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Opening Day 2018

Batter up! Hear that call!
The time has come for one and all
To play ball.

—Official victory song of the All-American Girls Baseball League,
co-written by Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis and Nalda “Bird” Phillips

It’s Opening Day at Fenway Park! (We can once again hear the helicopters from the Horn Book office.) Our Boston Red Sox are set to take on the Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon. Go Sox!

Meanwhile, here at The Horn Book Guide, we’re wrapping up the Spring 2018 issue — check out that gorgeous cover featuring art from Crown. The following baseball titles (including a Red Sox book!), pulled from the previous issue and this forthcoming one, all knock it out of the park. Click here for more recommended baseball reading.

 

Picture Books

Adler, David A.  Yom Kippur Shortstop
32 pp.    Behrman/Apples & Honey    2017

Illustrated by Andre Ceolin. Jacob is devoted to his Little League team — and also to his family’s practice of Judaism. When the championship game lands on Yom Kippur, Jacob is torn between whether to play ball or observe the solemn holiday. Although he does make the expected choice (synagogue), his decision-making is believably complex. Cheery illustrations show the various diverse and dynamic “teams” to which Jacob belongs.

Gorin, Leslie  Elly and the Smelly Sneaker: A Riches to Rags Story
40 pp.    Sterling    2017

Illustrated by Lesley Vamos. Elly lives a life fit for a princess, but she longs to play baseball (“she dreamed of opening days and double plays and being on their team”). Her fairy godfather provides a grungy uniform so she can attend a game and show off her skills. This simple but good-natured tale inverts the Cinderella story with self-referential humor and comical digital illustrations.

Wittenstein, Barry  Waiting for Pumpsie
32 pp.    Charlesbridge    2017

Illustrated by London Ladd. It’s 1959, and the Boston Red Sox — the last all-white Major League Baseball team — finally call up a black player named Pumpsie Green. Fictional narrator Bernard, a young African American fan, earnestly relates what this means to him. Based on real events, Wittenstein’s story doesn’t gloss over the racism present but is ultimately buoyantly positive. Ladd’s painterly acrylic illustrations add a nostalgic quality. Bib.

 

Younger

Osborne, Mary Pope  A Big Day for Baseball
76 pp.    Random    2017

Illustrated by AG Ford. Magic Tree House series. Jack and Annie learn more than the basics of baseball from master player Jackie Robinson when they travel back to 1947 Brooklyn, where they work as batboys in Robinson’s historic first Dodgers game. Sports history and the effects of racism are woven into this latest fast-paced and accessible installment in the popular series; black-and-white illustrations are included throughout.

 

Intermediate

Moore, Steve  No Fear!
216 pp.    HarperCollins/Harper    2017

King of the Bench series. Steve has a severe case of “Bean-O-Phobia”: fear of getting beaned by a baseball. Perennial middle-school bench-warmer Steve’s first-person narrative uses a blend of snarky wit and hilarious social observation. Cartoonish line drawings invite readers to laugh at and with Steve in equal measure.

Palmer, Iva-Marie  Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook
290 pp.    HarperCollins/Tegen    2017

Illustrated by Marta Kissi. As a star pitcher, Gabby knows how to strategize for success; so when she’s abruptly reassigned to a private school because of asbestos at Luther Junior High, she produces this playbook for all her goals. Amply illustrated in black-and-white and breezily written, it will appeal to sports-minded readers who enjoy similarly formatted journals. Lessons about ego versus genuine friendship don’t outweigh the fun.

Scaletta, Kurtis  Rooting for Rafael Rosales
285 pp.    Whitman    2017

Scaletta deftly weaves together the stories of Rafael, a young Dominican boy desperately committed to playing American Major League Baseball someday, and twelve-year-old Minnesotan girl Maya, who’s desperately committed to saving the environment. He convincingly writes about these disparate subjects, peopling the novel with sympathetic, three-dimensional characters. Excellent sports writing, an appreciation of the natural world, and provocative ethical dilemmas add richness.

Teague, David  How Oscar Indigo Broke the Universe (And Put It Back Together Again)
246 pp.    HarperCollins/Harper    2017

All sci-fi fans know messing with time is perilous. Of course, Oscar doesn’t mean to break the universe with his mysterious time-stopping watch — he just wants to stage a home run when he finally gets to bat. This funny, utterly unscientific adventure features lovable gangster kidnappers; a frail, elderly neighbor who was once a baseball superstar; the beginnings of a beautiful friendship; and the occasional dinosaur.

Time, Nicholas O.  Going, Going, Gone
146 pp.    Simon Spotlight    2016

In Due Time series. Twelve-year-old Matt gets a chance to prevent an accident that cost his grandfather a baseball career with the New York Giants. With the help of his time-traveling school librarian, Matt and his friends journey to 1951 with only three hours to rewrite Grandpa Joe’s story before getting stuck in the past or over-altering history. A humorous, fun-filled new series for young time-travel enthusiasts.

 

Older

Konigsberg, Bill  Honestly Ben
332 pp.    Scholastic/Levine    2017

After his best friend Rafe comes out (Openly Straight), Ben grapples with his own identity as “gay-for-Rafe” — straight, but still head-over-heels for his friend. Through this lens, the challenges of being openly yourself when you can’t yet put a label on who you are come to light. Set at Ben’s prestigious Massachusetts boarding school, the multidimensional coming-of-age tale celebrates individuality and interconnection.

White, Ellen Emerson  A Season of Daring Greatly
422 pp.    Greenwillow    2017

High-school baseball phenom Jill Cafferty makes history as the first female Major League player when she signs with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But it’s not going to be easy, as she faces a lot of abuse: fans tossing tampons onto the field, a teammate urinating in her locker, etc. Baseball fans will enjoy following Jill toward a surer sense of herself and her skills.

 

Nonfiction

Rappaport, Doreen  42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero
Gr. 4–6    119 pp.    Candlewick    2017

Jackie Robinson became the first black Major League Baseball player in 1947, when manager Branch Rickey signed him to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But the racism he had faced all of his life followed him throughout his career. Rappaport’s treatment is spare, good for reluctant readers, and her telling is engaging. Source notes are solid; there are no photographs. Timeline, websites. Bib., ind.

Winter, Jonah  Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet
Gr. K–3    40 pp.    Random/Schwartz & Wade    2017

Illustrated by C. F. Payne. This top-notch biography of baseball’s greatest switch-hitter, who played through pain almost every day of his Yankees career, has heart, passion, and impressive full-color acrylic and pencil illustrations. Winter writes with such assurance and power it’s like reading one of Mantle’s sweet swings. Winter focuses on Mantle’s glories, but an appended note recounts the difficulties Mantle had off the field.

Yomtov, Nel  The Belles of Baseball: The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
Middle school, high school   112 pp.    ABDO/Essential Library    2017

Hidden Heroes series. This volume examines the history of women in baseball, specifically the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. In addition to an engaging overview of women’s participation in — and exclusion from — the sport, this volume provides biographical accounts of the most well-known female players and their accomplishments. Archival photos illustrate the account. Reading list, timeline. Bib., glos., ind.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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