Guide to Juvenile Baseball Books: I
- Packard, David. The Ball Game. Illustrated by Robert W. Alley. Cartwheel Books, 1993. [My First Hello Reader series] Beginning reader uses the repetitive actions of a baseball game to teach basic reading vocabulary.
An effective technique; comes with flashcards to reinforce its presentation.
- Parish, Peggy. Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia. Illustrated by Wallace Tripp. n.p.: HarperCollins, 1996 newly illustrated reprint of 1972. The terminally ditzy domestic Amelia Bedelia misconstrues every aspect of a sandlot ballgame she's invited to join.
This is a cute book, full of wordplay and exquisite drawings by Tripp. Amelia Bedelia's cluelessness is a bit much, I think: she is not exactly an empowered woman.
- Park, Barbara. Skinnybones. New York: Knopf, 1982. A class clown who is a terrible athlete fails at baseball but gains fame by winning a humorous-essay contest.
Well-crafted short novel that won many state children's-book-list mentions. Has in common with a few other kids' books the theme of a hopeless athlete, as well as the theme that being bad at sports isn't all that bad. See also Giff's Left-Handed Shortstop.
- Park, Linda Sue. Keeping Score. New York: Clarion, 2008. Young Dodger fan suffers through the early 1950s with the Bums, learning to keep score from an older friend who later suffers post-traumatic stress in the Korean War.
Sharp and accurate use of scoresheet techniques, but a loosely organized plot yoking very general treatment of the war to very familiar incidents from baseball history, resulting in somewhat diffused energies.
- Patneaude, David. Haunting at Home Plate. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman, 2000. When a youth-league team practices on an abandoned ballfield, the ghost of a young fan killed there a half-century before supplies spectral messages with tactical tips that help them win a pennant.
Brisk, enjoyable fiction with some of the curious obsessions of the genre: the promising boy dying young, WW2 veterans, the supernatural.
- Paxton, Tom. The Jungle Baseball Game. Illustrated by Karen Lee Schmidt. New York: Morrow, 1999. Hippos square off against monkeys and apes.
A picture book where the texts are actually a song lyric by Paxton; sheet music is included in the endpapers.
- Peck, Robert Newton. Extra Innings. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. A white lad recovers from the trauma of a plane crash by listening to an old black woman --his aunt by adoption-- tell stories of a barnstorming black ballclub of her youth.
This Young Adult novel's situations seem a bit forced, not to say contrived.
- Perkins, Al. Don and Donna Go to Bat. Illustrated by B Tobey. New York: Beginner Books, 1966. Twin sister takes brother's place for the Big Game.
Not her brother's equal as a ballplayer, Donna nevertheless acquits herself well in the game, but her reward is not a roster spot; instead, she is made manager (in the towels-and-water-bucket sense). An interesting foray into (and back out of) feminism for 60s preschoolers.
- Perry, Lawrence. The Big Game. New York: Scribner's, 1918. Honest Tom Kerry leads Haledon College to victory in three sports.
Along the way, Tom learns that "graduates of various universities make a practice of practically buying the services of preparatory-school athletes." He leads a grass-roots student-athlete rebellion against corrupt recruiters. Tom's own dean tries to sweep Haledon's corruption under the carpet, and is only called to account by solidarity among honest students. The "big game" of the title is actually a football game, played the fall after Tom has excelled at spring baseball and crew. In this contest, newly-clean Haledon beats Durham College, "notorious for her methods in securing athletes."
- Person, W.T. "Baseball Ghost Walks Again." The Boy's World. In Owen (1948). Scions of feuding families pull together to help their ballclub win a big game.
- Person, W.T. "God Bless America." Cargo. In Owen (1948). Chinese-American pitcher chafes at racism in the small-town South, but helps the town team to a big victory.
Sharp portrayal of racism here gives the story an unusual edge, but rosy feelings soon overwhelm the story and its characters. As so often, baseball is the ticket to becoming an American.
- Person, W.T. "Pitching Secret." The Boy's World. In Owen (1948). Pitcher can't win the big game until he realizes it's just a game.
- Person, W.T. "Sacrifishial Play." The Open Road for Boys. In Owen (1948). Rivalry over a prize bass almost sinks a school team's chances in the big game.
- Person, W.T. "Speed Ball Porter." Boys' Life. In Owen (1948). Title freshman pitches a relief gem and caps it with a walkoff home run.
- Petersen, P.J., and Betsy James. The Fireplug is First Base. New York: Dutton, 1990. [Speedsters] A little kid becomes an unlikely hero in a neighborhood game of stickball.
Cartoons mix with text in this lively transitional early reader.
- Philbrook, Clem. The Magic Bat. Illustrated by Clifford N. Geary. NY: Macmillan, 1954. Rival kids pull together to form a winning youth-league team.
Full of standard motifs: the talisman, the nerdy kid who plays the percentages, the tepid gang rivalries of 1950s young-adult fiction. The title implement doesn't make an appearance till 30 pages from the end of the book.
- Portman, Frank. "Mark Pang and the Impossible Square." In Mercado. Unathletic right-short-center fielder realizes that a popup is heading straight for the only patch of the field that he alone can reach.
Interesting development of father-son dynamics in a story that takes place in the time it takes for a pop fly to fall.
- Portnoy, Minda Avra. Matzah Ball: A Passover Story. Rockville, Maryland: Kar-Ben Copies, 1994. Elijah the prophet shows up at Camden Yards to console a young fan who is disappointed because he can't eat the ballpark food during Passover.
An interesting portrayal of multicultural misunderstandings and longings; as usual, the spell of baseball--here in the form of memories of Jackie Robinson and a home run by Cal Ripken that shatters the protagonist's matzah--helps to unify the various characters and give them a common purpose.
- Powell, Randy. Dean Duffy. New York: Farrar, 1995. A high school graduate must choose between abandoning baseball and facing the challenges of a college athletic scholarship.
This one plays the two-roads-diverging-in-a-yellow-wood theme for more than it's worth.
- Prager, Annabelle. The Baseball Birthday Party. Illustrated by Marilyn Mets. New York: Random House, 1995. [Step into Reading] Two kids, left out of sandlot baseball games, decide to invite the whole neighborhood to a baseball-themed party.
Nicely-done early reader that captures the hurt and hope of being left out.
- Preller, James. The Case of the Stolen Baseball Cards. Illustrated by John Speirs. New York: Scholastic, 1999. [A Jigsaw Jones Mystery] Schoolyard detectives solve the case of a disappearing collection of valuable rookie cards.
Amiable chapter book.
- Preller, James. Mighty Casey. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. New York: Macmillan, 2009. Picture-book pastiche of "Casey at the Bat," this time with a Bad-News-Bears-like outfit that finally wins a game when the title character shakes off a life-time collar.
- Preller, James. Six Innings: A Game in the Life. New York: Macmillan, 2008. A single youth-league game, told in great detail centering on the wheelchair-bound cancer-patient kid who serves as announcer because he can no longer play, and his awkward re-bonding with his best friend on the team.
- Proboz, Kathilyn Solomon, and Leah Jerome. The Girls Strike Back: The Making of the Pink Parrots. New York: Sports Illustrated for Kids Books, 1990. [The Pink Parrots #1] Two girls, tired of riding the bench for their co-ed youth league baseball team, break away and form a new team under the sponsorship of a beauty salon owner.
First entry in a short-lived series. Competent if ordinary; it's nice to see girls in roles that series novels used to reserve for boys.