I don’t care much for baseball but I’m a sucker for a good story. The odd thing is, baseball seems to be quite a breeding ground for tantalizing tales. I’ve been bamboozled into reading far more than my share of baseball novels because they developed into darn good stories.
When Jackie Met Hank is just such an example. I have to admit that, thanks to the current film, 42, I did have a passing interest when I saw a book about Jackie Robinson. And, it wasn’t too painful to read a picture book about baseball players. I’m glad I dropped my guard. Reading When Jackie Met Hank was time well spent.
Cathy Goldberg Fishman has told her story from a very interesting perspective by stating in the opening sentence that “Jack Roosevelt Robinson and Henry Benjamin Greenberg were born eight years and 1,000 miles apart.” She then proceeds to tell how at various stages of growing up they came –unbeknownst to the other—a little closer and a little closer.
As boys, both men had an aptitude for sports but their lives were more intertwined that they realized. Jackie Robinson was the first Negro player in the major leagues, a role that won him as much reproach as fame. There’s no doubt that Jackie’s rookie year was hard, very hard. What is however, not as well remembered today, is the story of Hank Greenberg, one of the first Jewish professional baseball stars. His road to becoming “Hammerin’ Hank” was almost as rocky as Robinson’s. They knew each other’s pain. Both men were class acts on the field and off. Ms. Fishman tells how Jackie Robinson said as much about Hank Greenberg when he told a New York Times reporter, “Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg.” Jackie Robinson and Hank Green berg were two men, different yet alike in many ways, brought together by sports but held together in friendship and respect by an even greater game, the game of life, a game at which both of them excelled. Posted by: Eileen
Sports camp! Fun or intimidation? Maybe a little of both. It is Riley Liston’s first time away at sports camp, Camp Olympia. He doesn’t have any friends at camp and he is the youngest and the smallest. He is eleven and all the other boys are either twelve or thirteen. In spite of these facts, Riley is competitive and he loves sports.
This short story of a two week sports camp experience is chock full of successes and failures, tentative new friendships, and the formation of a team from kids that were just assigned to the same cabin, Cabin 3 – Threshers. There are also pranks and ghost stories, after lights out retaliations and spooky happenings. Looming over all is the threat of Big Joe, a huge snapping turtle which supposedly inhabits Lake Surprise and is capable of biting off a swimmer’s arm or foot. This adds a lot of drama to the last, big swimming competition.
This is a fun, quick read sprinkled with Camp Olympia Bulletins which give the highlights of the sports events of the day and give the standings of the teams. Recommended for boys 5th grade through 7th.
Posted by: Fran
This is a wonderful book about a girl who has lost her father. He had died recently in a car crash. Now she has to figure out how to live with that reality. Her mother has become very distant. A woman who loses herself in online shopping . She no longer has the vitality to fix dinner and Molly misses that time that they would spend together making dinner. Now they just argue. To let off some steam, Molly goes outside to pitch a few balls. Her father had taught her how to play catch and how to pitch. They had shared an enthusiasm for baseball which her mother couldn’t relate to. As she throws her first pitch, her knuckleball, a pitch that flutters and flits, she realizes that she wants to play boys baseball this year. She wants to be a pitcher. Her best friend is supportive but she’s afraid to tell her mother about her decision.
This is a really good sports book. Molly has to deal with prejudice and failure and team dynamics. She is lucky to have a good best friend, a good coach and actually makes a friend on the team. I recommend it for girls grades 5th through 8th.
Posted by: Fran
Matt Pin lives what seems an ordinary life for a 7th grader—he has tried out for his school’s baseball team and is on his way to being its star pitcher, he has parents who love him, and a little brother who adores him. But Matt is not an ordinary boy, not exactly. Born in Vietnam to a local mother, and an American-soldier father who took off as soon as his Tour of Duty was up, Matt witnessed the bombings and brutalities of the War first-hand. His mother had him airlifted to the States, where a wonderful couple adopted him. Now two years later, Matt is haunted by the memories of his biological mother’s ‘abandonment,’ of the bombs dropped on him, and of the wounded little brother he had to leave behind.
This Rebecca Caudill nominee book is told in free verse, which I usually find distracting, but in this case, it works. Its fractured style mirrors Matt’s fractured life. We follow Matt’s nightmares of Vietnam, the hatred of some of his teammates toward him for the slant of his eyes, and even the support group of Vietnam vets he is invited to visit to help them all heal—Matt included.
All the Broken Pieces is definitely recommended for the older reader, since it touches upon war, bullying, wounded soldiers and Matt’s feelings of confusion about loving his new life while missing his old. It also has a lot of baseball but nothing too technical for baseball-phobes.
Posted by: Cindy
This is a good sports book. The main character is in 8th grade but I think it will appeal to younger readers also. Roy loves baseball and has always played on the traveling team. This year is very important because the high school coach scouts the traveling teams for potential high school players. Unfortunately, Roy is kind of a cutup at school and he does well in classes that interest him but History isn’t one of them. He is getting a D. His parents are divorced but put up a united front about his grades. Both agree that he will have to play on the recreational team this year.
Roy realizes that the highschool coach still shows up sometimes to watch their games but how will he ever get noticed playing on this horrible team? He gets a lot of hostility from his team mates when he tries to implement changes. He also ends up having to go to a tutor who happens to be his father’s girlfriend! How awful is that! He has a pretty rough time of it for awhile and makes some mistakes but he learns a lot and the sports situations are really good and believable. Recommended for readers in 5th through 8th grades.
Posted by: Fran
We live in a 30 second world. Today people IM because it takes too long to talk. They “tweet” to inform us of their every thought and movement. “News” is available on TV or online—even on our phones!–24 hours a day. Everything happens fast; yesterday’s news is ancient history. Kids may not believe it but, it wasn’t always that way.
In the “olden days”, rewards were earned. You had to wait. You had to have patience. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In No Easy Way, Fred Bowen illustrates this point perfectly.
Bowen uses a chatty, easy going tone to stress over and over again how Boston Red Sox great, Ted Williams, knew from childhood that the only way to get really good at hitting was to practice. Williams’ love of baseball got him to the field but practice got him into the record books. There was no instant gratification for Ted. He played and practiced every chance he got. He practiced alone, on pickup teams, school teams and all the way up to the major leagues. It’s a thrilling story made all the more so because it’s true. Young baseball fans—or anyone trying to master a skill–will love it. Ted Williams proved that dreams can come true.
Well matched to Bowen’s prose, the illustrations of Charles Pyle, along with a few photographs, firmly place the story in the past, in a time different from our own. The tale, however, is timeless and just right for today’s hurried lifestyle. Using Williams’ career and record as a springboard, Bowen, “hits a home run” spotlighting how hard work, determination and practice, practice, practice will always stand the test of time.
Posted by: Eileen
Keith Hutchinson had always played shortstop, just like his Dad. This year that has changed. The team has a new player who is even better than Hutch and he is playing shortstop. Hutch is playing second base. Their team makes it to the finals and Hutch has gotten some press for his performance but not all is going smoothly. The shortstop has an irritating attitude, Hutch’s dad is as reserved and distant as always and Hutch misses playing the shortstop spot. Thanks goodness, Hutch has a supportive and understanding mother and the best friend ever, Cody, who also plays on the team. This is an interesting book and will speak to all the kids who dream of having a professional sports career. Hutch has hopes for one but his Dad is dead set against it because his professional career died and it broke his heart. The book doesn’t give any answers but explores these issues and the last baseball game is really exciting!
Posted by: Fran W.