Monday, April 6, 2009

Play Ball!

To celebrate Major League baseball's opening day, I've got a lineup of some of my favorite baseball books new and old. My most recent discovery is B is for Baseball: Running the Bases from A to Z. The text of this wonderful ABC book is written by Sara Gillingham. It is much better than your run of the mill alphabet book. B is for Baseball is an interesting primer on the game incorporating original artwork and archival photos to present rules, history, and trivia. I think it would appeal to a wide range of ages, from about four to nine or ten. So would Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man, a gorgeous and inspiring picture book written by David Adler and illustrated by Terry Widener. That duo has the Midas touch. Their books on Gertrude Ederle and Joe Louis are equally good at combining great stories with American history and fantastic artwork.
Another inspiring baseball book is We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. Kadir Nelson's words and paintings have created a compelling experience in this book. I don't know what audience to say this book is for. Clearly it is a picture book, but I can't imagine an adult who wouldn't be riveted by the artwork and story. Kadir Nelson paints a picture of the dignity, heroism, and athleticism of the players of the league and presents the history of segregation for his readers. The title comes from a quote by Rube Foster, the founder of the National Negro League, "We are the ship; all else the sea."
Since we're on the topic of American history, I have to mention an old favorite of mine that I used when teaching high school students about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. It is Baseball Saved Us written by Ken Mochizuki and illustrated by Dom Lee. It begins, "One day, my dad looked out at the endless desert and decided then and there to build a baseball field." It is a very different field of dreams; one of stolen dreams actually. This book always provided me a solid "in" to discussing the internment camps before we started reading heavier, more adult writing about it.
Last on deck is a new piece of baseball fiction, Six Innings, by James Preller, author of the beloved Jigsaw Jones books. Six Innings, a well written, character driven baseball story, is written for readers a bit older than Jigsaw Jones fans. I would say it is best for baseball fans between the ages of nine and thirteen. It tells the story of a championship game between two Little League teams and the backstory about the players as well.
It's officially baseball season and you should be out there watching a game, playing in one, or just having a catch outside, but if rain should cancel those activities, I recommend checking out any or all of these baseball books.


The Stiletto Mom said...

We love baseball around son and my husband just went to opening day. It's an annual tradition started when he was 4 mos old...he is now 10 and it is such a special day for them!

I've added you to my blogroll! Thanks so much for commenting!

Ryan said...

My all time favorite baseball book was "Treasure at First Base." I read it when I was 8 or 9 and then lost it as I got older. I don't even remember who wrote it, but it was a fantastic book about kids who put together their own baseball team when their older brothers won't allow them to play ball together. Of course the two teams end up playing against each other at the end of the book.

Man, I wish I still had that book!