Babe & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure

On October 1, 1932, during Game Three of the Chicago Cubs–New York Yankees World Series, Babe Ruth belted a long home run to straightaway centerfield. According to legend, just before he hit, Babe pointed to the bleachers and boldly predicted he would slam the next pitch there.

Did he call the shot or didn’t he? Witnesses never agreed. Like other baseball fans, twelve-year-old Joe Stoshack wants to know the truth. But unlike other fans, Joe has the astonishing ability to travel through time using baseball cards—and now he’s determined to settle one of baseball’s greatest puzzles.

 Babe & Me explores the father-son relationship through both Babe Ruth’s eyes and Joe’s eyes. Even though Joe’s father has spent little time with him, Babe Ruth points out the good aspects of Joe’s dad. Despite this, Joe struggles with feelings of resentment because his father seems more concerned with coming up with get-rich-quick schemes than spending time with him. His father, who is often angry, blames his troubles on luck. He says, “You can try as hard as you want. Be as good as you can be. But a lot of what happens in the world is plain dumb luck.” Towards the end of the book, Joe’s dad finally realizes that his relationship with Joe is more important than money.

Throughout the story, both Babe Ruth’s public persona and his private, more serious side are shown. Babe Ruth is loud, reckless, and a big spender when around people. However, when he is alone with Joe and his father, Babe Ruth has a tortured soul because of his upbringing as well as his belief that he was not a good father. Historical pictures and partial news articles are scattered throughout the story. Plus, the author explains what events actually happened and which events he made up. In addition, there are four pages of quotes from baseball players that show that even now, people do not agree on whether or not Babe Ruth called his shot.

Joe is a likable main character, who has conflicting emotions about his father. Because Joe and his father were able to spend time with Babe Ruth, they witnessed Babe Ruth’s generosity, his reckless behavior, and his emotional turmoil. However, Joe’s father is not necessarily a likable man and his change of attitude is not believable. Despite this, the fast-paced time travel adventure will appeal to sport-loving readers even though the story has little baseball action. Readers who want to learn more about Babe Ruth should also read Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse by David A. Kelly. Middle-grade baseball fans can also jump back into time by reading The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz.

Sexual Content

  • Babe Ruth sees a woman crossing the road and says, “Got a load of the sweet patootie! She is one red-hot mama!”

Violence

  • While at a park, men stood on wooden crates making speeches. As one man spoke, “some people booed, and somebody threw a rock at the guy . . .” When two policemen show up, “somebody threw a rock at one of them, and it bounced off his helmet. The cop pulled out a nightstick and hit a guy with it. . . The people in the crowd began to hiss and boo and throw things at the cops. The second cop pulled out his pistol and fired it up in the air.” The scene is described over two pages.
  • Babe Ruth was signing his autograph when one boy dropped his paper. Joe picks it up and refuses to give it back to the boy. The boy’s father “reached into his jacket and pulled out a knife.” After the fathers’ argument, Joe gives the paperback to the boy.
  • As a boy, Babe Ruth stole money from his father. “Dad caught me and beat me with a pool cue.”
  • Babe Ruth’s father “got kicked in the head in a fight outside his saloon and died when he was forty-six.”
  • Babe Ruth tells a story about a baseball player who “didn’t see a pitch coming at him. It busted his skull. He crumpled like a rag doll right in the batter’s box.” The man died.
  • One of the reasons that Joe’s father is often angry is because of his family history. His grandparents and their children were rounded up by the Nazis. Joe’s father says, “Only my father escaped, by hiding under the house. The Nazis sent the rest of the family to Treblinka, a concentration camp. They were all killed. In the gas chambers.”
  • Joe’s father catches Babe Ruth’s home run ball. His father “and a few other guys dove for it, but I got there first. They tried to beat it out of me. That’s how I got the black eye, actually.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Babe Ruth is seen smoking a cigar.
  • Even though it’s prohibition, Babe Ruth orders a pitcher of beer. During his meal, “he washed everything down with another pitcher of beer.”
  • Babe Ruth says that he “was drinking beer before I could read.”

Language

  • Several times cuss words are replaced with @#$%.
  • Someone calls Joe’s father an idiot.
  • Babe says heck once.
  • While at a game, some of the other teams called out insults. Someone calls Babe Ruth an “ugly tub of guts.” He is also called, fatso, a washed-up balloon headed meatball, old potbelly, lummox, and other names.
  • Some boys are playing baseball. A boy calls a player a dope.

Supernatural

  • For Joe, baseball cards function as a time machine. When he touches an old card, “that tingling sensation was the signal that my body was about to leave the present and travel back through time to the year on the card.”
  • In order for Joe and his dad to return from the past, Joe needs “to bring a new card. . . If I didn’t have one with me, we could have been stuck in 1932 forever.”

Spiritual Content

  • While men were giving speeches on the solution to the Great Depression, someone says, “God is the answer.”

Much Ado About Baseball

Twelve-year-old Trish can solve tough math problems and throw a mean fastball. But because of her mom’s new job, she’s now facing a summer trying to make friends all over again in a new town. That isn’t an easy thing to do, and her mom is too busy to notice how miserable she is.

But at her first baseball practice, Trish realizes one of her teammates is Ben, the sixth-grade math prodigy she beat in the spring Math Puzzler Championships. Everyone around them seems to think that with their math talent and love of baseball, it’s only logical that Trish and Ben become friends, but Ben makes it clear he still hasn’t gotten over that loss and can’t stand her.

Ben hasn’t played baseball in two years, and he doesn’t want to play now—but he has to, thanks to losing a bet with his best friend. Once Ben realizes Trish is on the team, he knows he can’t quit and be embarrassed by her again. To make matters worse, their team can’t win a single game. But then they meet Rob, an older kid who smacks home runs without breaking a sweat. Rob tells them about his family’s store, which sells unusual snacks that will make them better ballplayers. Trish is dubious, but she’s willing to try almost anything to help the team.

When a mysterious booklet of math puzzles claiming to reveal the “ultimate answer” arrives in her mailbox, Trish and Ben start to get closer and solve the puzzles together. Ben starts getting hits, and their team becomes unstoppable. Trish is happy to keep riding the wave of good luck . . . until they get to a puzzle they can’t solve, with tragic consequences. Can they find the answer to this ultimate puzzle, or will they strike out when it counts the most?

Much Ado About Baseball is a fast-paced story that teaches about friendship and fitting in using baseball as a backdrop. The story is told from both Ben’s and Trish’s point of view. The alternating points of view allow readers to see how Ben and Trish struggle with conflicting emotions. Middle grade readers will relate to Ben and Trish, who both are trying to fit in with their new baseball team. While the two are often at odds, they learn to work together. As a result, Ben realizes that friendship is about “arranging things so they’re best for the group, and not just for one person.”

While the story has plenty of baseball action, math puzzles also take center stage. Readers will enjoy trying to solve the puzzle before the answer is revealed. In addition, Much Ado About Baseball has a Shakespeare quoting character and magical fairies that need a lesson in cooperation. By combining baseball, puzzles, and Shakespeare, LaRocca creates an imaginative and engaging story that is full of suspense. While the story focuses on friendship, it also shines a light on the importance of honesty and forgiveness. The story’s conclusion is a little too perfect and cheerful. Everything is wrapped up in a positive manner which causes the ending to sound a little preachy. Despite this, Much Ado About Baseball will appeal to sports fans and non-sports fans alike. If you’re looking for another book full of baseball excitement, grab a copy of Soar by Joan Bauer.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Several times someone is referred to as a jerk. For example, Trish thinks a boy is a jerk.
  • Heck is used occasionally.

Supernatural

  • Both Ben and Trish get a magical math puzzle book. When the right answer is written down, “the entire grid turned bright green. . . Then, under the puzzle, a sentence appeared.” The sentence gives help with a problem.
  • After using the magical math book, Ben tells the baseball where to go. The ball, “seemed to slow down. . . it was surrounded by sparkling green light.” Because of this, Ben is able to hit a home run.
  • Ben thinks eating the Salt Shaker snacks makes him better at baseball. His team eats the snacks before every game. “But the kids kept having weird reactions. . .breaking out in purple blotches that disappeared after a few minutes; hiccupping intermittently for an afternoon; even growing fuzzy hair on our forearms that resembled a donkey’s fur.”
  • In Ben and Trish’s world, fairies exist “as much as magic math books and lucky coins.”
  • Ben and Trish go to a part of the forest where fairies are. After a brief conversation, “The mouths surrounded us like a green cloud. When they finally flew away, we were back in my yard.”

