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Monday, February 20, 2012

Some baseball books in honor of PITCHERS & CATCHERS

Browsing in a Vermont bookstore where my good friend works, I put together a list of some baseball books in honor of "Pitchers and Catchers," the much anticipated (amongst serious fans) first day of spring training when (you guessed it) pitchers and catchers are required to report.

Like my Black History Month list I've tried to include some picks for reluctant readers. I've also tried to mix a variety of genres: bios, YA, philosophy (it's a deep game), picture books, and, possibly the most read by kids obsessed with the game, encyclopedias.

Henry Aaron's Dream by Matt Tavares
A solid, fact-filled picture bio of the icon. A bit too inspirational in tone for my taste, but still worth getting for nice artwork and thorough research.

The Kid Who Only Hit Homers
by Matt Christopher
Christopher's sports-based chapter books won't go away and there's a reason why: sports-loving kids always read them. Try this one with your athletic kid who thinks he or she doesn't like reading.

The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris
by Mark Kurlansky

Kurlansky is best known for his books for adults and kids centered on things we eat (Salt, Cod...) that use the thing mentioned in the title as a jumping-off point for books that defy categorization as they whip effortlessly from social history to geography to science to personal essay. His book, The Big Oyster, was my favorite of those I consulted as I was writing a cycle of songs about the history of oysters in the New York Harbor and the efforts of a current group to re-introduce them to the infamously toxic Gowanus Canal.

This book isn't a food book but I expect it retains Kurlansky's trademark mix of sweeping narrative and incredible attention to detail (I haven't read it -- it's in my queue). 

The Baseball Counting Book by Barbara Barbieri McGrath and Brian Shaw
Cute book for toddlers and new counters.

Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress by Harry Katz, Frank Ceresi, and Phil Michel
A baseball dork's paradise of miscellania.

Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball by David A. Adler and Susanna Atti
Another well-done chapter book series. Nothing thrilling, just a decent sports-based narrative for readers just starting their careers in the library.

The Way of Baseball
by Shawn Green
Been wanting to read this, a book that's been compared to Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops (I have to admit I kind of liked that book). It's most interesting to me, though, because I've always liked Green. He was a Met, he had decent stats, and he notably missed games during a playoff race in order to observe Yom Kippur. Plus, he always seemed like a cool guy (from my expert perch at the sports bar).

Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campanella by Neil Lanctot
One of the greatest Brooklyn Dodgers, possibly the greatest. Amazing off-the-field story.

H is for Home Run: A Baseball Alphabet by Brad Herzog and Melanie Rose
Hey, why not?

The Baseball Encyclopedia: The Complete and Definitive Record of Major League Baseball by MacMillan
MacMillan being the publisher not an author. This was the original super encyclopedia (the first really important one), one that many others copied and referenced. Ever taught elementary school kids? You've surely been ignored while kids read books like this one under their desk or in the corner during periods when they were supposed to be doing something else. I think the current era of sabermetrics and Moneyball owes much to the generation that grew up reading this book and all its many imitators.

and lastly...

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson (who did the pictures in Henry's Freedom Box) is one of several Negro League books I'm constantly recommending on this blog (see, for example, my entry on "Cool Papa Bell" for some more suggestions). This one is an exceptional one for kids and features Nelson's comic-book-heroic illustrations.

Yes, I know there are many more great baseball books. I just picked a few I love or want to read soon. What are your favorites?