Tundra Telegram: Books That Are Real Dingers

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!

PICTURE BOOKS

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.

CHAPTER BOOKS

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.)

MIDDLE GRADE

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.

YOUNG ADULT

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!

TD Summer Reading Club 2021

TD Summer Reading Club is a free bilingual summer reading program for kids. Developed by the Toronto Public Library in association with Library and Archives Canada, the Club inspires kids to explore the joy of reading and build a lifelong love of literature.

All summer long, kids can read books online, get reading recommendations, track their progress, and connect with other kids all over Canada. There’s something for everyone including kids with print disabilities.

Some of our titles have been included on the Club’s 2021 Top Recommended Reads, and we’re so excited to share them with children all across the country this summer.

Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates
By Kara Kootstra and Bobby Orr
Illustrated by Jennifer Phelan
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265325 | Tundra Books
Bobby eats, sleeps and breathes hockey. So when his birthday is coming up, he only wants one thing: new skates. He’s seen the exact pair he wants in the shop window: sparkling blades, shiny leather, clean new laces tied in perfect bows. But when Bobby opens his gift, he’s dismayed to find hand-me-down skates: scuffed leather, nicked blades, floppy laces. Once Bobby breaks them in, though, he and the hand-me-down skates become inseparable, and he can’t imagine life without them . . . until the brand-new skates come into his life. How can he leave his hand-me-down skates behind?

Megabat Is a Fraidybat
By Anna Humphrey
Illustrated by Kass Reich
192 Pages | Ages 7-10  | Paperback
ISBN 9780735268050 | Tundra Books
Daniel is not so sure about going to camp. There will be bugs. And uncomfortable beds. And leeches! Megabat can’t wait to go to camp! There will be so much smooshfruit, and he loves a good sing-along. Soon Daniel starts to think camp isn’t so bad. He’s made friends, and his bed isn’t that uncomfortable. Megabat has made a new friend too. But his new friend wants him to go flying to spooky caves. And her mom is very toothy. As Daniel is getting into the swing of things and starting to enjoy camp, Megabat is getting himself into one tangle after another to avoid going into the scary woods. But can Megabat overcome his fears to help save his new friend?

Jack at Bat
By Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
80 Pages | Ages 4-8  | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593113820 | Viking BFYR
The Lady and Rex have a baseball game against the Big City Brats. Jack is not allowed to swing the bat, so he is told to be the Bat Boy. That is, until the Lady Town Ladies and the Big City Brats are tied. It’s up to Jack to hit a home run, but on the way to home plate he spots some snacks. . . . Welcome to the laugh-out-loud and irreverent world of Jack, a new early reader series by the New York Times bestselling and award-winning team of Mac Barnett and Greg Pizzoli.

Soaked!
By Abi Cushman
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984836625 | Viking BFYR
A Hula-Hooping moose, a badger with a bumblebee umbrella, a rabbit in a cashmere sweater, and a very wet bear star in this unpredictable and laugh-out-loud picture book in which having fun gets the best of a grumpy bear. It looks like a wet and dreary day for Bear and his trio of friends. How could he possibly have fun when he is soaked? But Badger, Rabbit, and Moose don’t seem to mind. In fact, Moose can still hula hoop! And it looks like so much fun. Might Bear like to try? Here is a story that shows that fun is not dependent on sunshine and blue skies. In fact, it might be more fun to be soaked!

Terry Fox and MeTerry Fox and Me
By Mary Beth Leatherdale
Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267688 | Tundra Books
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope, this picture book biography tells the story of a friendship defined by strength and love. Before Terry Fox become a national hero and icon, he was just a regular kid. But even then, his characteristic strength, determination and loyalty were apparent and were the foundation for his friendship with Doug. The two first met at basketball tryouts in grammar school. Terry was the smallest – and worst – basketball player on the court. But that didn’t stop him. With Doug’s help, Terry practiced and practiced until he earned a spot on the team. As they grew up, the best friends supported each other, challenged each other, helped each other become better athletes and better people. Doug was by Terry’s side every step of the way: when Terry received a diagnosis of cancer in his leg, when he was learning to walk – then run – with a prosthetic leg and while he was training for the race of his life, his Marathon of Hope. Written from Doug’s perspective, this story shows that Terry Fox’s legacy goes beyond the physical and individual accomplishments of a disabled athlete and honors the true value of friendship.

The Button Book
By Sally Nicholls
Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267152 | Tundra Books
Follow a group of animal friends as they discover a collection of mysterious buttons, all of which do different things! From a blue singing button to a purple tickle button, from a rude sound button to a mysterious white button, there’s only one way to find out what they do: press them all! And thankfully, there’s even a sleeping button to lull the animals to sleep after a busy day. A lively introduction to colors and shapes, The Button Book is the perfect interactive book for story time (and bedtime!).