 

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Missing Baseball

There’s nothing eight-year-old twins Zach and Zoe Walker love more than playing sports and solving mysteries. And when the two worlds collide. . . well, it doesn’t get any better than that! So when a baseball signed by Zach’s favorite major league player goes missing, the search is on! Luckily, amateur sleuths Zach and Zoe are on the case. Can they solve the mystery and find the ball before it’s lost for good?

Zach and Zoe are positive characters who are kind to each other. Even though they are competitive, they do not get upset when they lose. While the sibling’s parents do not appear in the book often, the kids talk about the lessons their parents have taught them, including being a good teammate and not jumping to conclusions. The twins’ mom also reminds them that, “It’s not the souvenirs that matter. It’s the memories that go with them.”

Even though the story has a positive message, the message is repeated often and tends to sound like a lecture. While most of the story takes place at the siblings’ school, most of the illustrations only show the siblings. The only other boy that appears in a picture is Mateo, who some think stole Zach’s ball. The short chapters and illustrations that appear every 4 to 7 pages make The Missing Baseball a quick read. However, emerging readers may struggle with some of the vocabulary.

The Missing Baseball blends mystery and sports into a story that younger readers will enjoy. The story’s positive lessons and kind main characters are some of the book’s best features. While parents might not connect with Zach and Zoe, the story is a quick read and will appeal to parents looking for a book to read aloud to their child. Old readers who are ready for a more developed plot may quickly become bored with the Zach & Zoe Mysteries. The Ball Park Mysteries by David A. Kelly would be a better choice for fluent readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Shadow Over Second

Nicky Chong is set to beat the RBI record with his baseball team, the Peach Street Mudders. The problem is that people accidentally keep saying things to jinx Nicky, who is very superstitious. What’s worse is that the kid who currently holds the record, Sam Jolly, might be trying to sabotage Nicky’s chances.

Shadow Over Second is primarily about Nicky overcoming his reliance on superstitions. Nicky is a good baseball player, but he seems to believe that he does well because he has highly specific routines before each game. He believes that if he doesn’t complete the routines, then he won’t perform well. In the end, Nicky’s mom helps him understand that his superstitions are nothing more than that—superstitions. In addition, Nicky learns that his ability is far more important than any jinx.

The current RBI record holder is Sam Jolly, who is older than Nicky. Nicky’s team has to play Sam Jolly’s brother’s baseball team, which is a point of tension for both Nicky and Sam’s brother, Stick Jolly. Trying to sabotage Nicky’s shot at the record, Stick locks Nicky and his teammate in the shed right before a game. In the end, Nicky realizes that it was Stick who locked them in, and Nicky confronts him. The resolution is peaceful, and Nicky takes the high road. Instead of continuing to be angry, Nicky forgives Stick.

Shadow Over Second will mostly appeal to elementary readers who like baseball, as it is a very short book with a straightforward and simple plot. Although baseball terminology and gameplay are large parts of the book, it is easy for non-baseball players to understand. Shadow Over Second may bore older readers who are looking for more complex character development and storytelling. Middle school baseball fans should check out Heat by Mike Lupica.

Shadow Over Second is part of the Peach Street Mudders Series; the other books follow stories about Nicky’s other teammates, and they do not have to be read in order. Each book focuses on a different baseball player on the team. Readers who enjoy baseball will be glad to find that the Peach Street Mudders have many baseball-related stories to tell. Although Shadow Over Second is quite short, it contains good lessons for kids about integrity and not placing superstitions above hard work and ability.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Nicky’s friend and teammate Turtleneck “punched him lightly in the shoulder.” It’s a playful nudge.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Stick Jolly, younger brother to Sam Jolly, laughs at Nicky. Stick says, “Bet you thought that RI was going to help your stupid team pull ahead, didn’t you?”
  • Nicky realizes that Stick was the one who locked Nicky and his teammate Turtleneck in the shed. Nicky tells Stick, “I know what you did, Stick. And I think it stinks.”

Supernatural

  • Nicky is superstitious and goes through a “ritual . . . each time he prepared to bat.” He describes it, saying, “First he tapped his right foot with the bat. Then his left. Then he took two swings. Finally, he stepped into the batter’s box and touched the outside left corner with the bat, then the right. Only then did he face the pitcher.”
  • Nicky wants to beat the RBI record, but he is afraid that “talking about his chances might jinx him.”
  • Nicky “rapped his knuckles on the bench” to counteract his teammate talking about Nicky’s chances at beating the record.
  • Nicky knocks the saltshaker over at dinner. He then “grabbed a pinch of salt and tossed it over his shoulder.”
  • Nicky asks his dad to save him a four-leaf clover if he finds one while mowing the lawn because he “could use a little extra luck.”
  • Nicky’s mom isn’t superstitious whatsoever. She tells Nicky, “You and your superstitions. Sometimes I think you really believe in that stuff.”
  • After getting locked in the shed, Nicky claims that “dark forces are working to keep me from reaching the RBI record.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Alli Kestler

 

 

 

 

 

 

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse

Babe Ruth was a star on the Boston Red Sox. He pitched like a dream and slammed home run after home run. But Babe Ruth was also trouble. So in 1919, the Red Sox sold him to one of baseball’s worst teams, the New York Yankees.

With Babe Ruth, the Yankees became legendary champions. And the Red Sox? They seemed cursed. Every time they made it to the World Series, they lost. Could the Red Sox ever put Babe Ruth’s baseball curse to rest?

Both sports fans and non-sports fans will find Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse interesting. Throughout the book, Kelly does an excellent job defining baseball lingo and explaining the significance of events. For example, in 1915, Ruth hit four home runs. “Four might not sound like a lot, but the entire team only hit ten home runs that year!” Even though there is some play-by-play baseball action, snippets of Babe’s personal life are integrated into the story and will keep non-sports fans flipping the pages as well.

Babe Ruth isn’t portrayed as a perfect person and the book doesn’t shy away from Babe’s terrible behavior. However, the author’s note explains that Ruth acknowledged that he was a “bad kid. Ruth tells readers this not so that they will imitate him, but so that they can understand him. He wants us to know that people (like him) can learn from their mistakes and still do great things.”

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse uses short chapters and easy vocabulary which makes the book accessible to young readers. Large black and white illustrations appear every 3 to 7 pages and show the players in action. While the book is easy enough for young fluent readers, the content will be interesting to older readers too.

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse makes reading non-fiction fun. The book is full of interesting facts about both Babe Ruth and the Red Sox. Despite this, readers do not need to know a lot about baseball in order to enjoy the book. Whether you’re looking for a book to do research or just want to learn more about the Red Sox, Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse would be an excellent book to read. Kelly explains all of the reasons some people believed the Red Sox were cursed but doesn’t give his own opinion. In the end, the reader must determine for themselves, did Babe Ruth curse the Red Sox?

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Barrow, Babe’s coach, came to his hotel room to see if Babe was in bed, “Babe Ruth exploded. They couldn’t tell him what to do! If Barrow ever came into his hotel room again, he would punch him in the nose!”
  • During a Red Sox game against the Yankees, A-Rod was “saying angry things to the pitcher. Boston’s catcher, Jason Varitek quickly tried to calm A-Rod down. . . Varitek had had enough. Out of nowhere, he took his big leather catcher’s mitt and stuffed it in A-Rod’s face. . . Players began fighting.”
  • During a game, Gavin, one of the fans, tried to catch a home run ball. The “ball smashed into his face! Thunk. Blood splattered everywhere! The ball knocked out Gavin’s two front teeth.”
  • During a game between the Red Sox and the Yankees, the fans were upset and “they threw cups and trash onto the field!” Riot police came and “knelt down along the sidelines in their blue uniforms and helmets.” After that, the fans calmed down.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • “. . .Babe Ruth was wild. He ate and drank too much.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Prime-Time Pitcher

Seventh-grade baseball pitcher for the Monticello Middle School team, Koby Caplin, wants nothing more than to lead his team to victory this season. He’s definitely got the pitching chops to help his team succeed. When a local TV station wants to do a documentary showing local youth sports, they pick Koby to be their star. Unfortunately, this causes a rift between Koby and his teammates when Koby lets his new stardom get to his head.

