changes when a baseball coach scouts her at the park playing with her brother. But Vivy's mother is concerned about her joining the team, mainly because she will be the only child with autism and the only girl. When Vivy's social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone, she chooses major league pitcher VJ Capello. Vivy and VJ correspond about everything and form a friendship that they both grow to need. Vivy is a heartwarming protagonist; her daily routines, struggles, and wishes will resonate with young readers who will be rooting for her from the first page. Kapit's portrayal of a girl with autism and a love for baseball feels authentic. The unique storytelling format of letters and emails will have even the most reluctant of readers turning the pages quickly. VERDICT A baseball story with heart for young readers of all genders, ages, and backgrounds. This is a must-have title for elementary and middle school libraries where realistic fiction is popular. Elizabeth Pelayo, St. Charles East High School, IL
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Eleven-year-old Vivy has been pitching knuckleballs ever since meeting her baseball hero, VJ Capello, at an Autism Foundation event. When a Little League coach sees her practicing, he recruits Vivy onto the team, but not everyone is as happy about that as she is. Her overprotective mother refuses to believe Vivy can handle being the only girl on a competitive baseball team, and the coach's son e team's star pitcher llies her mercilessly. Vivy's roller-coaster journey through the season is related exclusively through a series of letters, as what begins as fan mail to Capello becomes a regular correspondence between the young girl and the renowned pitcher. While the epistolary form stretches the bounds of believability vy's messages are more first-person prose narrative than letter e story is so undeniably charming, the sports so exciting, and the protagonist so sympathetic that readers will get sucked in. Kapit's debut is an exceedingly rare nVoices account of an autistic girl ntered on that character at gives a clear, authentic, and universally relatable representation of autism while still telling a positive, upbeat, feel-good story about a girl's fight to play the game she loves. Vivy's Jewish background, gay brother, and Latinx best friend bring an intersectionality to the novel that only adds to its appeal. A must for all collections.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (3/1/20)
School Library Journal Starred Review (1/1/20)
Word Count: 57,091
Reading Level: 4.6
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.6 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 509799 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 650L

February 10

Dear Vincent James Capello,

Hi! I'm Vivian Jane Cohen--VJC, just like you. That's a sign of a connection between us, isn't it? I think so. But I don't go by VJ like you do. People just call me Vivy.

Well, that's not really important. The really important thing is this: I want to be a knuckleball pitcher when I grow up. Just like you. My mom says that's impossible because there's never been a girl in the major leagues. Still, someone has to be first, right? And I'd like it to be me. 

I don't know if it's actually possible, but my brother, Nate, says I throw a wicked knuckleball. He's on the varsity team as a catcher even though he's only a freshman in high school! That's really impressive, don't you think? So if Nate says my knuckleball is good, then it must be at least a little bit true.

The problem is, I've never pitched in a real game. I don't play for a team. And I don't know if I ever will.

But that's not a very happy subject to write about, and I want this letter to be happy. So now I'm going to talk about something else.

I bet you're wondering why I'm writing to you, out of all the bajillions of people in the world. Well, besides your general awesomeness, we actually know each other. Sort of. I met you three years ago, when you were still pitching in the minors. You probably don't remember, but for me, well, it was the most important day ever!

Here's what happened. My family and I went to a California Tornados game for this social thingy with the Autism Foundation. I didn't like the game--loud and boring, which means, not for me. The seat felt so sticky against my skin. I bounced up and down even though Mom kept telling me, "Sit still, Vivy!"

Then we went into the clubhouse to meet the players.

You weren't like the others. They talked to us in loud voices, which was pretty stupid because being autistic doesn't mean you can't hear anything. They used that funny voice teachers do sometimes, the one that needs to explaaain thiinnggs veeeeerrry sloooowllly. Not you.

You saw me wandering around in the back corner and came up to me with a big smile on your face. You tried talking to me, but I don't talk to strangers. 

I fought very, very hard against the urge to run. I wanted so much to get back to my own room, away from all the strangers and their big voices and stinky armpits.

