Kiddosphere: Play Ball! Books About Baseball
Now that winter has said its final goodbyes, it’s time to turn our attention to spring matters. For baseball fans, one of the best days of the year is Opening Day. Spring training has concluded, and it’s time to get on the long journey to October. To get your mind into the game, here are some of my favorite baseball-themed books for fans of all ages.
Whenever I see a list of “best movies about sports,” I always look to see if A League of Their Own (“There’s no crying in baseball!”) is included. If not, I know it’s a trash list and move on. The story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (“We’re all for one, we’re one for all, we’re All-Americans!”) is one of the most awesome sports eras in American history; if you’re only familiar with the movie, then you definitely need to read A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. (Someone needs to write a good nonfiction book about the league for adults!)
If you need a great baseball read aloud, Baseball Is– should be at the top of your list. Not only does it cover the excitement of spending the day at the ballpark and watching your team (while dreaming of a World Series win complete with a ticker-tape parade!), but it also incorporates the rules of the game, the people that make the whole game happen (players, those in the dugout, the announcer, the vendors, and even the bat boy), and the history of the game, including the Negro Leagues and the women’s league.
Get a Hit, Mo! continues one of my favorite early reader series, starring a determined young man who makes his mark in his various sports teams. Mo bats last and always plays right field (meaning that he’s not likely to catch a ball), but longs to help his team win a game.
Growing Up Pedro tells the inspiring story of Pedro Martinez, a Dominican born player who led the Red Sox to a World Series and dreamed of playing with his brother, Ramon, in the World Series. This is a heartwarming story about their brotherly bond and their climb from their impoverished childhood to baseball greatness.
Sharon Robinson has written a number of children’s books about her father, including Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America. This includes family memorabilia and pictures, so it’s a standout among Jackie Robinson books for young readers.
Out of Jonah Winter’s sports biographies, Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates is probably one of my top two favorites (my top favorite is the last book in this post). The incredible and tragically cut short life of “The Great One” who became a legendary player and humanitarian is beautifully told in this picture book biography. MLB teams honor Clemente every year with a special “Roberto Clemente Day,” on which they present their nominees for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award (and usually engage in community service work on or around the day).
William Hoy dreamed of playing in the major leagues, but options for any kind of work were very limited for deaf people in the 1860s and 1870s. When an amateur coach obseved his baseball skills, however, he started his journey from amateur clubs, to the minor leagues, playing for such teams as the Cincinnati Reds, the Washington Senators and the Louisville Colonels (along with Honus Wagner). Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy relates the difficult yet victorious career of William Hoy, introducing this little-known player to new audiences.
The history of the Negro League is both parts shameful and inspiring, one which all baseball fans should know. We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball features Kadir Nelson’s gorgeous writing and illustrations to tell the rich and complex history of the league. It’s quite lyrical and written directly to the reader; if you’d prefer a more standard historical look about the league, try Black Diamond by the formidable McKissacks or The Story of Negro League Baseball.
Finally, Jonah Winter’s You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? is one of my favorite baseball biographies (as well as my favorite Winter book). Koufax faced anti-Semitism during his career, struggled with shyness and had a tempestuous relationship with the Brooklyn Dodgers. His dream of playing in the World Series came to fruition in 1965, but at a price; as an observant Jew, he ultimately declined to play. This is a fun read aloud, but requires some practice, as its written in an “old timey” radio announcer voice.
For program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers, make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library