Title: Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!
Author: Sarah Kapit
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 2020
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! is a story told through letters (also called an epistolary story – something I just learned!) between 11-year-old Vivy and her baseball hero, VJ Capello. In terms of diversity, Vivy is on the autism spectrum and VJ is black. This creates challenges for them both but what really bonds them is their mutual love of the knuckleball.
When Vivy gets a chance to play on her first real baseball team – after years of watching her older brother play and practicing with him in their backyard – she encounters bullying from the coach’s son and lack of support from her mother (especially after she gets a concussion from being hit by the ball). She gets encouragement and support from the coach, the catcher on the team, and her dad… but not so much her brother, who’s dealing with a totally different “coming of age” experience. And then of course there’s VJ, who responds to her letters with advice, shares his own experiences, and even gets into an argument with Vivy after pushing her to take action.
What I really liked about this book is how Sarah Kapit invites readers into Vivy’s head through her letters to VJ. You get a sense of how Vivy’s autism affects her but it’s not presented so much as a difference but as a reality. After all, someone with autism doesn’t know what it’s like to be someone without autism so why would they explain things through that lens? Vivy talks about flapping her arms the same way she talks about wiping sweat off her brow; just a normal thing for her to do.
Baseball is not really the focus of Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! but there are enough scenes on the field and bits of knuckleball trivia to satisfy sports fans.The true strength of this story is Vivy’s resilience as the only girl on a team, persevering through injuries and bullying to do what she loves.