MG – Stealing Home

Torres, J. Stealing Home. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-525-30334-0. 112 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.

Baseball is Sandy Saito’s favorite hobby – in fact, he sees it as more of a lifestyle than anything else. His favorite team, the Asahi, are the pride of the Vancouver community. Sandy loves playing catch with his younger brother Ty and his father, a respected doctor. His life changes drastically; however, when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, and suddenly anyone of Japanese descent is treated very differently than before. His father daringly breaks the curfews imposed on the Japanese to care for patients but one day, he does not return home. The Saito family is relocated to an internment camp without Dr. Saito. Sandy’s mother explains that his father is in a camp where his medical expertise is needed, but Sandy is doubtful he will ever see his father again. Eventually, Sandy realizes that, much like in baseball, he will have to figure out how to handle what is thrown his way.

THOUGHTS: Even though this is a complex historical event, baseball ties the story together and makes it relatable to young readers who may only be learning about Japanese internment camps for the first time. Back matter in the book provides more information and sources for readers eager to learn more. This graphic novel is a great fit for middle grade libraries and complements other graphic novels like George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy and Kiku Hughes’ Displacement which are on the same topic.

Graphic Novel           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem./MG – Spectacular Sports (Series NF)

Doeden, Matt. Spectacular Sports. Millbrook Press, 2021. $25.99 each. $208.32 Set of 9. 64 p. Grades 5-8.

Coming Up Clutch: The Greatest Upsets, Comebacks and Finishes in Sports History. 978-1-512-42756-1.
It’s Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run. 978-1-728-41716-5.
The College Football Championship: The Fight for the Top Spot. 978-1-467-71897-4.
The Final Four: The Pursuit of College Basketball Glory. 978-1-467-78780-2.
The NBA Playoffs: In Pursuit of Basketball Glory. 978-1-541-54153-5.
The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes. 978-1-512-42753-0.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs: The Quest for Hockey’s Biggest Prize. 978-1-541-57838-8.
The Super Bowl: Chasing Football Immortality. 978-1-512-42754-7.
The World Cup: Soccer’s Global Championship. 978-1-512-42755-4.

This reviewer read It’s Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run in the Spectacular Sports series. This series offers meticulously-researched, well-written information, tons of sports statistics, and interesting full-color illustrations about high-interest sports topics that middle-level readers will be excited to learn more about. Each book in the series addresses a different major event in sports or sports history. The books include short chapters with catchy titles, captioned photos and diagrams, a glossary, and an index.

THOUGHTS: This series contains worthwhile additions for any upper elementary or middle level library that needs to add colorfully-illustrated, high-interest books about popular sports topics to its collection. (Title Reviewed: It’s Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run.)

796s Sports          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

MG – Much Ado about Baseball

LaRocca, Rajani. Much Ado About Baseball. Yellow Jacket, 2021. 978-1-499-81101-8. 312 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Trish is annoyed with her mother for making her move again. It’s challenging enough being a girl who plays baseball, without being the new kid too. But she is determined to make what may be her last season of baseball awesome. Until she discovers Ben, the boy she beat in last spring’s regional Math Puzzler competition, is on the team. This could be a complicated problem to solve. Ben, who is reluctantly playing ball this summer, does not need Miss Math Puzzler genius showing him up in baseball, too. So the two 12-year-olds begin the season at odds with each other, despite the efforts of Ben’s pal Abhi, who quickly befriends Trish as well. But when Ben and Trish each receive a puzzle book in the mail, they quickly realize that the team’s sudden success may be tied into their ability to solve the puzzles, and they soon pair up. But the course of true love, whether math or baseball, never did run smooth. And with the machinations of a Puck or two, there is no guarantee of a solution to this Midsummer mess. This companion book to LaRocca’s Midsummer’s Mayhem delightfully pairs baseball, math, and Shakespeare in a lighthearted plot about friendship and family, relationships that are frequently complicated. Ben, Trish, and Abhi all have frustrations with their families, as well as negotiating friendships and self-esteem issues. A community theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream provides the context for a bit of Puckish magic, and a few fey individuals who wish to make the mortals look foolish. Readers who are not familiar with the Bard’s work still will thoroughly enjoy the book, but those with a knowledge of the play will enjoy the subtle (and eventually not so subtle) parallels running through the story. Trish and Abhi are Indian, Ben is white.

