Monday, February 21, 2011

Batter up! Baseball book reviews

Opening day for the 2011 baseball season is March 31. (not that I'm counting or anything) Informed of my fondness for America's Pastime, Sleeping Bear Press sent me their spring baseball offerings.

First up,

Michelson, Richard. 2011. Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King. Ill. by Zachary Pullen. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear.

Everyone is familiar with Babe Ruth, but Lipman Pike has hardly been a household name.  Nevertheless, he was America's first home run king, and arguably, its first professional ball player.  Born in 1845 to Jewish immigrants from Holland, Lipman Pike joined the amateur National Association of Base Ball Players.  He became a star, playing for teams in New Jersey and New York.  However, more than just the story of his baseball career, Lipman Pike, is also a glimpse into society, politics, and daily life in Civil War era America.  The game of base ball was so popular at the time that even the infamous Boss Tweed was involved,
He joined the New Jersey Irvingtons until a man named Boss Tweed invited him to play closer to home.  Lip was excited because the New York Mutuals were one of the best clubs in the league.

"Of course, we can't pay you, " Boss Tweed explained.  "That would be against Base Ball Association policy, and as New York's Commissioner of Public Works, I would never break the rules."  He waved Lip closer so he could whisper.  "But I can offer you a job in our government office at Tammany Hall.  You would have little work to do and plenty of time to play ball."

Of course, many players were paid, and the league went professional soon after, in 1871.  Throughout his career, Lipman Pike was known as a gentleman as well as a slugger.

Follow-up information on Lipman's career and life, and an author's note complete the book, but no sources are offered.  The illustrations and primarily brown text on sepia-toned pages firmly establish the story in the mid 19th century.  Zachary Pullen's illustrations feature over sized heads with great detail and expression. An interesting picture book biography for older readers and baseball fans in general. How I wish that more teachers would accept picture books for middle grade biography projects.  In any case, this one could easily be shared in school, relating to units on biography or immigration.
Teacher's Guide available here.
On shelves now.

Herzog, Brad. I Spy with my Little Eye: Baseball. Ill. by David Milne. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear.

Each double-spread, mirror (or is it?) illustration features an "I spy" rhyme,
I spy with my little eye, a colorful cardboard collection. Pennants switch places, cards get new faces, and a Tiger changes direction.

along with a baseball-related Photo Fact, and a challenge to spot the differences on the two pages.  A great gift for baseball fans, and a great way to pass the time on trips, doctor visits, etc.  I love "I spy!"

On shelves now.

also by Brad Herzog,

Little Baseball

A small board book with baseball riddles,
Give yourself a great big hand.  It's where a batted ball might land.

Answer: Baseball glove.

This will make a fun and interactive book to share at storytime.  The riddles are difficult enough so that kids won't guess them right away, but not hard enough to be frustrating.

My only frustration is the fact that this will be published in board book format. I wouldn't hand this one to a toddler - too difficult.  This seems to be a trend with many publishers lately. We can no longer count on board books to be simple, concept offerings. Still, this is a fun book with catchy rhymes and upbeat illustrations.
 
Due on shelves in April.
 
Review copies were galley proofs, not final copies.

Today's Nonfiction Monday is at Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian.

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