Silence in Center by Jody Studdard is a heartwarming addition to the Softball Star series.
Melody Gold is a fourteen-year-old fastpitch player who wants to advance from Little League to select ball. The problem is finding a team that will let her play. She’s talented, but Melody has a hearing impairment. She can hear with her hearing aids and she wears them during games, but many coaches say it just won’t work out. Melody’s not a quitter and she’s determined to prove that she can play at the highest level.
Young readers who love inspirational sports stories will like this book. Those who enjoy softball will cheer for Silence in Center. Melody is a typical teenager: awkward, timid, ambitious, and plagued with self-doubt. And she also has a hearing impairment. Her impairment is a part of her, but it doesn’t define her and the author should be applauded for making this distinction. Studdard shows the discrimination that Melody encounters, but he also proves that she’s a capable softball player and a wonderful teammate. This is a fantastic message for everyone. Discrimination of any kind is odious and one of the keys to battling prejudice is education. Not all of us know someone with a hearing impairment, but all of us know someone who is slightly different.
However, this doesn’t mean that this book is only about Melody’s hearing impairment. It’s about Melody and her team’s quest to win a trophy. When Melody joins the Skyhawks she’s the newbie. Of course not all of the players are accepting at first. It’s not about her impairment, it’s because she hasn’t proven herself as a player yet. This happens to most rookies on teams and it adds tension to the story. At one point, most readers have been or currently are the new kid at school, on a team, or in a social group. It’s part of growing up. Many readers will be able to relate to the pressure Melody is under. This ability to relate to Melody helps readers see her for what she is, a fourteen-year-old girl with a dream.
And there’s a bit of romance. Today’s social media and reality television world focuses on shocking scenarios to gain attention. Silence in Center doesn’t. It’s wholesome, including the budding romance. In her excitement, Melody shares details of the dates via texts to her teammates. And the responses are cute and they don’t place pressure on Melody to take the relationship to uncomfortable levels way too soon. Parents will appreciate how the author handles subject matters with honesty, but minus the cheap tricks to keep young readers engaged.
One interesting aspect of this novel is most of the time only dads attend the games and road trips. Is this a new phenomenon? Do mothers no longer attend sporting events? It’s wonderful that fathers are so involved, but it’s hard not to wonder where all the moms are and the story behind their absences.
Silence in Center is an uplifting and relatable story that will win over many young sports enthusiasts.