Matt Christopher’s Prime-Time Pitcher deals with the issue of how the arrogance of individuals affects team sports. Koby is a good pitcher. Other players and students notice this fact, including student journalist Sara Wilson. Sara puts events into motion as her articles focusing almost solely on Koby’s pitching, which causes the news station to select Koby for their documentary.

Koby’s older brother, Chuck, helps Koby understand that the success of the team rests on the team and not just Koby. Chuck and Koby’s teammates help Koby understand that teamwork is more important than individual stardom. When Koby’s arrogance causes his teammates to distance themselves from him, Chuck shows Koby how his behavior needs to change if Koby really wants to do well in baseball and still have his teammates be his friends.

Prime-Time Pitcher is a short, straightforward story that will appeal to younger baseball fans. Koby’s story isn’t uncommon in youth sports (or professional sports for that matter), and the lessons he learns about being a good teammate and person, are applicable to all people, especially those who play team sports. The book contains sections of baseball trivia questions, which will appeal to both baseball fans and readers who like trivia.  Most importantly, the lessons Koby learns can be applied to all areas of life, not just baseball. Readers who love baseball but want a more complex plot should add Soar by Joan Bauer and The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • After a game, Sara asks Coach T. a series of questions. Sara asks for Coach’s prediction of how the game was going to go, and Coach replies, “I don’t make predictions—that’s for carnivals and fortune-tellers.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Alli Kestler

The Capital Catch

Mike and Kate are about to face their biggest, most important mystery yet! Why? It involves the president of the United States! The president’s brother is a catcher on the Nationals baseball team, and someone is stealing his equipment! Can these super-sleuths help the commander in chief catch a criminal?

Mike and Kate are excited to explore Washington D.C.’s historical landmarks. While on a White House tour, Mike meets the president! This leads to Mike and Kate trying to discover who is stealing from the president’s brother, who is a baseball player. While Mike and Kate investigate, the kids don’t sneak around or go to restricted areas. Instead, they use their powers of observation and their interview skills to solve the mystery. Readers will enjoy following the clues along with Mike and Kate.

Capital Catch is an easy-to-read story that uses short sentences and dialogue to keep readers interested. Black and white illustrations appear every 3 to 5 pages. Most of the illustrations are a full page. They help readers visualize the characters and understand the plot. The book ends with Dugout Notes, which give even more baseball facts. Even though Capital Catch is the 13th book in the series, the books do not build on each other, so they can be read out of order.

Sports-loving readers will enjoy Capital Catch’s mystery and baseball action. Parents will appreciate how Mike and Kate are polite to others and do not put themselves in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, the thief was predictable and the culprit doesn’t reveal why he was stealing Chip’s baseball equipment. Despite this, baseball lovers will enjoy the combination of mystery and baseball action. The Little Rhino Series by Ryan Howard & Krystle Howard will hit the mark for young readers who want more baseball action.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Drat is used once as an exclamation.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Out of the Ballpark

Before he hit 400 home runs, before he was named American League MVP, before he was ARod to millions of fans, he was Alex. He was just a kid who wanted to play baseball more than anything else in the world.

Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez has drawn from his own childhood experiences to write Out of the Ballpark. Alex knows what it’s like to swing at a wild pitch or have a ball bounce right between his legs. Alex is determined not to let his mistakes set him back—even if it means getting up at the crack of dawn to work on his hitting and fielding before school starts.

Baseball fans will be drawn to Out of the Ballpark because of the brightly colored cover and Alex Rodriguez’s name. Alex struggles during a game, but during the championship, Alex’s grand slam won the game. Unfortunately, the story is predictable; however, the story does show the importance of hard work, determination, and practice.

The picture book is comprised of bright, cartoon-like pictures that capture the motion of the baseball games. The unique pictures often use two-page spreads to give the baseball field depth and to showcase the celebrating players. Out of the Ballpark is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for a child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1-6 sentences; however, some of the sentences are complex, which makes the pages text-heavy.

At the end of the story, readers will find a letter from Alex Rodriguez encouraging them to stay away from drugs, work hard, and respect their elders. There are also many pictures of him during his childhood. Even though the story is not memorable, Out of the Ballpark will appeal to baseball fans, and parents can use the story to start a conversation about achieving one’s dreams.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Ballgame With No One At Bat

Egg’s sixth-grade class is going on a field trip to see the River City River Rats baseball game. Even though Egg doesn’t know a lot about baseball, he is excited to see the minor league baseball team play. From the fans to the concessions, Egg is ready to snap pictures at the stadium.

The class is surprised when the game is delayed because of a theft in the stadium. But Egg’s friends decide to use the time to look for clues. Who could have stolen the cash register from the concession stand? Is it one of the class’s chaperones? Egg and his friends are determined to look for clues and find the culprit.

As the title suggests, the story doesn’t show any baseball action. Instead, the action comes from Egg and his friends looking for clues, following suspects, and asking questions. Even though the game delay is unrealistic, the kids are able to solve the crime because Egg’s friend, Sam, uses her powers of observation. During their time at the stadium, several characters talk about the unhealthy junk food that is sold at the concession stand. One girl chastises her father for eating junk food, and the teacher admits to being “a junk food junkie!” The story’s message about making healthy snack choices is told in an over-the-top and humorous way.

The Ballgame With No One At Bat has beautiful full-colored illustrations that show Egg and his friends interacting with the suspects. Egg’s photographs are also included in the illustrations, which appear every 3 to 7 pages. In addition, some of the story quotes appear in oversized white letters on a black background. The graphic elements, large text, and illustrations break up the text into manageable parts. The book also includes A Detective’s Dictionary with some of the words used in the story.

Mystery-loving readers will be pulled into The Ballgame With No One At Bat by the beautiful illustrations and the high-interest topic. The story ends with an essay that Egg wrote about baseball superstitions. The easy-to-read format and easy vocabulary make The Ballgame With No One At Bat accessible to proficient readers who are ready for chapter books. Readers interested in a more developed mystery with baseball history should check out the Ballpark Mysteries Series by David A. Kelly

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Anton calls Egg and his friends dorks several times. For example, when someone stands up to Anton, he says, “Okay, dork protector. I’ll leave the four dorks alone so they can cry.”
  • When a boy overhears the conversation between Egg and Anton, the boy says, “Don’t listen to him. That guy’s a jerk.”
  • Anton calls a classmate a beanpole.
  • Egg thinks that Anton is “being a selfish dweeb.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Christmas in Cooperstown

Mike and Kate volunteer to wrap presents for charity. As they are wrapping gifts, they get an unexpected invitation to stay the night at the Baseball Hall of Fame. At the special thank-you sleepover, Mike and Kate decide to explore. As the kids creep through the dark museum, Mike uses his special flashlight and discovers that one of the famous baseball cards on display is a fake. Can they find the real card, catch the crook, and get the presents to the charity’s Christmas party on time?

Christmas in Cooperstown highlights the importance of helping others. Mike and Katie aren’t the only young helpers. One of the young helpers celebrates Hanukkah, and another one celebrates Ramadan. The kids briefly mention their holiday traditions. Despite their different beliefs, they all come together to help those in need.

Like the other books in the series, Mike and Kate follow the clues to solve the mystery. However, the list of suspects is small. In the end, they discover that one of the volunteer workers took the card hoping the Baseball Hall of Fame would give a reward for its return. The volunteer “was trying to play Robin Hood, taking from the Hall of Fame to give to the community center.” In the end, several of the baseball players donate money to help build the community center.

Christmas in Cooperstown is an easy-to-read story that has a simple plot. Black and white illustrations appear every 2 to 5 pages. Most of the illustrations are a full page and they help readers visualize the characters as well as help them understand the plot. The book ends with Dugout Notes which includes eight pages with facts about Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Even though Capital Catch is the #13 book in the series, the books do not build on each other, so they can be read out of order. The Ballpark Mysteries do not need to be read in sequence to be enjoyed.

Christmas in Cooperstown mixes baseball, mystery, and community service into an enjoyable story. Sports fans who want a humorous sports story should add Baseball Blues by A.I. Newton to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Swing

Despite their love for baseball, Noah and Walt are terrible players. Walt, who now requests to be called Swing (a request that Noah ignores), is undeterred. As with everything else in his life—jazz, love, and becoming cool—Swing is always willing to take a chance and wants to convince Noah to take swings in his life too.

