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Tony Rossi

Radio Host/Producer

Rising Above the Win-At-All-Costs Culture

Two-time Christopher Award-winning author Joan Bauer believes that books are “weapons of mass instruction,” especially for the pre-teen and teen audiences for which she writes. Her latest novel, “Soar,” fits the bill by delivering an entertaining story about our win-at-all-costs culture, while also exploring themes of adoption and autism.

                It seems a cruel twist of fate that a boy who loves baseball can’t play the game because of a medical condition, but that’s the case with 12-year-old Jeremiah Lopper in “Soar.” While he feels blessed to be alive after undergoing heart transplant surgery at age 10, he can’t help but mourn the loss of his dream of playing baseball. Bauer, however, never lets her heroes wallow in self-pity because she knows it’s a dead end. Instead, dreams are adjusted and new roads (or base paths) are traveled, highlighting the idea that we can still find fulfillment even when life doesn’t go as planned. 

For Jeremiah, that new dream involves becoming a coach for a makeshift middle school baseball team in a town tainted by a steroid scandal. During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, Bauer explained, “I think we parents have to take our power back and remember how effective a strong role model can be. And that role model needs to be us!...People have become addicted to winning. Even Little League coaches are acting out of control, and parents are screaming at umpires from the stands. In my opinion, we [need to] step back and say, ‘This is not who we are. Sports is not war.’ We need to teach our kids [about good behavior] the way our parents taught us.”

“Soar” is also notable in the relationship it depicts between an adoptive father and son. Jeremiah was abandoned as a baby in the snack room of the computer company where Walt Lopper worked. The note the mother left with the baby indicated that she wanted Walt to find him because she knew he was a good man. Her judgment proved wise because Jeremiah couldn't have asked for a more caring dad than Walt. Bauer explains, “I believe caring for a person is trying to see who God made them, and then caring enough to want to move alongside and say, ‘I want to help whatever is inside you to come out, to see the beauty that can come through so many different kinds of experiences.’...[Walt] sees that muscle in Jeremiah of hope and determination and inspiration and wanting to help other people - and he keeps working that.”

While "Soar’s" focus is on Jeremiah, there’s another character who plays a major part in the story: Benny, who is on the autism spectrum but comes to be an important part of Jeremiah’s staff. Bauer said, “I have a friend who has a severely autistic [daughter], now a young woman. To watch her find the gifts in her child and fight for those has been an amazing experience. I spoke with her about this book. I spoke with a lot of teachers [and] therapists...Benny was this amazing voice that talked about the beauty of being positive and being loving.”

In conclusion, Bauer notes that she lets her characters “soar” because of the words from Isaiah 40:31. Though they don’t appear in the book, they were written across her heart while she worked on the story: “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary.”

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, HOW SPORTS CAN HELP YOU WIN AT LIFE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org