That's when you pulled out a baseball and showed me your knuckleball grip--four fingers clenched into a fist. 

"The knuckleball is a very special pitch," you said. "It completely defies the laws of physics because it doesn't spin in the air like other pitches. Try it."

I didn't understand much about physics and stuff, but I liked the idea of throwing a super-special pitch. Except I didn't think it would be a very good idea to throw a baseball with all those people right there. "Now?" I asked.

You laughed. "Not in the clubhouse! But when you get home, will you give it a try?"

"Yes," I said.

You smiled. "I think you'll like it."

When I went home that night, I tried throwing the knuckleball for real. The first two pitches bounced into the grass. Then the third pitch sailed right over the backyard fence, so I lost the ball forever. Nate got really mad at me, because I borrowed it from him without asking. Oops. After that I asked Mom and Dad for my very own baseball. Even though it was hard, I knew I wanted to learn the pitch that defies the laws of physics. Your pitch.

Every day since then, I've practiced throwing the knuckleball. I'm not sure how many days that is, but it must be an awful lot. I can also throw a two-seam fastball, though it isn't exactly fast. But I guess no one says they throw a two-seam sort-of-but-not-really-fastball. Even if it is closer to the truth.

I wish so much I could pitch for a real team. Like in that movie where girls played baseball because all the boys were off fighting in World War II and stuff. But all that happened a really long time ago. In real life, girls don't play baseball. Especially not autistic ones. I've asked about it a million and three times, but Mom keeps saying I should play softball instead. No matter how many times I explain everything to her, she doesn't understand that it's harder to throw a knuckleball with a great big softball. 

And if I can't throw the knuckleball, I don't want to play. 

I'm writing to you because I need to write a letter to someone for my social skills group and I chose you. My dad says it's okay. He's a big fan of yours too. 

To be completely honest, I don't understand the point of this assignment because everyone in the whole world uses email. DUH. But when I mentioned this fact to Sandra, the counselor who runs the group, she just let out a sound that sounded very not-nice to my ears. "Just do what you're told, Vivy," she said.

Adults sure like saying that, don't they? And I want to be good, so I am doing what I'm told. Even though I don't entirely understand why I'm doing it.

Oh, sorry. You're probably not very interested in Sandra. Since you're a super-famous pitcher and all. I mean, you've been an All-Star twice, plus you won the Cy Young Award! You probably don't have time to read letters from eleven-year-old girls at all. But I wanted to try anyway. It took a really long time for me to find an address on the official team website. Someone should fix that, in my opinion. But I did find it and now I'm sending you a letter. Since we've met before, we're not strangers.

Also, pitchers and catchers report to spring training today and I wanted to wish you good luck. Not that YOU of all people need luck, of course, but I figured you're probably pretty down after what happened in the World Series last year. That must have been really hard. I know what it's like to mess things up.

I wanted to tell you that even after what happened, you still have lots of fans like me who are rooting for you. My dad says it's our year, and I think he's right.

Sincerely, Vivian Jane Cohen, also known as Vivy


P.S. Do you know why the knuckleball is called a knuckleball when you don't actually use your knuckles to throw it? Wouldn't it make more sense to call it a fingertipball?

Excerpted from Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

In this perfectly pitched novel-in-letters, autistic eleven-year-old Vivy Cohen won't let anything stop her from playing baseball--not when she has a major-league star as her pen pal.

Vivy Cohen is determined. She's had enough of playing catch in the park. She's ready to pitch for a real baseball team.

But Vivy's mom is worried about Vivy being the only girl on the team, and the only autistic kid. She wants Vivy to forget about pitching, but Vivy won't give up. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone, Vivy knows exactly who to choose: her hero, Major League pitcher VJ Capello. Then two amazing things happen: A coach sees Vivy's amazing knuckleball and invites her to join his team. And VJ starts writing back!

Now Vivy is a full-fledged pitcher, with a catcher as a new best friend and a steady stream of advice from VJ. But when a big accident puts her back on the bench, Vivy has to fight to stay on the team.

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