Noah has been pining after his childhood best friend, Sam, since third grade. When Noah uncovers a set of love letters, he uses his art skills to adapt the letters to help him articulate his feelings for Sam. When Walt anonymously sends one of Noah’s letters to Sam, Noah must decide whether to put himself out there, even if it means rejection.

While Noah grapples with his emotions, many American flags are being left around town. Some think it’s a prank, but others seem to think that something more sinister is going on. The rising tensions and prejudices of their town come to light as Noah struggles to find confidence.

Despite being the main character, Noah is a shadowy figure compared to Swing. Swing’s vibrant sense of humor and optimistic outlook never waiver, and he has endless methods for trying to get Noah to see that life can be sunnier with a little effort. Noah, who can be petulant, drags his feet at most of Swing’s suggestions and comments. Many of Noah’s problems could be fixed if he earnestly took Swing’s advice. However, as the story progresses, Noah learns to take life in stride.

Most of the novel focuses on Noah’s conflicts with his unrequited love for Sam. Noah thinks he’s superior to Sam’s current boyfriend, Cruz, who is a varsity baseball player. Much of Swing’s advice for Noah surrounds this topic, as it consumes Noah’s every waking moment. There are moments where Noah’s passion for art comes up, but often it is to impress Sam in some way. Occasionally, Noah’s pining and self-pitying nature can be overbearing. However, he eventually finds the courage to tell Sam how he feels.

Although Swing, Noah, and Cruz all enjoy baseball, the main focus of Swing is not baseball. Instead, baseball is used to highlight Swing’s willingness to go after what he wants. Unlike Swing, Noah’s reserved nature holds him back from going after what he wants, and Noah himself gives up baseball early in the book.

 Swing tackles a lot of themes, including love, friendship, and prejudice. Not all the topics are fully expounded upon, and because of the twist ending some narratives are shortened. Swing is also told in free verse, and various art pieces appear as part of the story. These creative elements enhance Noah’s emotions and the reading experience. Overall, Swing shows that life is what people make of it. The most important lesson Swing offers is that people should find the courage within themselves to swing for worthy goals.

Sexual Content

  • According to Noah, his crush and best friend Sam, “was busy being cool, and fine.” He thinks he’s in love with her, and he claims that she is his inspiration when he draws.
  • Swing says to Noah, “Seven years is a long freakin’ time/ not to hook up with your/ self-proclaimed soulmate.”
  • Swing claims that his cousin, Floyd, is his romance guru because Floyd “used to date a reality TV/ star, and he knows a thing/ or two about love. Girls are always/ fighting over him.”
  • Sam indirectly tells Noah that her boyfriend, Cruz, is trying to pressure her into sexual activities which makes her uncomfortable. She says, “Cruz is kinda putting pressure on/ me…How do I tell him to slow down?
  • Swing tells his cousin Floyd that he’s “saving [his] paper for some nice frames the chicks will love.” Floyd reprimands Swing for being sexist and calling women chicks.
  • Floyd says to Swing, “Your future stepdad is a lucky man/ Aunt Reina was/ always fine as full-bodied wine.” To this comment there is silence and then Floyd adds, “What? It’s not like Floyd’s trying to Oedipus your mom. . .
  • Noah wants to write Sam “maybe a love song/ or a sonnet.” Unsure of how to convey his feelings, he listens to Swing’s recommended podcast, The Woohoo Woman, which dispenses love and life advice.
  • In a thrift store, Sam and her boyfriend Cruz kiss twice much to Noah’s chagrin. Noah describes, “they kiss like nobody/ and everybody’s watching.” The second time, Noah’s details about the kiss increase. He thinks, “I try not/ to pay attention to how long it lasts/ –eleven seconds—or how his hands move up and down/ her back (slowly), or/ how her eyes are closed and his are/ looking at—” Cruz then says to Noah, “Hey you, stop staring at my girl’s/ haunches.”
  • The employee in the thrift shop, Divya, shows Swing and Noah a purse. After she explains what it is, Swing says, “Striking. Exquisite…/looking not at the bag, but/ at her.” He makes several more passes at Divya. Swing even “grabs her hand/ with a confidence/ [Noah’s] never seen/ in mixed company/ and kisses it.” From this scene on, Swing is infatuated with Divya and expresses his feelings to Noah frequently.
  • Noah shares his first attempt at writing a song for Sam. The song is crude, and Swing points this out. Some of the lines include, “Your moist lips/ the oboe/ my tender mouth/ sings through.”
  • Noah finds a stack of love letters from the 1960s. In these letters, the writer, Corinthian, sometimes talks about how he wants to kiss Annemarie, his love.
  • Swing asks Noah to think about what he feels while listening to jazz. During a jazz song, Noah imagines “ending the day with a mad kiss/ under the jungle gym.”
  • Noah sees Sam and Cruz kissing at school. Noah notices that “She kisses him/ loudly.”
  • Noah asks who Sam thinks is sending her love letters/art pieces. Sam says, “whoever/ is doing this is/ smart and sexy.” In a separate thought, she muses, “Maybe it’s a girl.”
  • Cruz asks Swing and Noah how to “close the deal with Sam.” In this case, it is implied that Cruz wants to have sex with Sam.
  • Sam tells Noah why her parents got divorced. She says, “five years ago, our German/ shepherd Lucy ate some/ woman’s lingerie. When they/ recovered the skimpy outfit/ from Lucy’s gut, things got a little/ awkward when Mom/ realized the vet tech wasn’t holding/ up her lingerie.”
  • Sam, Noah, and Swing look at a Dali painting with a girl in it. When asked about what he sees, Swing says, “A girl with a big rump-shaker staring out/ the window.”
  • Sam gives Noah a parting kiss, “centimeters from/ [his] lips.”
  • Sam stays over at Noah’s house and they lay in bed. They talk all night and into the morning.
  • Sam says to Noah, “let’s go back to your/ place, and I can show/ you how a sophisticated lady acts.” This is seemingly sexual, but it is not explained further.
  • Sam kisses Noah on the cheek.
  • Noah describes one of his kisses with Sam. He says, “Our noses touch./ Our breath quickens./ We’ve kissed/ at least a dozen times,/ but this feels/ like the first,/ the only.”
  • Swing is miserable because Divya kissed him “on [his] neck.” For Swing, this means that she doesn’t want “to engage in witty/ conversation/ and occasional verbal sparring,” but rather she wants to do potentially more sexually explicit activities.
  • Noah describes his classmates and friends at prom. He notes, “Everyone’s either/ smiling or smirking,/ twirling or twerking,/ posing or posturing,/ kissing or wanting.”
  • Swing tells Noah that Divya kissed him. Swing describes, “Divya kissed me, really kissed me,/ and it was an out-of-body/ experience. It was heaven, Noah,/ and she was an angel.”

