Friday, July 16, 2010

Inexplicable Book Review: The Angel Park All-Stars (because Mormons write sweet books)

Over on the swell Literary Crap by Alison, I lamented about her recent post on The Babysitter's Club. See, as a teenage boy, I didn't really have an equivalent series to read. Except for a notable exception, most books fell into one of two categories:

1) Fantasy series that didn't have people living in the present day. I loved The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander and the Star Wars follow-up trilogy by Tim Zahn, liked The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and sludged through the archaic writing of J.R.R. Tolkien. However, while all of them had some teens and younger characters, none of them were set in the present and dealt with real issues.

2) Detective books or mysteries with loose continuity between books. Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys and R.L. Stine, I'm looking in your direction on this, and I imagine Nancy Drew had the same thing going on, although I never really read her. I like a detective story as much as anyone, but it wasn't really the same thing as a continuous series with the same characters.

The one thing I read that didn't really fall into either category was The Angel Park All-Stars, a series of fiction books about a Little League in California. I got my hands on the first installment when I was about 10, which was the perfect time for me to read about hot-shot rookie Kenny Sandoval, the new star shortstop of the team, despite his modesty.

Kenny's dad was a patient, former Major League Baseball player, and he made the team with his two best friends... who's name I can't remember. Uh, one was a big clumsy kid who played first base, and the other was a pesky little runt who didn't hit much and mostly sat the bench and played outfield. (In reflection, I could commiserate with all of them: I started my Little League career as a shitty outfielder, becoming a Doug Mientkiewicz-type first baseman, and then, oddly, moving to shortstop and second base my final year.) Some of the other players had better nicknames, like "Burner" Bunson, the hot-tempered fastball pitcher, and Jimmy "Running" Waters, nicknamed so because he always had to go to the bathroom.

The series starts with the boys making the team, and follows them as they win some games in the Little League all-star league they were apparently in. I'm guessing this was some sort of thing that happens when you live in an actual city - Once our Little League season was over in May or June, you were lucky if you played more than a couple All-Star games. Of course, they're pretty successful as a team, because otherwise how do you have a 14-book series?

Which brings me to a problem I had with it - The books were hard to find! I bought the first three when I was at a bookstore with my Aunt Maureen, if I recall correctly; she would bring me to them, since we both loved to read. I was able to get another couple from the library system, but even they only had about nine books of the series, and they weren't all sequential. To this day, I haven't read all 14, and I haven't read any of the spin-off series, Football Stars and Hoop Stars. Even eBay surprisingly doesn't have people offering all 14 books for sale, just scattered one to three book packages. There are only two copies of #14 for sale, for $7.63 and $55.48. ack!

Also, in researching this series, apparently author Dean Hughes is a big-time Mormon. His official website is either dead or down right now, but I picture him living the clean life with a super hot wife in Utah, laughing his way to the bank as he lives off his Angel Park All-Stars money, and caring naught that millions of young boys across the United States have only read a portion of his saga.

(Dear Dean, if you're reading this... Send me the entire series and all will be forgiven. Promise, buddy, pal. All pictures for this entry from Amazon listings.)


  1. Never even heard of that series. Go Mormon man. Rock out with your scripture out.

  2. haha Amanda. Yeah, they're not whoring and thieving, so I guess they have the time leftover to make lots of babies, have multiple wives and write children's literature. There are worse gigs out there.

  3. 'Hey, that's me! Huh.' Alison thought when she saw the first few lines of this post on her blog feed.

    I actually went to a new-to-me used bookstore this week and kept my eyes no avail. They did have about forty or fifty BSC books, though. I want to read about this Burner Bunsen and Running Waters, now!

  4. Alison, we could do a book swap if I can find my copy of the first one - An Angel Park All-Stars for a Babysitter's Club, and then post a dual entry on our respective blogs. Consider it a challenge!

  5. See, I always could find them - I think I've got a pile of them at home somewhere. They branched out into other sports, too, to be more inclusive.

  6. Matt, I bet it's a regional thing. I think the writer is from the West Coast, judging from the setting, so I imagine the series wasn't popular enough for an East Coast saturation. Meanwhile, all y'all cool West Coast and Midwest kids got plenty of copies.

  7. Even as an avid reader as a kid, I never did come across Angel Park All-Stars. Now I sort of feel that I was missing out. Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boy's were staples at my grandma's house. Good memories for sure!

  8. Empress, they don't really hold up so well - They mostly appeal to boys, because of their content. But yeah, one or two could be interesting for you to check out!

  9. Never heard of it but i'm glad guys had a sort-of equivalent of the Babysitters Club! :)

  10. Thanks, P! It has clearly made me the man I am today.

  11. Those books look totally familar!! I don't think I read them though. I will have to ask my brother. I doubt he read them but he might've owned them.

  12. I was trying to remember the name of the series so I was googling random terms and hit this blog. Read all these books multiple times growing up. Still remember most of the stories... especially when that douchebag Jonathan moved to town. "My Dad told me it ain't braggin if you can back it up". Actual quote.

  13. @ Anonymous - To reply to this way, wayyyy after the fact, I actually did have someone reach out to me and sold me the whole series. Jonathan is pretty much the worst, I agree.

  14. Way late to this discussion, but I really enjoyed your take on this series. I had books 6 and 7 and always wondered how the rest of the story went, but likewise had trouble finding any other books. Incidentally, I also had a couple of the spin-off books, but they were soccer-themed.

    1. Ha, don't worry - It's not like I do a very prudent job of keeping up with the comments...


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