Welcome, Readers!

The contest Save the Picture Book has ended. Telling people about funny, informative, beautiful, or generally awesome picture books continues. I also share middle grade books, book apps, and educational apps that my kids and I like.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kid Reviews: The Babe & I

Mrs. Jocelyn Rowan of Gladden Elementary in Belton, Mo. sent in student reviews of The Babe & I, by David Adler, ill. by Terry Widener.

This book always brings a tear to my eye, and I'm glad the boys chose it to review.

By Ryan, 6:

By Dylan, 7:

Great job, boys! You have a couple new baseball picture books coming your way!

Monday, September 26, 2011

September: Save Baseball! (and the Picture Book)

I'm re-posting the info for September. There's still a little time to win picture books by writing reviews of baseball books.

This month's printable flyer, below, tells how your children or students can:

1. Read picture books.
2. Write and draw reviews.
3. Win picture books for your home or classroom.

This month, we'll be featuring baseball books for all ages. Some tell a story about the game, some tell a story about our history, and some are just plain fun. The sport simply lends itself to great stories.

Please note the many nonfiction books this month. Nonfiction picture books are a great way for students to learn about history and other subjects. They're fun to read and easy to remember because of the pictures!

Now...play ball!


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Babe and Jackie Mitchell

Kids are fascinated by the Babe. He has the nickname. The baby face. The curse. Not to mention the legacy. He has inspired both picture book biographies and picture books in which he is a supporting character. Here is one about him...and one about the woman who struck him out.

Home Run by Robert Burleigh, ill. by Mike Wimmer (Harcourt, 1998)

I read the main text of this story to my son before school one day, and the supporting facts (written on baseball card insets) later. I loved this set up. It let us get a feel for the pace of the book, which both spans Ruth's lifetime and describes one at-bat. It also let us take in the art, which we loved. There is a shot of the fans that is just priceless.

At the same time, the insets provided those meaty facts that my boys and I love: how he held his bat so low that his hand cradled the bottom of the bat, and that he ate a dozen eggs and half a loaf of bread for breakfast (a fact I now like to repeat randomly to friends and family.)

This book beautifully sums up Babe's batting style and baseball career.

Of course, the great thing about baseball is that no team and no player is invincible. Sometimes, the underdog takes the cake. You could argue that the underdog is the whole reason the game is played. This relatively unknown player would certainly have been an underdog when pitching to the Babe.

Mighty Jackie, the Strikeout Queen by Marissa Moss, ill. by C.F. Payne (Simon & Schuster, 2004.)

Jackie Mitchell played for the Chattanooga Lookouts. During an exhibition game, she pitched to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Babe had said girls were "too delicate" to play baseball. And yet, Jackie struck out both men. Unfortunately, Major League baseball did deem baseball too strenuous for women, and her contract was voided the next day. But her legacy was not. For every Jackie, women's sports have moved forward a little.

Mitchell's character is drawn well, both in the words and illustrations. Her toughness is nicely juxtaposed with the notion that women are "delicate." Did anyone really believe that, I wonder? We were just as resilient and hard working then as we are now, and our toughness was just as stone cold.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two by Matt Tavares

Parents and teachers, please see post below for a printable Save Everything! (and the Picture Book) flyer. Kids can write reviews of baseball picture books and win books and other fun stuff for your home or classroom.

This week, we feature two very different baseball picture books written and illustrated by Matt Tavares. One is about a specific moment in baseball lore. The other spans a lifetime. We'll start with Henry Aaron's Dream (Candlewick, 2010.)

This picture book for older children tells the life story of Henry Aaron. Kids will enjoy hearing how he used a broomstick and bottle cap to play ball. They'll be interested to read that he and his friends gathered every day at the only public baseball diamond in Mobile open to blacks.

In reading Aaron's story, they'll see Jackie Robinson's career through the younger Aaron's eyes. (Aaron was 13 when Robinson played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black player in Major League Baseball.) They'll also learn that integration in baseball took more than one player and one game. The South Atlantic League integrated later, and even when Aaron played, the stands were segregated. Sadly, Aaron endured the same hatred Robinson faced much earlier. The book includes the n-word to show the despicable treatment of black players by white fans.

Aaron is an inspiring figure, and kids will be inspired by the pursuit and achievement of his dream. Henry Aaron's Dream a great example of how baseball picture books not only tell the story of our nation's pastime, but also of our nation.

In contrast, Mudball, also by Matt Tavares (Candlewick, 2005,) tells the legend of the shortest hit home run ever. In 1903, Andy Oyler of the Minneapolis Millers, is a short player with a long batting slump. Then, during a rainy game, he hits the ball, and it gets lost in the mud as he circles the bases.

Kids will like reading about this underdog player and the moment he went down in history. Baseball may be more than a game, but it also IS a game, and sometimes funny stuff happens during it!

Tavares' There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived comes out February, 2012.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Baseball Picture Books: Bats, Kids & Dinos!

Most of September's Save the Picture Book! books are nonfiction, and I love that. I love it, first, because I think kids love nonfiction, and second because baseball picture books open so many windows to American History. I toyed with the idea of having all the books be nonfiction. The only problem is, some of my favorite baseball picture books are fiction. Here are just a few. They might be your favorites, too.

Teachers, if your students love baseball books, please see the post below for a printable flyer on how kids can read baseball picture books, write reviews, and win picture books and other fun stuff for your classroom.

First up, Dino-Baseball by Lisa Wheeler, ill. by Barry Gott (Lerner, 2010)

I love this series of carnivores vs. herbivores playing popular modern day sports. And if you've been watching Dinosaur Revolution, you know that carnis vs. herbis is a fair fight. The diplodocus' tail is a deadly, deadly weapon. That being said, they don't fight. They just play baseball. Lots of fun!

Baseball Hour, by Carol Nevius, ill. by Bill Thompson.

At a wedding this weekend, a friend who teaches Parents as Teachers (an in-home program for parents as first educators) said she'd like to see more rhyming books about topics young children encounter in their day to day life. And she'd like them to be illustrated with photos. She was talking about babies, specifically. I think this book does the same for older children. It's fun for kids to see kids doing the same things they do, particularly when those children are illustrated by Bill Thompson. I believe his style is called photorealism, but many of you know much more about art than I do. I do know that he is one of my favorite children's book illustrators. I love watching the children in his books come alive, and his lighting looks even more realistic than real life.

Bats at the Ballgame, written and ill. by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin, 2010.)

This book is a follow up to Bats at the Library, which is kind of surprising given that bats playing baseball is so perfect. Lies has some nice plays on words regarding the baseball bats. The lighting is so incredible in this book, too. Any kid who's played with his friends or had a game run until sundown will recognize the dark stillness and scattered light of the field. My third grader loves the illustrations and reads the book again and again at school. A third grader still reading picture books? Home run in my book.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story.

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story
By Audrey Vernick, ill. by Don Tate
HarperCollins, 2010

Rising picture book star Audrey Vernick aptly autographed this book: "Do what you love and love what you do."

Effa Manley truly loved baseball. And she had an incredible impact on the game. She managed and owned the Brooklyn Eagles, demanded that Negro League teams be paid for trades when the major leagues integrated, and convinced the National Baseball Hall of Fame to induct Negro League players.

She's an inspiring person whose work is done mostly off the field. I've never seen a picture book about the business side of a sport. She Loved Baseball shows Effa leading her team (and league) off the field while keeping the excitement of the game front and center. It's beautifully illustrated by Don Tate.

See the post below to learn how your students can read baseball picture books like this one, review it, and win books (including the autographed copy) for your classroom.