THOUGHTS: A blending of math and baseball may not attract all readers, but one does not have to be a fan of either to enjoy the book. LaRocca enthusiastically explains both, so readers may pick up an appreciation by the end of the story.

Fantasy (Magical Realism)          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Diamond Double Play

Maddox, Jake. Diamond Double Play. Stone Arch, 2020. 978-1-496-58329-1. 64 p. $5.95 (paperback version). Grades 2-3.

Blake Easton is the neighborhood Wiffle ball star, but he has never played organized baseball. When he and his friends spot a poster advertising open tryouts for a local baseball travel team, Blake’s friends encourage him to try out. But Blake is nervous going up against more experienced players, especially when obnoxious Kyle starts taunting Blake as an inexperienced newbie. Luckily, Blake finds a friend in Austin, who shows Blake the ropes. While Blake makes the team, he is disappointed to learn he will be Kyle’s backup at second base. But when Kyle injures himself making a selfish play, Blake finds himself in the starting line up, and serious jitters set in. Is he really good enough to be on the team? This short, beginner chapter book combines authentic sports action with lessons on sportsmanship and confidence. The young characters (ages 11-12) frequently speak with maturity far beyond their ages, but the story will resonate with sports fans and players alike. The characters, as represented by the illustrations, are ethnically diverse; Blake is Black, Kyle is White, with teammates represented variously. A glossary at the end of the book defines baseball terms used in the text.

THOUGHTS:  A solid choice for Easy Fiction collections, where sports books are underrepresented.

Action/Adventure          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball’s Negro Leagues

Henderson, Leah. Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball’s Negro Leagues. Capstone Editions, 2020. $18.95. Unpaged. Grades 3-6.

“‘I was a ballplayer. This is what I was and this is the way I want to be known, a ballplayer,’ Mamie “Peanut” Johnson.” Mamie Johnson grew up playing baseball with her uncle Leo, who was close to her age, starting at the age of 6 on the family’s farm in South Carolina. She moved several times over the years, but love for the game remained a constant in Mamie’s life as she earned spots on several boys’ and mens’ teams over the years. After graduating high school, Mamie attempted to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, but was denied a try-out because she was black. Instead, Mamie went to play professional ball for the Negro Leagues Indianapolis Clowns team and spent three seasons traveling through Canada and the US (including the heavily segregated South) playing baseball. In 1955 she retired to return to her husband and young child, but her love for the game continued. Author Leah Henderson’s Afterword tells readers that Mamie was honored by Presidents Clinton and Obama and helped clear the plate for other female baseball players.

THOUGHTS: Leah Henderson captures Mamie’s spunk and spirit well in this beautiful picture book biography.

796.357 Baseball          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – History of Sports (Series NF)

Abdo, Kenny. History of Sports. ABDO Books, 2020. $20.00 ea. $120.00 set of 6.  24 p. Grades K-3. 

History of Basketball. 978-1-532-12738-0.
History of Baseball. 
978-1-532-12737-3.

History of Football. 978-1-532-12739-7.
History of Golf. 978-1-532-12740-3.
History of Gymnastics.  978-1-532-12741-0.
History of Soccer 978-1-532-12742-7.

History of Baseball gives a brief history of baseball, from the beginning to current times. The game of baseball is briefly explained; however, it is not an in depth explanation. There is a table of contents, glossary, and an index, as well as a page with a QR code that can be scanned for additional information. There are several full color photos found within the book  to demonstrate the different aspects of baseball that are being discussed.

