We’re back with another edition of Tundra Telegram, a column in which we look at the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.
Last weekend in cities across North America, baseball season began. Baseball: America’s pastime, a thing to watch while eating a few chili dogs. Readers could hear the crack of the bat, smell the aroma of Cracker Jacks, taste the awkwardness of crowds doing half-hearted waves. And if you, like so many others, have been knocked flat by a case of baseball fever, we prescribe a few of these books and plenty of rest!
If you think your child is showing sure signs of infielding and arm strength before they can even walk, you should pick up the board book Baseball Baby by Diane Adams and Canadian illustrator Charlene Chua in which a toddler is introduced to baseball for the first time.
A Ticket to the Pennant by Mark Holtzen is a story of baseball in Seattle, back when the Seattle Mariners were the Seattle Rainiers. (We have heard it’s rainier in Seattle.) Huey searches for his lost ticket to the big game, and wanders through the city’s diverse communities – all united by their love of the sport.
But if it’s the characters of baseball you love, you’ll want Barb Rosenstock and Terry Widener’s Yogi, a picture book tribute to Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, an all-star and true personality who coined such classic wisdom like, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” and “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
And if you like baseball AND hockey, check out NHL player and author Zachary Hyman’s The Bambino and Me, about a boy in 1920s New York and his quest to watch Babe Ruth face off against the dreaded Red Sox.
Mac Barnett and Greg Pizzoli’s Jack at Bat may not have the history or the literary pedigree of a “Casey at the Bat,” but it does have a mischievous rabbit, a cranky old lady, a lovable dog, and baseball teams named the Lady Town Ladies and the Big City Brats, so kids seem to like it more.
Jack and Annie have encountered dinosaurs, mummies, dolphins, and pirates, but in Magic Tree House #29: A Big Day of Baseball, they meet Jackie Robinson, the first Black player in Major League Baseball, as they are whisked back to 1947 to see Number 42 and learn about a longer-held American pastime than baseball. (Spoiler: it’s racism.)
If you loved A League of Their Own and like your baseball stories with a dash of history and civil rights, you’ll love Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages. In 1957 small-town America, Katy Gordon proves that even if you’re the best ten-year-old pitcher in town, people will try to stop you from playing Little League. (And for this reader, there was, in fact, crying in baseball.)
But don’t just stop there, as you’ll also want to follow along the journey of Shenice Lockwood and her Fulton Firebirds as they go to the regional softball championship in New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone’s coming-of-age softball page turner Fast Pitch. Not only will you cheer their triumphs, you’ll also learn a little about baseball history!
If you like classic books just as much as you like baseball, Alan Gratz’s Fantasy Baseball is probably for you. If you’ve ever wondered what a baseball game would look like with Dorothy Gale, The Big Bad Wolf, and Pinocchio in the infield, search no further!
Learn about Vancouver’s legendary Asahi baseball team in Ellen Schwartz’s Heart of a Champion, in which Kenny and his brother and local baseball star Mickey’s worlds are turned upside-down when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, and a dark period in Canadian history follows.
And maybe Paolo Bacigalupi’s Zombie Baseball Beatdown doesn’t have that much to say about the game (and is more about a zombie apocalypse caused by corrupt food producers) but no one can deny baseball bats do get swung frequently.
Matt de la Peña’s Mexican WhiteBoy tells the story of Danny, a biracial kid with a killer fastball. When he spends a summer with his father’s family in Mexico, he faces personal demons tougher than any slugger.
And including Karen M. McManus’s blockbuster One of Us Is Lying (now a successful television series) is a stretch, but may we remind you that Cooper, one of the Bayview Four (and one of our murder suspects) is an all-star pitcher. So, we’re keeping it!