Bildner, Phil. High Five for Glenn Burke. Fiction. Farrar, 02/2020. 278pp. $16.99. 978-0-374-31273-2. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 4-8.
Silas Walker, a self-described “white, floppy-haired, and skinny as a rail” sixth grader, feels as though he has taken a huge step toward coming out when he does a class report on Glenn Burke, a 1970s gay, black baseball player who invented the “high five” and was eventually forced out of the Major Leagues because he was gay. Though Silas doesn’t mention in his presentation that Burke was homosexual, he still feels a sense of accomplishment and is then empowered to come out to his best friend, Zoey, and eventually to an adult coach on his diverse baseball team who scolds the players for using racist and homophobic language. Despite an underdeveloped plotline involving Silas’s sister who is presumed to be on the autism spectrum, Silas’s often anguishing journey toward coming out is thoroughly explored, with Silas jeopardizing his friendship with Zoey when, to save face, he tells some teammates that she is his girlfriend; fortunately, he is able to find support in coming out stories he searches for on YouTube. That Silas, while gay, is super into baseball and actually really good at it is refreshing and provides a stark contrast to his paralyzing fear that people will find out he is gay. By the end of the novel, Silas still has only told two people, and not even anyone in his family, but more importantly, he has figured out that one should come out on their own terms, should always show passion and energy for everything they do, and always be authentic, following the motto: “you be you.” Review based on an ARC.
Eric Barbus, San Francisco Public Library