It is the morning of July 4, 1946. World War II is over and things are starting to get back to normal. Eleven-year-old Norm Schmidt and his friend, Leon, are making plans to set off fireworks that night. Since fireworks haven’t been allowed all through the war because of the blackouts, this will be a big occasion. Meanwhile, the day is dragging because Norm has to work in his father’s meat market. While grinding meat for hamburgers, Norm lets his attention wander, and suddenly realizes his hand is caught in the grinder. From that point on, Norm’s life will never be the same.
Though this sounds like a grim opening, the book is upbeat, dealing with Norm’s determination to be independent in spite of the loss of his left hand. His main goal is to learn to play baseball again, even though Leon and Norm's family don’t think he’ll succeed. The book takes Norm through one year following the accident, showing how his gutsy optimism and sense of humor see him though the ups and downs of learning to live with only one hand.
Texas Bluebonnet Master List (2008-2009)
“A strong sense of purpose, leavened by generous doses of humor and post-World War II period detail, drives this story of a resilient middle-grader who demonstrates that having one hand is an opportunity rather than a handicap . . . Loosely based on childhood experiences of the author's husband, this story offers both inspiration and useful information, deftly wrapped in an engaging narrative.” -- Booklist
“Norm's story is sad, funny, and inspiring but never overly sentimental as he stubbornly refuses to let anything stop him. A home run of a story inspired by the life of the author's husband who lost his left hand and went on to excel at sports and to become a graphic artist and illustrator.” – Children’s Literature
"Set just after the end of World War II, Auch's novel is a heartwarming story of family and friendship. There are no surprises here, just quality writing and a protagonist who will inspire readers and convince them that handicaps are limitations only if you let them be." -- Voya
"Norm, based on the life of the author's husband, is a hero, but not a saint. Auch handles his emotions and those of his family and friends believably and never patronizes her characters or her readers by becoming maudlin. Moving and thought-provoking." -- Kirkus Reviews
The inspiration for One-handed Catch
The story is loosely based on Herm Auch’s childhood accident when he lost his hand while working in his father's store. The methods Norm uses to sharpen his baseball strategy are the same ones Herm figured out as a child. Herm's mother, Louise Auch encouraged him to do everything for himself, which set him up for success in life. Herm went on to excel in many sports -- bicycle racing, baseball, football, track, golf, and tennis. Like Norm, he had a childhood dream of becoming an artist. Herm was a newspaper graphic artist for forty years, before retiring in 2000 to start his new career as a children’s book illustrator.