Violence

  • While in the third grade, a bully named Zach punched Noah. Sam, in retaliation, “pushed Zach Labrowski/ out of the seat, then/ squeezed in next to me/ and offered a tissue.”
  • Noah thinks that Swing snuck the love letter/art piece that Noah made into Sam’s bag. Noah is furious and thinks, “Never/ been/ a/ violent/ person/ but/ right/ now/ I/ feel/ like/ going/ to/ batting/ practice/ on/ Walt’s/ head.”
  • Noah compares his confrontation with Cruz and Sam to an old cowboy movie. He describes, “and the drunk fool will answer,/ I reckon this is none of your business,/ stranger,/ and clumsily pull out his six-shooter,/ at which point/ he will get shot dead/ between the ears/ by the handsome stranger,/ who will then/ ride off/ into the sunset/ with the lady/ on his arm.”
  • At a party, one of the seniors, who is very drunk, jumps from the upstairs railing to the couch. He’s in a lot of pain, and the students decide to call an ambulance. Much later, it is explained that he “sprained/ his pinky toe/ trying to be Superman.”
  • Swing’s brother, Moses, fought in Afghanistan and seems to suffer from PTSD. Sometimes he makes references to what he saw in combat, though it is never graphic or explained. For example, he yells “BAM!” quite a bit, in reference to the explosions that he heard.
  • Noah has Sam listen to some jazz, and she doesn’t enjoy it. Noah says, “It’s not depressing, it’s yearning.” To this, Sam says, “Yearning for what, a bullet to the/ head?”
  • It is insinuated throughout the book that the police are harassing minorities about the flag vandalism occurring around town. One night, Swing and Noah realize that Swing’s brother Moses is behind the incidents. When Swing and Noah find Moses, Swing takes the baseball bat that Moses is holding because he’s worried that Moses might be unstable due to Moses’ personal history. The police arrive, and they shoot and kill Swing on sight. It is later stated that the officers perceived Swing as a threat because he was holding a baseball bat. It becomes clear that the officer’s prejudices influenced their decision, as Swing was black. Noah describes, “One/ shoots/ two/ shoot/ three/ shots/ slice/ through/ rain/ drops/ Walt/ drops/ blood/ drops/ I run/ I run/ to Walt.” Noah runs to Swing’s aid, but the cops tackle him to the ground. Noah later recalls, “The bat falling/ from Walt’s hands,/ suspended/ for too long./ The sound/ of gunshot/ piercing air/ and flesh.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Swing describes to Noah how they’re going to be cool one day. Swing says, “when people google/ cool a picture of me and you/ spitting seeds and tobacco/ with our hats to the back will pop/ up.” It is expressed later that they themselves do not chew tobacco.
  • Noah’s parents go to Barcelona for the International Hotel Association conference. According to Noah, this trip is where “hotel managers/ talk about hotels/ from sunup/ to sundown,/ then get drunk/ and post videos/ of horrible, late-night/ karaoke sessions.”
  • Before Noah’s parents go to Barcelona, they sit Noah down to talk about the house rules. Noah dryly jokes to his parents, “I think I’m clear on all the rules . . . no beer on an empty/ stomach, right?”
  • One of the love letters that Noah finds states that the writer, Corinthian, and the intended recipient, Annemarie, drank wine.
  • Noah and Swing listen to a podcast called Straight, No Chaser. The podcast’s content is never discussed.
  • Noah looks for the Corinthian, who wrote the love letters. All he can find is a Corinthian who wants to “turn up and sig a little/ drink.”
  • Swing suggests that he and Noah should “get pizza and beer.” Noah replies, “We don’t drink beer.”
  • Sam spreads the word that Noah’s having a party. Sam tells Noah, “I can ask/Cruz to get his older/ brother to bring some beer.” The beer is expressly for the partygoers rather than Swing, Sam, or Noah, who stated several times that they do not like beer.
  • At Noah’s party, there is “some sort of punch/ that some guy,/ who [Noah’s] never seen before,/ starts immediately spiking/ with a bottle/ from his backpack.” Many of the teenagers at the party drink out of it and from the beers they’ve brought.
  • Sam speculates that Moses may have been “on drugs” when he showed up at Noah’s party.
  • Sam admits that she’s tried weed, “just once.”

Language

  • Words like weird, idiot, dang, friggin’, shut up, suck, pissed, and dayum appear infrequently.
  • Sam and Noah have creative insults for each other, though these jabs are light-hearted. For example, they call each other, “Sucknerd,” “Toadlip,” “Horsehead,” and “Big butt.”
  • On The Woohoo Woman Podcast, Marj says, “We’re back for the last half/ hour of Woohoo Woman,/ hopefully with a little less profanity/ in this segment.” Jackie later almost says various swear words, but she catches herself or is cut off by Marj each time. For instance, Jackie says “DAYU-“ instead of damn.
  • Noah’s Granny calls some of her card-playing buddies “SHYSTY FELLAS.”

Supernatural

  • Swing is very superstitious. Noah says that Swing “can’t walk/ up or down/ the same side of the street/ on the same day,/ or in and out/ of the same door/ when he’s coming/ or going somewhere.”
  • Noah describes art to Swing. Noah says, “Art is…finding yourself/ under the spell of/ Gustav Klimt’s/ The Kiss.”

Spiritual Content

  • Many years ago, Noah and Sam went to the same “Jesus camp.”
  • In the third letter, Corinthian makes many religious references. Corinthian tells Annemarie, “i went to church with nothing but a penny for an offering. inside i prayed a thousand prayers sacredly and secretly holding the memory of your hand in mine. . . all the mysterious and magnificent things that make music will be ours under notes of heaven above and earth below. our love provides god’s angels with trumpet and song. . . [you] gave me everything, like the goddess of muses. heaven may be a place where artists go when they die, eternally playing songs, painting scenes, writing plays, or else napping, but i regret to inform the big man that i’m not leaving for eternity until u and i can be seen as an ‘us’ on this same earth.”
  • Swing paraphrases the Bible’s book of Matthew. Swing tells Noah, “If your brother pisses you off, tell him about it. If he listens to you, he is your brother for life.” Noah replies, “I doubt the Bible says pissed off.”
  • Noah and Swing listen to a jazz album. Noah describes the experience by saying, “We listen/ like we’re in church, on/bended knee, and our god/ is Dexter Gordon.”
  • Noah describes art to Swing. Noah says, “Art is…Monet’s/ Impression. Sunrise/ carrying you away on a harbor of dreams/ that only God/ knows about.”
  • After an officer interrogates Noah about Swing, Noah thinks about the officer, “You are not/ God. Here. You are/ not God. You/ are no God. You/ are no good.”

by Alli Kestler

Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh

Maria is a nine-year-old growing up during WWII in Yuba City, California. Like most of the families in her community, her father is from India and her mother is from Mexico. Maria spends her time going to school, collecting tin cans for ration stamps, watching her younger brother, Emilio, and helping around the farm, but what she really dreams of doing is playing softball. Luckily, her teacher has just started an all-girls softball team. While Maria learns lessons about teamwork and determination, she also faces prejudice and discrimination on and off the field. With a little help from her parents and her strong-willed aunt, Maria realizes people from different backgrounds may not be so different after all.

Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh gives a new perspective of discrimination and prejudice that existed during WWII.  Maria’s parents are not American citizens, so they cannot own land and must rent their farm. This becomes a problem when their landlord decides to move. Maria is subject to racism, and she gets into a fight when a classmate calls Maria’s friend a “dirty half-and-half.” Through Maria’s story, readers will understand how a culture can normalize prejudice. Although the racism and discrimination in the book occurred during WWII, readers will see that many of today’s problems are similar.

Because Maria’s parents are of different religions, the book focuses heavily on religion, which is a fundamental part of Maria’s community. Although her household leans a little more towards the Catholic side, Maria’s father talks about Sikhism and brings his family to a temple. Maria is not partial to either religion and includes both in her prayers. While Maria appreciates her parents’ cultures, she doesn’t feel they are completely her own.

Readers will relate to Maria as she tries to make sense of the world and find her voice. Maria is a relatable character who, like most people, has flaws.  Maria lies to her mother but then feels guilty. While playing softball, she learns the value of being a team player.  When she faces prejudice, she learns what it means to hate and the importance of forgiveness. Through Maria’s eyes, readers will learn the importance of speaking up during difficult times.

Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh is a great way to introduce readers to this little-known part of history. The end of the book has an author’s note that helps readers understand the story’s context. Lovers of softball (or any sport) will identify with Maria’s softball obsession and how she uses it as a means of escape and personal victory. This story also shows the value of sports as a means of bringing a community together.

Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh takes the reader into history and deals with difficult topics of immigration, racism, faith, and family. Despite the heavy topics, Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh tackles them in a way that is accessible to younger readers. History fans who love sports should add The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Maria’s friend’s father, Gian, dies in the war. Maria asks Papi if Gian has ever killed anyone, to which Papi doesn’t respond. Gian’s death prompts Maria and her friends to talk about their fathers getting drafted.
  • While she is supposed to be watching Emilio, Maria wanders off. Maria comes back to find Emilio and his friend play fighting, “slamming into each other with arms and legs and fists.”
  • Elizabeth, a white girl, calls Janie a “dirty half-and-half.” Janie retaliates by “throwing herself upon Elizabeth, grabbing her hair with both fists, pushing her down…scratching and pulling and tugging, and both of them shrieking.”
  • When Maria is up to bat, Elizabeth purposely pitched overhand to try and hurt Maria. Maria realized too late how hard Elizabeth was throwing. She was unable to get out of the way in time, and “the ball cracked her [Maria] in the head.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Maria tells Emilio that she can play softball, she says he is about to get “pig-headed.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Maria explains the misunderstanding people have about her community. “People called the families Mexican Hindus even though the fathers were mostly either Sikh or Muslim in the God department.”
  • When Maria explains why she was late getting home from school, her mom “looked up at the ceiling as if she was asking God and the archangels for guidance.”
  • After lying to her mother, Maria guiltily looks at an altar in her house, on which stands “the Lady of Guadalupe, blessed Mother of Jesus,” a Sikh prayer book, “a wooden carving of the holy man who had founded Papi’s Sikh religion hundreds of years ago,” and “a rounded symbol…called Ikonkar, which meant ‘There is one God.’”
  • Maria goes to confession, which was “near torture.”
  • While the wives and children go to mass, the husbands stay outside and get a picnic ready. This is because, as Papi explains, “God is everywhere, so I will just pray to him out here, under this beautiful sky!” Their wives “would roll their eyes at their stubborn heathen husbands.”
  • Maria’s family attends Mass for Gian’s funeral. As Gian’s wife and daughters process in, someone whispers, “Was he ever baptized?” Maria thinks the service was so special, and “whether he was baptized seemed not to matter.”
  • During Gian’s funeral, Maria thinks, “grieving together for a good man, in the presence of the Holy Mother Church, did bring you closer to the Lord.”
  • Maria prays to Mary and the Sikh holy teachers, asking them to “make the world a better place.”
  • Papi says the bill that will allow people from India to become American citizens has to go to the Senate, and “God alone knows what will happen there.”
  • “Extra blessings were needed” when Papi announces their landlord is moving. “Papi prayed from his holy book and Mama said an Ave Maria. Sometimes life demanded help from every kind of god.”
  • When Maria is worried about not being able to play softball, Papi sings “an old Punjabi prayer” to comfort her. Then he tells her, “Don’t be afraid. God will provide.”
  • Maria asks Papi if he is sad that he can’t see his temple in India. He answers, “All the God you ever need, you carry in your heart.”
  • Maria suggests her parents buy their farmland in her name since she is an American citizen, and they are not. “Papi was singing ‘Waheguru satnaam.’ Mama crossed herself. There were many ways to praise the Lord for sending a really good idea into a girl’s mind.”
  • A minister prays before a softball game.
  • When Maria plays in her first softball game, “fly balls landed in Maria’s glove as if heaven itself was sending them there.”
  • After her team wins the softball game, Maria expresses her thankfulness in both of her parents’ religions. “Wahgeguru, Maria thought, and crossed herself in gratitude.”

by Jill Johnson

Batter Up Wombat

It’s a brand new baseball season, and the Champs are ready to go in their spiffy clean uniforms. Never mind that the previous year they finished last in the North American Wildlife League—this season will be different. But when a Wombat wanders onto the field on opening day, the Champs have no idea just how different the game is about to become.

When the Champs play a team of raccoons, they discover how little Wombat knows about baseball. The Champs decide that Wombat needs “a quick course in the sport.” In order to teach Wombat what baseball is, the Champs begin spouting baseball lingo. Readers will laugh at the baseball wordplay. For example, Wombat is told, “you’ll need a bat.” A thought bubble above Wombat’s head shows a bat flying above his head.

Cartoon-like illustrations show different animals including a bird, a frog, a mouse and raccoons. In order to help younger readers understand the wordplay, each time someone explains an aspect of baseball, a thought bubble appears showing the literal meaning of the word. Even though baseball fans will enjoy the wordplay, the story doesn’t flow well and is confusing at times.

When the Champs actually play a game, Wombat continues to be confused. Soon, the team realizes that despite Wombat’s size, he cannot play well. Wombat becomes “frazzled, exhausted, and very sad.” Then, a black cloud appears. When the animals realize a tornado is speeding toward them, they don’t know where to hide. There isn’t a dugout to hide in so Wombat quickly digs a tunnel big enough for both teams. Wombat wasn’t great at baseball, but he still saves the day.

Even though Batter Up Wombat is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page contains 1-4 sentences. Readers may have difficulty with the compound sentences. Batter Up Wombat’s wordplay is similar to the Amelia Bedelia Series. Young baseball fans will enjoy the wordplay and Wombat’s literal interpretation of the game.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream

If there is anything in the world better than playing baseball, Marcenia Lyle doesn’t know what it is. As a young girl in the 1930’s, she chases down fly balls, steals bases, and dreams of one day playing professional ball.

With spirit, spunk, and a great passion for the sport, Marcenia struggles to overcome the objections of family, friends, and coaches who feel a girl has no place on the field. When she finally wins a position in a baseball summer camp sponsored by the St. Louis Cardinals, Marcenia is on her way to catching her dream.

Based on Marcenia Lyle’s life, Catching the Moon shows how one girl made her dream come true, despite being discouraged to chase her dream. Marcenia’s parents and her classmates think that Marcenia’s dream is impossible. Instead of giving up, Marcenia works harder and eventually proves that baseball isn’t just a “man’s game.”

Marcenia’s story has baseball action as well as dialogue, which keeps the story moving at a fast pace. Catching the Moon shows the prejudices that Marcenia faced during the 1930s. However, instead of being angry or giving up, Marcenia works hard to prove herself. In the end, Marcenia’s can-do attitude pays off and she eventually plays professional baseball. Marcenia’s story highlights the importance of hard work and persistence.

Catching the Moon is a picture book that uses pen-and-ink and acrylic illustrations to bring Marcenia’s story to life. The illustrations mostly use shades of brown and blue which recreates the feeling of a blue sky above a baseball field.  Catching the Moon is a picture book and has 7-11 sentences on each page. Because of the story’s vocabulary and sentence structure, parents should read the story aloud instead of having the child read it independently.

Catching the Moon will encourage readers to work hard in order to make their dreams a reality. The fast-paced story will entertain readers as it teaches the value of persistence. Catching the Moon will appeal to sports fans as well as anyone who has big dreams. Readers may also want to add Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahmed to their reading list. Both stories encourage readers to work hard and dream big.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Homer

Alex loves baseball. So does his dog, Homer. One starry night, after Alex goes to sleep, Homer and his canine friends get ready for their big baseball game. Find out who will be the champions of the dog baseball world when Homer and the Doggers take on the mighty Hounds.

A story with baseball and dogs should be an interesting book; however, Homer has too many flaws. The dog characters and the plot are not developed, which makes the story confusing. Instead of telling a unique story, the predictable story uses too much baseball prose. For example, “Here’s the pitch. . . It’s a long drive to center field. It’s waaay back! The ball is going. . . going. . . it’s gone!”

The inside cover of the book has cute player cards of both teams, which identify their breed and teams. The picture book uses computer-enhanced photos of the dogs. The illustrations, while amusing at times, are strange. Often the artwork and photos do not match correctly. In one picture, a dog is batting while another one is peeing on a fire hydrant.

Baseball and animal fans might overlook the negative aspects of the book. The full-page pictures include text bubbles with some cute dialogue. The story also incorporates some dog puns. For example, when the Homers are suiting up for the game, one dog says, “it’s going to be a ruff game.” Most pages have one sentence, and many pages have no text. Baseball fans might want to leave Homer on the library shelf. If you’re looking for an inspirational baseball picture book Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubbard is an excellent story with a positive message. Readers who are ready for chapter books should read The Alien Next Door: Baseball Blues by A.I Newton.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Dugout Hero

The score was 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and two strikes. The Mustangs were on a hot winning streak and every victory was important. Little Rhino’s whole team was cheering for him. Even Dylan was standing on the bench rooting for Little Rhino, the home run hitter. It all came down to the next pitch. When the pitcher threw the ball, Little Rhino swung as hard as his arms could handle, felt a pop in his ankle, and dropped to the ground.

That was yesterday. Today, Little Rhino is propped up on the couch with a sprained ankle. The doctor said Little Rhino is not going to be able to play baseball for the next two weeks. Rhino’s friends keep dropping by to bring him his homework, but Rhino just wants to be back on the field. Can he find a way to help his team without playing?

Even though Rhino is anxious to get back onto the field, he knows his injury must heal completely before he can play again. Rhino follows the doctor’s orders even though he misses out on activities he enjoys. Because of Rhino’s injury, the story focuses more on his thought process, which shows how difficult it is for Rhino to be patient while his injury heals. Even though the story has some play-by-play baseball action, Rhino’s lunch group is shown which allows the story to bring in some facts on astronomy.

