Kids’ Baseball Books For Mom’s Day

Jeff · May 5, 2005 at 11:50 am · Filed Under Mariners 

A college fiction professor of mine was fond of saying that there are really only two stories: someone takes a journey, or a stranger comes to town.

This may explain why I love children’s books. Writing for a younger audience forces authors to strip down narratives to the few essential themes that resonate with all people: be kind to others. Don’t judge on appearances. Always try to learn, try to never hold grudges. Adding to the emotional poignance of these teachings is the fact that we adults seemingly can’t keep them straight ourselves.

When I was working at a local public library, I’d hide and read the kids’ books I was supposed to be shelving. That’s how much a mark I am for the genre. Books aiming at the diaper demographic won’t replace Mody Dick, but quality is quality in my eyes.

Earlier this week, the Wisconsin State Journal listed favorite baseball books for kids. Since Mother’s Day is this weekend, maybe the list will give you an idea for the mom in your life who loves the national pastime, wide-eyed poppets, reading to said youngsters or all of the above.

Two books that I recommend — and just bought for my nieces — have the advantage of regional ties. “Baseball Saved Us” is by Ken Mochizuki, who was raised in Seattle, and you can probably guess what makes “Dear Ichiro” by Jean Davies Okimoto of local interest.

At the same reading level, 4-8 years, are the Journal’s picks: “Luke Goes to Bat” by Rachel Isadora and “Mudball” by Matt Tavares. For a bit older kids, there’s “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” by Jonah Winter (5-10) and “Out Standing in My Field” by Patrick Jennings (8-12). Haven’t read any of these, but wanted to link to them: descriptions are available at the first link.

In Babe Ruth’s farewell to baseball speech, he said this: “You know this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth … [y]ou’ve gotta start from way down [at] the bottom, when you’re six or seven years of age. You can’t wait until you’re fifteen or sixteen. You gotta let it grow up with you.”

It’s the same with reading. Considering how much time I spend devouring things that begin with “http,” I figure anything we can do to bring up the next generation as readers is solid. Buy a baseball book for a mom and kid pair that you care about.


22 Responses to “Kids’ Baseball Books For Mom’s Day”

  1. Jim Thomsen on May 5th, 2005 4:00 pm

    I liked the young-adult sports novels of my youth … pretty much anything by Matt Christopher and Thomas Dygard, among others. I must have read “The KId Who Only Hit Home Runs” about 9,000 times.

    Every once in a while, maybe two or three times a year, I take a day off from everything I’m supposed to be doing and go to the children’s section of a public library. I find a chair in a corner and sit with a stack of my favorite childhood books. The last time I did that, in one sitting, I plowed through about 11 volumes of “Encyclopedia Brown” (and, I’m sad to say, guessed the correct solution to the mysteries contained within maybe 30 percent of the time).

    But it was amazing how psychically refreshed I felt each time I took one of those “regressive sanity” days.

    Give it a try sometime.

  2. msb on May 5th, 2005 5:01 pm

    add to the list:
    Michael Chabon, Summerland (YA) set on Clam Island, Washington

    Michelle Green, A strong right arm (gr.4-7) the biography of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, Negro League pitcher

    Dan Gutman’s series that began with “Honus & me” (gr. 4-6)

  3. msb on May 5th, 2005 5:13 pm

    how could I forget Patience pays, by Edgar Martinez and Greg Brown!

    (supposedly ages 9-12, but how can you resist the “Fair or foul?” test or the “can you find the baseball card with the mistake?” back cover?)

    and another Clemente book:
    Paul Robert Walker, Pride of Puerto Rico (gr. 4-8)

  4. Jim Thomsen on May 5th, 2005 5:39 pm

    Be careful with your purchases … I find in mine that there is often a large disconnect between what adults think kids would like, and what kids actually like. I bought “Patience Pays” for a 9-year-old and his mom later told me he thought it was boring. “I like stories,” he apparently said.

  5. Conor Glassey on May 5th, 2005 6:12 pm

    This isn’t baseball related, but speaking of children’s books and Mother’s Day, I’m taking my mom to see the play of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” That is my favorite children’s book (I even have Alexander’s face tattooed on my calf!) Should be fun…

  6. John D. on May 5th, 2005 6:23 pm


    TNX for introducing this topic.

  7. Jim Thomsen on May 5th, 2005 6:27 pm

    I will NOT get an Encyclopedia Brown tattoo.

    I’d love to see a stage production of “Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!”

  8. Jon Helfgott on May 5th, 2005 7:01 pm

    For readers in the 8-12 range, I recommend any books by John R. Tunis. He’s written tons of baseball books, but the ones that stick out in my mind are The Kid from Tomkinsville (and The Kid Comes Back), Highpockets, Keystone Kids, and Rookie of the Year. I was raised on Tunis (who also wrote Basketball and Track and Field books), and even connected with a friend in 3rd grade who’s still one of my best friends today when I found out he was a fellow Tunis fan.

