Being an orphan is no easy feat. In the book Heat by Mike Lupica, Michael, the main character, and his brother, Carlos, are orphans. They have to lie about the fact that their parents are dead, because if the truth were found out, they might have to live with separate foster families. And that is only one of their problems as other Little League baseball coaches see how good Michael is and think he is too good for his age. When asked to produce a birth certificate left in Havana, his hometown, to prove that he is 12, he is unable to retrieve it and is forced to sit on the sidelines. Luckily, Michael and his friend, Manny, are ultimately able to solve the problem with some clever acting and help from their companions.
With Michael’s mom’s early death from cancer, the loss of his father was a heavy blow for Michael. Michael’s father, Victor Arroyo, died from a heart attack when trying to protect someone. However, the only people that know this (at first) are Michael, Carlos, Mrs. Cora, and Manny. They have to keep it a secret because, if the truth about Michael’s parents is discovered, he might have to be separated from Carlos if they are sent to live with different foster families. So, he tells everyone the lie that his father is in Florida visiting his nonexistent sick uncle. And that’s only part of what Michael has to face. Although Michael’s loss of his father was indeed very devastating, his loss of the privilege to play Little League baseball took an even heavier toll on him. With no means to prove that he was eligible to play in Little League baseball concerning age – no birth certificate, no nothing – Michael is forced to sit out of multiple baseball games, the best he can do to get involved being coaching his teammates. Fortunately, with the help of a few friends, Michael and Carlos finally dig their way out of this mess.
With the help of Uncle Timo, Ellie, and El Grande, the tide finally begins to turn in Michael’s favor. Uncle Timo is Manny’s uncle, and has played minor parts in Broadway shows and other plays, so Manny thinks he can play the role of Michael’s dad to fool Social Services and to prevent Michael and Carlos from being separated. However, when Michael first meets Uncle Timo, he says that he sounds even more American than the Yankee announcers, which isn’t good for Michael since his father is Cuban. Miraculously, the next time Uncle Timo comes, which is when they meet with Social Services, he looks exactly like Victor Arroyo and does a nearly flawless imitation of him. With the problem concerning his parents solved, Michael now needs to focus on finding his birth certificate.
One person from Social Services, Mr. Gibbs, wants to help Michael find his birth certificate. However, he already tried calling the officials in Havana, and none of them seem to have Michael’s birth certificate. But right when Michael is about to give up, someone unexpected shows up with his birth certificate: El Grande, a famous baseball player on the Yankees. His daughter, Ellie, befriended Michael, but Michael had never thought El Grande would know where to get his birth certificate. Michael and Carlos could not have pulled through on their own, but fortunately, his friends were there to help.
Without his friends, Michael’s future would’ve been compromised, with the possibility of being separated from his brother and never being able to play baseball again. Luckily, his companions were there for him when he needed them, and didn’t let him down. As it goes, “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the work walks out.” – Walker Winchell.
Heat by Mike Lupica. Scholastic, 2007. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!