In the third installment of the Little Rhino series, Rhino continues to grow as a baseball player. Rhino is quick to judge his teammates who are showing unsportsmanlike behavior. However, he does not recognize it in himself. Rhino is often overconfident and criticizes those who do not play as well as him. When Rhino is forced to sit on the sidelines, he does learn that he should be helping the other players in a positive manner.

Rhino’s grandfather continues to play a dominant role in the story; however, by the third book in the series readers will have questions about Rhino’s parents. They never appear in the story, and their absence is never explained. Rhino’s grandfather is a positive role model, who makes sure Rhino and his brother help with chores, follow directions, and work hard.

Fans of the Little Rhino series will enjoy Dugout Hero because of the baseball action and the reappearance of the same characters. Rhino has many good qualities and sets a good example for others. Readers who are just transitioning into chapter books may have difficulty reading My New Team because of the text-heavy pages. Although black-and-white pictures appear approximately every three pages, the pictures are similar to those found in a coloring book and do not have much appeal. Readers who enjoy the Little Rhino series will also want to read the Baseball Blues by Newton A.I.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • One of the players tells Rhino, “you’re being a wimp.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Best Bat

Little Rhino is so excited for his team, the Mustangs, to play their first baseball game. They’ve been having some good practices. The team is starting to come together. Grandpa James even bought Little Rhino a new bat to use.

In the last practice, Little Rhino’s bat goes missing. He’s convinced that Dylan, the bully on his team, is the one who took it. But Little Rhino learns quickly that he can’t blame someone without any proof. Will Little Rhino find out who took his bat before the first game?

The second book in the Little Rhino series, The Best Bat focuses more on baseball and has more play-by-play descriptions of the game. The Best Bat has all of the same characters as the first book. Even though the characters are the same, they are still not well-developed. Rhino’s grandfather continues to play a prominent role and guides Rhino through life. Rhino’s grandfather knows that baseball is important, but he makes sure Rhino knows that school always comes first. Throughout the story, Rhino’s grandfather reinforces the importance of taking responsibility for your belongings and your words.

Even though Rhino’s coach talks about the importance of teammates encouraging each other, Rhino and his team do not work as a team. Rhino comes across as overconfident and acts as if his team cannot win without him. When Rhino loses his bat, he is convinced that the team bully stole it. The person who took Rhino’s bat leaves clues, but clues are confusing and the story never explains why the clues were important. The ending has a surprise that teaches Rhino the importance of forgiving others.

Younger readers who enjoy sports will enjoy The Best Bat. However, readers who are just transitioning into chapter books may have difficulty reading My New Team because of the text-heavy pages. Although black-and-white pictures appear approximately every three pages, the pictures are similar to those found in a coloring book and do not have much appeal. Readers who enjoy Little Rhino will also want to read the Ball Park Mysteries series.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

My New Team

Every day when Little Rhino comes home from school, he finishes his homework, grabs his bat and his glove, and runs outside to meet Grandpa James. They always practice catching and hitting in the backyard. Playing baseball with grandfather is Little Rhino’s favorite thing to do, especially when he pretends to be a real Major League home run hitter.

One afternoon, after a long day of second grade, Little Rhino comes home to find out that Grandpa James has signed him up for a baseball league! Little Rhino will finally be a part of a team! But Little Rhino will quickly learn that it is not always so easy to be a good teammate, especially when there’s a bully wearing the same uniform as you.

Even though the characters in My New Team are not well-developed, the story will appeal to younger readers who love sports. The story doesn’t only focus on baseball but also includes a conflict with a bully, as well as the difficulty of being in new situations. Throughout the story, Rhino shows the importance of putting schoolwork before sports as well as the necessity of practice. One positive relationship in Rhino’s life is his grandfather, who plays a prominent role, and has taught Rhino the importance of thinking before he speaks.

My New Team uses realistic situations that younger readers can relate to. When Rhino is faced with a bully, he tries to understand the boy’s actions, and instead of being mean to the bully, Rhino tries to show the boy kindness. Readers who are just transitioning into chapter books may have difficulty reading My New Team because of the text-heavy pages. Although black-and-white pictures appear approximately every three pages, the pictures are similar to those found in a coloring book and do not have much appeal. My New Team uses realistic conflicts to teach important lessons about friendship, perseverance, practice, and the importance of thinking before you act. Readers who enjoy Little Rhino will also want to read the Ball Park Mysteries series.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • A bully calls Rhino a “wimp” twice.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

The Brooklyn Nine

Baseball is in the Schneider family’s blood. Each member of this family, from family founder Felix Schneider in the 1800s to Snider Flint in the present day, has a strong tie to the game and to Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Nine begins in Manhattan, 1845, with Felix Schneider, a boy who has recently moved to America from Germany and ends up meeting the Knickerbockers. Several years later, Felix’s son Louis plays baseball during the civil war. He serves for the Union but befriends a Confederate soldier and they bond over the game. Louis’s son, Arnold Schneider, also has a love for baseball. He meets the famous King Kelly who has fallen on hard times and gone to drinking and fails to live up to the young boy’s expectations. Arnold’s son Walter tries to get Cyclone Joe Williams onto a team by pretending the man is Native American. Frankie Snider, Walter’s daughter, runs a numbers game for a mob and meets the famous reporter John Kieran, who helps her rig it.

Kat Flint, the first character unrelated to the Schneiders, joins the Grand Rapids Chicks in the first All-American Girls Baseball League. Her son Jimmy is more into baseball cards than actual baseball, but faces the threat of Sputnik and the fear of atomic annihilation during the 1950s. His son, Michael Flint, pitches a perfect game. His son, Snider Flint, helps run a pawnshop with lots of baseball memorabilia.

Each of these experiences, from Felix in 1845 to Snider in 2002, are connected by baseball. Gratz creates characters that are vivid and distinct, each with their own unique traits and personalities. The historical information and timeline of characters allow the reader to glimpse baseball and life during each character’s time period. The conflicts that characters face are realistic, and the ways they overcome them show the advantages of hard work instead of magical solutions.

Gratz also includes a large amount of accurate historical information about baseball in the stories. His main characters are fictional, but they interact with are real, historical people. For example, King Kelly was an actual baseball player who spent his fortune on alcohol, and Cyclone Joe Williams was a real African American who played as one of the world’s greatest pitchers, even though he could never play in the major leagues.

The story is broken up into nine innings, and each inning focuses on one generation. Each inning has an entirely new cast of characters and ends in a cliffhanger. Even though the cliffhanger’s questions are eventually answered, the abrupt endings of each chapter may cause some frustration for readers.

The Brooklyn Nine weaves authentic details about baseball into each fictional character’s life story. Gratz clearly illustrates the idea that baseball is more than just a game or a pastime, and the nine stories he tells are an innovative way to get that idea across. The book is relatively easy to read; none of the words or sentences should be too difficult for the author’s recommended audience of 8+. There is a small amount of violence, but nothing is extremely detailed. More than anything, the author includes powerful themes centered around the importance of perseverance and the powerful impacts that different generations can have on each other.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Kids fight each other in the novel. “Walter got in one good blow before the kid and his two friends ganged up on him and beat the stuffing out of him.”
  • During the civil war, the characters hear “the pop of a rifle” before “Stuart’s leg exploded.”
  • Felix remarks that “shootouts sometimes erupted in the streets” of New York.
  • Felix’s uncle “struck” and “cuffed” Felix when he came home after losing a package in the mud.
  • Walter “clawed and fought” when his hat was stolen, “getting himself bloodier in the process.”
  • Henry is punched, leaning to “blood spurt[ing] from the boy’s busted nose.”
  • Eric “punched [Jimmy] in the stomach.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • King Kelly walks onto stage, “with a glass of beer” in his hand, and proceeds to take “a long draw” off of his drink.
  • King Kelly says he spent his money on strawberries and ice cream, and a heckler yells that “the bartenders got the rest.”
  • King Kelly gets drunk.
  • King Kelly says his “act goes better when [he’s] had a little something to drink.”
  • Blind pigs and speakeasies, illegal bars during the prohibition era, are the setting for Frankie’s chapter.
  • Kat sees girls sitting on gravestones “sipping beer and smoking cigarettes.”
  • Babe Herman “spit a huge glop of tobacco juice.”