    Also as long as someone else brought up Encyclopedia Brown, I can’t let a children’s book discussion go by without mentioning Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of Nimh.

  9. KW on May 5th, 2005 7:17 pm

    I like to stick to the classics. Winnie the Pooh (the real thing, by A A Milne) is immortal. It’s amazing what satire you’ll find in it, that you missed as a youngster. And you still loved it then, too. Even Beatrix Potter is a wonderful read as an adult.

  10. Jim Thomsen on May 5th, 2005 7:35 pm

    Recommended children’s books for young Mariner fans, courtesy of “Book Lust” author Nancy Pearl:

    — “Little House On Brush Prairie,” by Richie Sexson

    — “The Three Investigators In The Missing Bat Mystery,” by Miguel Olivo

    — “You Flippin’ Idiot! The Further Adventures of Young Napoleon Dynamite,” by Bret Boone

    — “Hitting Never Solves Anything: A Guide To Controlling Childhood Hostility,” by Wilson Valdez

    — “Having Power Doesn’t Mean You Need To Use It: Helping Your Youngster Develop Sound Social Integration Strategies,” by Adrian Beltre

    — “The Broken Wind In The Willies,” by Dan Wilson and Willie Bloomquist

    — “Clubhouse Tricks Are For Kids,” by Eddie Guardado

    — “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Nellie,” by Jeff Nelson

    — “The Lion, The Winn and the Wardrobe,” by Eandy Winn

    — “Carry On, Mr. Madritsch!” by Bobby Madritsch

  11. Conor Glassey on May 5th, 2005 8:05 pm

    Don’t forget “Where the Wild Things Are” by Matt Thornton and “Cloudy With a Chance of Beanballs” by Ron VIllone (forward by Justin Morneau).

  12. Jim Thomsen on May 5th, 2005 8:17 pm

    (bowing) Sensei.

  13. Metz on May 5th, 2005 10:23 pm

    I’ll second Summerland. It’s very well read as an audio book also.

    Let me throw in a quick plug for using your local library. The King County library system has a great web site. There is no finer service than reserving a book online, getting both an email and automated voice mail at home when the book comes in to your local library and then going to pick it up.

  14. rich on May 6th, 2005 1:35 am

    not baseball, but related through family (Angell): EB White’s books are an absolute joy.

  15. GWO on May 6th, 2005 3:51 am

    I’m somewhat baffled.

    Why would I buy my mother a children’s book for Mothers Day? She’s a grown up, she’s quite capable of reading books aimed at adults. Is it some US tradition that’s (thankfully) never crossed the pond?

    Also, candlesticks always make a nice gift … maybe a place setting, or maybe a silverware pattern

  16. Adam M on May 6th, 2005 8:40 am

    GWO, RTFM! 😉

    “The Kid From Tompkinsville,” John R. Tunis. It’s the first of a series of baseball books aimed at kids. They are wonderful, complex but not heady, and sentimental without being treacly. Ate them up as a kid, and there’s still stuff in there adults can appreciate.

  17. Bill Glassey on May 6th, 2005 9:33 am

    May I suggest “Down the Up Staircase”, by Kazuhiro Sasaki?

  18. roger tang on May 6th, 2005 9:54 am

    AH, yes…Moch’s book, BASEBALL SAVED US. Fifth Avenue made this into a school outreach musical and sent it around to Seattle area schools (had to use one of my younger actresses as the boy, but, what the hey….she’s a baseball fan anyway, so….)

  19. Rusty on May 6th, 2005 11:15 am

    I would like to make a plug for a friend’s book and if you don’t mind a little religion mixed in with your baseball, I think you’ll find this a great read. It’s a great Father or Mother/Son or Daugther read together type of book.

    And God Said, Play Ball! by Gary Graf

  20. KW on May 6th, 2005 11:32 am

    In the Big Inning, naturally. And the Seventh Inning He rested.

  21. John D. on May 6th, 2005 12:45 pm

    Speaking of (#s 8 & 16) JOHN R. TUNIS – He was quite popular in the forties. (A friend of mine read everything he ever wrote. I was especially fond of KEYSTONE KIDS–wanted to be a 2B.)
    In the autobiographical A MEASURE OF INDEPENDENCE, Tunis tells how the magazine he worked for couldn’t pay him his salary, so offered him either half-pay or stock in the company. A friend advised him to take the money–he did. The magazine was THE NEW YORKER. (Goodbye millions.)

    Jim (# 4),
    Though I think your point is well-taken (e.g. “You’ll really like this movie.”) you shouldn’t assume that the attitude (toward this book) of a nine-year-old that you know is characteristic of the attitude of all nine-year-olds.

  22. Jim Thomsen on May 6th, 2005 1:45 pm

    Agreed … I never said all kids wouldn’t like “Patience Pays,” but I think it is generally true that the older most of us get, the less we are in touch with what kids are interested in … or what sorts of things appealed to us as kids. The kids I know are generally suspicious of books that appear to talk down to them, and I think I can safely say that “Patience Pays,” while wonderful in many respects, could be seen as a bit condescending.