Monday, August 15, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Baseball

First PitchFirst Pitch:  How Baseball Began by John Thorn. Beach Ball Books, 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Beach Ball is producing some very well done sports books.  I like their typography and the design which includes a nice balance of white space, text boxes and illustrations. The information easy to read and assimilate.  The pages are numbered which is helpful to students learning to cite facts.  They include an index, short glossary, photo and illustration credits and a list of web resources.

There is a wealth of information here on the origins of "America's pastime" provided by historian, John Thorn, whose credentials are very sound as he is the Official Historian for Major League Baseball.  Thorn's mission here, is to share the background of baseball's origins and examine the real contributions of Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright.  Thorn's conclusions may surprise fans who have seen the plaques at Cooperstown. He traces the history of the game from an early children's game to the year, 1845, when William R. Wheaton wrote down some of the first rules for club play. 

Thor's story reads like a detective tale which engages even casual fans, like myself.  Highly recommend this title for all school library collections.

Shoeless Joe & Black BetsyReview copies from my public library.

Author, Phil Bildner is recalling the great stories and legends of baseball for a new generation.  Beginning with Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy, which was chosen for the Texas Bluebonnet Award in 2004, Bildner tells the story of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his search for the perfect bat.  Charlie Ferguson, the "finest bat smith in all of South Carolina -- and in all the South" made a bat for Jackson which he used throughout his career. Ferguson was also part psychologist as he helped Jackson through various hitting slumps with advice on caring for his bat.  Bildner's after word tells the rest of the Shoeless Joe's famous story. C. F. Payne paints his subjects with caricature-realism and a rich colors.

The Shot Heard 'Round the WorldBildner recounts the epic pennant race between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants in the summer of 1951 in The Shot Heard 'Round the World.  C. F. Payne illustrates again. His paintings and Bildner's words paint a time gone by as stillness falls over Brooklyn and every ear listens to the final game of the series on the radio.  Bildner's young narrator calls the climactic game and the reader watches, in the stands, as the Giant's Bobby Thomson cracks out the game ending home run. 

The Unforgettable Season: Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the Record-Setting Summer of 1941Bildner is at the top of his game here with polished storytelling in his new book, The Unforgettable Season: Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the Record-Setting Summer of 1941Here, he covers Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak and Ted Williams's .400 batting average. What little I knew about DiMaggio's hitting streak was from Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlow in the movie, Farewell My Lovely.  "Joltin' Joe" and "The Splendid Splinter" hit their way into the country's hearts during the summer of 1941.  Bildner calls games like a veteran baseball announcer as he highlights key hits and identifies the fields and cities where the games were played. He lets the players speak for themselves with quotes. After hitting a three run homer in the All-Star Game,we "hear" Ted Williams say, "The greatest thrill of my life!"  A list of research sources is also included.
  Illustrator S.D. Schindler presents the visual story like a newsreel combining full page illustrations with vignettes.  The book bolds and color codes Williams's name in red and DiMaggio's name in blue which helps the reader follow the two story lines. Bildner smoothly entwines facts and baseball stats in his writing but he excels at finding the heart of these sports stories and sharing them with a young readers. 

First Pitch:  How Baseball Began by John Thorn. Beach Ball Books, 2011
 Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy by Phil Bildner ; illustrated by C.F. Payne. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2002.
The Shot Heard 'Round the World by Phil Bildner ; illustrated by C.F. Payne. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2005.
The Unforgettable Season: Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the Record-Setting Summer of 1941 Phil Bildner ; illustrated by S. D. Schindler. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, c2011.

Amy O'Quinn is hosting the Nonfiction Monday round-up today

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sunny Bunnies

Sunny BunniesGreg Pincus, father of the Fibs poetry form at his blog GottaBook and social media tour guide at Happy Accident, penned an ode to summer with a new poem, "At the Beach - a beach poem"  last week.  His poem inspired me to pick up Margie Blumberg's book Sunny Bunnies from the review stack.

  A rabbit family packs up the car and heads to the beach where they play in the waves, fly a kite, enjoy a picnic lunch and build a sand castle. Blumberg's story rhymes along with a pleasant read-aloud rhythm. She hits all the activities a child enjoys at the beach.  June Goulding's bunnies are picture book sweet and she fills the page with nice details including a sumptuous picnic with foods young children will recognize.  At the end of the day, jars of lightening bugs glow while the family toasts marshmallows around a campfire. She also keeps the geography of the beach consistent in the different views.  Her end papers are a map of Carrot Cake Park where the family has spent the day. I really like presenting maps to young children.  Blumberg and Goulding hit the mark with the book's last pages as the children, who are still not tired, jump out of bed to check on their parents and find them completely zonked, sound asleep from their big day at the beach.
Sunny Bunnies, written by Margie Blumbert, illustrated by June Goulding, MB Publishing, 2008