My son is too young to get baseball yet, but I’ve started building a nice collection of baseball-themed picture books for when he’s old enough to appreciate it. I especially like the books that take place in days of yore. There’s just something about old timey uniforms and ballparks that makes for great two-page spreads. Casey Back at Bat is a go-to read aloud for me when I have a roomful of kids too young for my books (Here’s another book inspired by “Casey at the Bat,” I explain). Baseball Saved Us and Brothers at Bat are a couple of recent gems. And here are some new ones from local (to me) houses I’m proud to see coming out of my hometown.
Something the Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio. Written by Robert Skead and illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Carolrhoda).
This is a very well written, beautifully illustrated book about a rare moment in baseball history. I think Skead’s writing is remarkable for three reasons — it builds suspense and tension for a baseball game that happened a bazillion years ago, and was an exhibition game to boot. It does so without casting anyone as a good guy or bad guy — instead we appreciate Paige’s competitive fire and DiMaggio’s eagerness to prove himself. And it uses a single (theoretically meaningless) game to tell a much bigger story about segregation.
Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball. Written by David A. Kelly and illustrated by Oliver Dominguez (Millbrook).
Like Skead, Kelly (author of the Ballpark Mysteries series) picks up an obscure baseball fact and turns it into a great story; in this case, he tells the history behind the mud they rub on balls. I wasn’t even sure if baseball mud was really mud; turns out it is, and the story behind it is pretty interesting. The book also has a unique message for kids who are mad about sports but aren’t natural talents: There’s many ways to be a part of the sporting world and leave your mark: farm mud, write books….
Betsy’s Day at the Game. Written by Greg Bancroft and illustrated by Katherine Blackmore (Scarletta).
No, that’s not a typo, and I didn’t start a publishing company! There really is a Scarletta Press in Minneapolis. This is a sweet family story about a kid going to a game with grandpa and learning how to keep score. Keeping score is a dying art and I’m glad Bancroft is keeping the tradition alive. He also shows how the game connects family across generations and there’s a clever/touching scene that demonstrates how players can inspire kids.