In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The postseason

Dear Annie,

I hope your weekend away has been good, filled with friends, and relaxing.

Life at the store is starting to speed up, as it is wont to do this time of year.  But before I sink into nothing-but-work, I thought I'd tip the hat to the baseball post-season.  All the teams our extended family roots for have been eliminated long since, but I seem to be obsessively following the dwindling number of games still available.  Baseball is such a pleasure, and the intensity of this time of year is always fascinating.  Tonight could be the deciding game in the NLCS, then on to the World Series.

At the start of the 2010 season, I listed a few good kids' baseball books, but I'm adding two more today.

First, we'll travel back to the summer of 1941.  My mother (your grandma) was home in New York between her junior and senior years at Rollins College in Florida.  She turned 20 that summer, my daughter Mona's current age.  Her 28 year-old boyfriend (my dad, your grandpa) was working for Life Magazine -- that might have been the summer they spent a night sleeping in Central Park (that family legend has always been fuzzy).  Although the Mets eventually turned Helen into a baseball fan, I don't know if she or Frank was paying much attention to the game that remarkable year.

The Unforgettable Season
by Phil Bildner, with illustrations by S.D. Schindler tells the stories of Yankee Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak (the longest ever), and Red Sox Ted Williams' season of batting .406 (.400 hasn't been touched since).  It's a picture book -- aimed at ages 5 to 9 -- full of illustrations, statistics and suspense.  1941 also had the bittersweet distinction of being the last summer before World War II changed that generation's lives.  By the following summer, my parents were married, your grandpa was in Basic Training, and U.S. involvement in the war was in full swing.  Both Willliams and DiMaggio ended up in the military.

Getting back to the game, I offer a baseball novel that immerses the reader in the love of playing baseball. 
Six Innings
, by James Preller, focuses on the Little League postseason: a regional championship game.  The structure of the novel is the innings of the game.  We get to know all the players, and the announcer, who's a former team member who now is seriously ill.  The book mixes real feelings and character development with evocative description of how it feels to be in the game.  It's one of the best-written sports books I know for middle-graders.  And while poking around online tonight to find more information about the book, I found this lovely and emotional blog entry by Preller, explaining what led him to write the book.

So, on to the World Series.  With whoever's playing.



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