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SideLines: A good read by a local author

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 10:09 a.m. CST

I don’t read a lot of teen books.

A few years ago I tried reading the Harry Potter books, but couldn’t get past the first couple of chapters.

Last month, I got an email from a DeKalb man asking me to review his first novel. I always hesitate when I get such a request. About the only time I review books is in early December, when I go over some books that publishers have sent me throughout the year. I really only do that if I think a book might make a nice Christmas present.

I have seen a few, let’s just say, interesting books over the years from local authors. An X-rated science fiction caper springs to mind. On the other hand, there was a book about Santa’s Village a few years ago which I enjoyed a great deal. So you never know.

I just don’t want to offend or discourage anyone if I’m not crazy about their book. I’m not a certified critic, only some guy who writes a weekly newspaper column.

But I’m going to make an exception here. To be honest, I enjoyed “Digging for Home” by DeKalb native Jimmy Ball more than I thought I would.

Told through the eyes of 12-year-old Benjamin Davies, it is primarily a coming-of-age story that takes place one fateful summer in the 1970s. At the heart of the book is the rescue of a dog named Digger, who then inadvertently rescues the family. Digger doesn’t do it in a dramatic, Lassie-sort of way, but by just being himself.

“In less than 60 seconds,” Ball writes at one point, “Digger had managed to do something that a week’s worth of medication, professional counseling and well-wishes from friends and family couldn’t achieve – putting a smile back on Mom’s face.”

Other themes include loss, small towns, an act or two of heroism, doing chores, dealing with little brothers, discovering why neighborhood bullies act the way they do and even a cute little case of puppy love.

What surprises me most is that Ball, a retired postal worker, had never written anything before this. Although there are a couple of cliches, “Digging for Home” is a pretty well-written book with believable characters put through a series of humorous and tragic events.

The paperback costs $11.99 and can be found on Amazon.com and in local bookstores. An official book launch will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. April 20 at the Carriage House behind the Ellwood Museum. There will be a short program with a video from TAILS.

Another novel aimed at middle school children by a local author, “The Mystery of Marek Manor” by Kerri Cullen Sosnowski of Genoa, sounds intriguing. A ghost mystery, it’s the first in a trilogy about a family moving into a mysterious old farmhouse that was once a funeral home. Sounds perfect for Halloween.

The book is available on Amazon and costs $8 for paperback and $2.99 for e-book.

I haven’t yet, but I’ll have to read that one, too.

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