Language

  • Rawney Dutchman, bloody devil, plonker, boat-lickers, dork, are all used by characters to insult each other.
  • Hell, damn, and darn are used as exclamations.
  • During a traffic buildup, men “yelled obscenities at each other.”
  • The “Red-Legged Devils” were said to have gotten their name when they fought with “hell’s fury” during Bull Run.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Felix compares his neighbor’s apartment to “preachers who stood on street corners throughout Kleindeutschland yelling warnings of damnation and hell.”
  • Temperance preachers throw whiskey into the sea, saying that “alcohol is an abomination, a plague on our cities and our communities and our families.”

by Dylan Chilcoat

Ellie Steps Up to the Plate

Ellie loves being on the stage, and she knows she is good at it. During physical education, Ellie tries baseball for the first time. She is surprised that she can hit the ball almost every time. Ellie decides to join the school team, but during her first game, she makes several mistakes. Baseball is not as easy as Ellie thought. Should Ellie stay on the team or put her mitt down forever?

Many readers will relate to Ellie’s frustration with trying something new. Through Ellie’s struggle, readers will learn the importance of practice and perseverance. Even though Ellie makes several errors during the game, her teammates encourage her to stay on the team.

Ellie Step Up to the Plate focuses on Ellie’s desire to earn a solo spot for her musical group, and her attempt to play baseball. Although the story also includes a baby deer; that part of the story was disjointed and did not flow well with the rest of the book. However, younger readers will still be able to understand the easy-to-read story and will appreciate the adorable artwork that appears on almost every page. Large type, short sentences, and plenty of dialogue will help newly independent readers stay engaged.

Readers will be able to relate to Ellie’s struggle to learn a new skill. Several of the events are connected to each other, which helps readers understand the importance of not giving up. Young girls will also benefit from seeing the varied woman characters in the story. The school coach, the veterinarian, and the principal are all women. Despite being part of a series, Ellie Steps Up to the Plate can be read as a stand-alone book.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Change Up

When Derek’s dad promises to coach his team, Derek thinks it will be the best season ever. He’s sure he’ll play shortstop and the team will head to the championships. On the first day of practice, Derek realizes his team needs a lot of work. To make matters worse, Gary—who hates sports and has never played baseball before—is on the team.

Soon Derek is at odds with his dad, and he isn’t getting playing time as a shortstop. Worst of all, Gary seems to be bringing the team down. Is there a way that Derek can help the players turn into a winning team? Derek realizes he has a lot to learn from his coaches, his family, and his teammates.

Sports lovers will enjoy the little league action and play-by-play descriptions of the games. Combined with realistic peer and coach conflicts, readers will understand Derek’s frustration when things do not go as he imagined. The conflict between Derek and Gary helps drive the story and will resonate with readers. The positive interaction between Derek and his parents reinforce the idea of talking through problems with your parents—even if you know they won’t necessarily agree with you.

An easy-to-read story, Change Up is a good sports story for reluctant readers. Derek knows that “life didn’t usually hand out globs of ice cream without at least a small helping of spinach on the side.” As Derek figures out how to resolve his conflicts, he learns important life lessons including focusing on the positive, helping others, and trying to see things from other people’s points of view.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • One of the players calls someone a “jerk.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Heat

Twelve-year-old Michael Arroya dreams of playing in the Little League World Series. His pitching arm has some serious heat, but so does his day-to-day life. Michael must pretend that everything is all right, even though his father has died, and his seventeen-year-old brother is trying to take care of their needs. Michael and his brother keep their father’s death a secret from almost everyone. But then a man from social services gets curious and begins asking questions. Fear fills Michael because he’s afraid if anyone finds out the truth he’ll be separated from his brother or sent back to Cuba.

To make matters worse, some of the coaches wonder how a twelve-year-old boy can throw with so much power. When the league demands a birth certificate, Michael becomes ineligible. With no birth certificate, no parent, and no way to prove his age, how will Michael be able to make his baseball dreams come true?

Heat is not just a book about baseball; it is a book about family, friendship, and never giving up on your dreams. The story integrates play-by-play baseball action, with the suspense of Michael’s home life and the secrets he is trying to keep. The relationships between Michael’s friend, Manny, and his brother, Carlos, add interest and heart to the story. Even though Michael’s father has died, his voice still rings through his sons’ memories. This allows the father to voice important life lessons to his sons even after his death.

The story deals with the difficult theme of losing a parent, maintaining secrets, and the struggles immigrant families face. Carlos struggles to become the man of the house and keep Michael focused on his dream. The characters’ conflict has just enough detail to add suspense to the story while staying kid-friendly. By watching the characters struggle, the reader will learn the importance of staying positive and never giving up. Heat is an easy-to-read story that will appeal to sports lovers. Because the story has a lot of play-by-play baseball action, this book will not appeal to those who do not enjoy sports.

Sexual Content
• None

Violence
• When a boy steals a purse from Mrs. Cora, she “hit the ground hard, rolled on her side, feeling dizzy. . .”
• Papi watched an argument and then, “he saw the man raise a hand to the woman, knock her down to the ground.” When Papi told the man to stop, the man, “took one swing before Papi put him down . . . The man got up, tried to charge Papi like a bull. But Papi put him down again.”
• A pitcher “went into his full wind-up and threw a fastball that hit Michael in the head.” The story implies the pitcher hit Michael on purpose.

Drugs and Alcohol
• None

Language
• One of the characters is referred to as “Justin the Jerk” throughout the story.
• When a pitcher throws a ball and hits Michael, someone says, “I can’t believe they didn’t throw that puss out of the game.”
• Michael’s friend calls him “jerkwad” and later a “jerkball.”

Supernatural
• None

Spiritual Content
• Michael’s Papi told him that, “You cannot teach somebody to have an arm like yours . . . It’s something you are born with, a gift from the gods, like a singer’s voice.”
• When Michael has a baseball in his hand, he doesn’t “have a list of questions he wants to ask God.”
• Michael’s Papi would say, “If you only ask God ‘why’? when bad things happen, how come you don’t ask him the same questions about all the good?”
• Michael’s brother reminds him that, “Papi said if we had all the answers we wouldn’t have anything to ask God later.”
• Michael tells his friend to stop talking because “the baseball gods you’re always telling me about? They’re hanging on every word right now.”
• On the wall of the Yankee Stadium clubhouse a sign read, “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee. Joe DiMaggio.”

The Fenway Foul-Up

Mike Walsh knows everything about baseball. His cousin Kate Hopkins knows a little about everything.  When the two get tickets to the Boston Red Sox game and all-access passes to Fenway Park, they will have to put all their knowledge together to solve the mystery of Big D’s missing bat.

Big D’s lucky bat is stolen during batting practice. Without his bat, will Big D be able to hit a much-needed home run and lead his team to victory? Can Mike and Kate solve the mystery and return Big D’s bat to him?

Baseball fans and mystery fans will enjoy The Fenway Foul-Up. Readers will be engrossed in the story as Mike and Kate follow the clues and eliminate suspects. The story is easy to read, but will also capture the attention of older readers because of the storyline. To help break up the text, black and white pictures appear every two to five pages. The book ends with a satisfying conclusion and fun facts about Fenway Park. This book will be a hit for reluctant and more advanced readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Pinstripe Ghost

Mike and Kate get to spend three whole days at Yankee Stadium. The excitement of being at the most famous ballpark in America gets even better when Mike and Kate hear the rumor that Babe Ruth’s ghost is haunting the new stadium.

As Mike and Kate investigate the ghost sightings, they feel a chilly blast of air and hear strange sounds. Is Babe Ruth really looking for his missing locker or is something else going on at Yankee Stadium?

Black and white pictures appear every 2 to 5 pages and will help readers visualize the action. Even though Capital Catch is the #13 book in the series, the books do not build on each other, so they can be read out of order. The book ends with fun facts about New York’s Yankee Stadium.

Mystery fans and sports fans will both enjoy solving the mystery in The Pinstripe Ghost. The Pinstripe Ghost is another fun mystery for early readers. Although the story revolves around a ghost, there are no scary parts. Readers will have fun putting together the clues in this easy-to-read, engaging story.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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