Book Review

A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner

Genre | Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction
Page #s | 274
Publishing Date | February 2020

A heartfelt and relatable novel from Phil Bildner, weaving the real history of Los Angeles Dodger and Oakland Athletic Glenn Burke–the first professional baseball player to come out as gay–into the story of a middle-school kid learning to be himself.

When sixth grader Silas Wade does a school presentation on former Major Leaguer Glenn Burke, it’s more than just a report about the irrepressible inventor of the high five. Burke was a gay baseball player in the 1970s–and for Silas, the presentation is his own first baby step toward revealing a truth about himself he’s tired of hiding. Soon he tells his best friend, Zoey, but the longer he keeps his secret from his baseball teammates, the more he suspects they know something’s up–especially when he stages one big cover-up with terrible consequences.

A High Five for Glenn Burke is Phil Bildner’s most personal novel yet–a powerful story about the challenge of being true to yourself, especially when not everyone feels you belong on the field.

Goodreads

A High Five for Glenn Burke is a sweet story about a sweet kid starting his journey toward accepting his sexuality and coming out to those closest to him. And baseball. I was more interested in one of these things.

Silas is obsessed with baseball, both playing on his team, the Renegades, and researching baseball history. He is especially interested in Glenn Burke, an African American baseball player who lost everything when he came out as gay. He also invented the high five, which is the only part of Burke’s story that Silas shares in a school speech. Nevertheless, he is simultaneously proud of himself and deathly afraid that someone will realize he talked about a person who was gay. This is a piece of the coming-out narrative that I had never seen represented before, but immediately recognized.

Silas comes out to his best friend Zoey and Coach Webb. They are supportive, and it was nice to see the difference of support available from a peer vs. an adult authority figure. Silas is a lucky kid surrounded by supportive people, but he’s still terrified of coming out, which is a story I think we will see a lot during this in-between cultural moment where homosexuality is becoming more accepted…but you never know for sure.

This was a nice little middle grade book that captures a lot of the young queer experience alongside just, so much baseball. You are forewarned!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

It would be perfect for a queer middle schooler who loves baseball. If that is too specific, I think any queer middle schooler would relate to Silas’s passion and fear.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Find more books nominated for Lambda Literary Awards reviewed here.

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