THOUGHTS: This is a great introductory resource to help students learn how to use nonfiction books. This will definitely help any student who is not familiar with baseball to do research; however, it is extremely simple at times. Overall, this is a nice addition to an elementary nonfiction collection but not necessary.

796 Sports          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

MG – Golden Arm

Deuker, Carl. Golden Arm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. $17.99. 978-0-358-01242-9 . Grades 5-8.

Sixteen-year-old Laz Weathers may be slow, but he sees his future baseball prospects pretty clearly. His solid pitching gets no real training and won’t get noticed in his small, poor district. His own weak academics, his stutter, and his ‘tics’ in response to anxiety don’t do him any favors, either. It’s Laz’s younger half-brother, Alberto, who people respond to, and who will speak up when Laz can’t or won’t. But this summer, Alberto’s father has returned and moved in with their mom in their trailer park, causing initial resentment and adjustment by both boys. Laz convinces Alberto to stick with the scrappy baseball team led by Coach L—, who coaxes and cajoles thirteen youths to join the team, then badgers coaches of established teams to compete. Thanks to Laz’s pitching, they often win, which gets him noticed. Laz learns that his family must move (the trailer park will be razed for a high-rise) and that his district will eliminate baseball for his senior year. This allows Laz to join another team, if they’ll have him. A coach who noticed his “golden arm” will give Laz a chance, but can he leave when Alberto is being drawn into drug dealing? Just when Laz has the perfect chance to shine in a championship game, Laz learns his brother is in serious danger from his drug-abusing friends, and it doesn’t matter if Alberto has used, sold, or not–he’s the immediate target. Laz’s choices show his character and alter everything for his future.

THOUGHTS: Deuker shines with baseball scenes and infuses each interaction with tension and a sense of doom. This is hard to put down and will pull in baseball fans and non-fans (the sports writing is that superb). Readers will root for Laz, even as they see everything stacked against him. When the novel ends, I found myself wondering about a sequel showing Laz’s choices in a tough environment over the next 5-10 years, and how his integrity will be tested. This powerful, timeless novel melds baseball with the pressures of class status, mixes dreams with hard reality, and the result is a first-choice novel not to be missed.

Sports Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Talkin’ Sports (Series Nonfiction)

Talkin’ Sports. The Child’s World, 2020. $20.00 ea. $160 set of 8. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

Buckley, James. Talkin’ Baseball. 978-150383-571-9.
—. Talkin’ Basketball. 978-150383-574-0.
—. Talkin’ Lacrosse. 978-150383-576-4.
—. Talkin’ Motor Sports. 978-150383-577-1.
—. Talkin’ Soccer. 978-150383-573-3.
Gigliotti, Jim. Talkin’ Football. 978-150383-572-6.
—. Talkin’ Golf & Tennis. 978-150383-578-8.
—. Talkin’ Hockey. 978-150383-575-7.

“Play sports? Watch sports? Talk sports!” That’s the tagline for this series highlighting special sports terms, insider phrases, comical or descriptive terms, and player nicknames. Fans of these sports will want to check up on their lingo–historical and modern-day–and add some understanding to their use of it as they go. They may even think of plenty more to add to the mix. For example, “The slugger ripped a frozen rope into the gap and pulled up with a two-bagger.” Baseball translation: “A powerful hitter smashed a line drive (further defined) between two outfielders (further defined) & ran to second base.” These books will cause laughter, and comments such as, “that’s right” or “I didn’t know that was why…” as fans feel a bit more at home watching, playing, and talking sports. For the uninitiated, these books can solidify the lingo.

THOUGHTS: A fun series suitable for upper elementary and middle school. ( Titles reviewed: Talkin’ Baseball and Talkin’ Football.)

796 Sports          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Upper Elem/MS FIC – Smarty Marty; Invisible Emmie; The Night Garden; The Losers Club

Gutierrez, Amy. Smarty Marty Steps up Her Game. Cameron Kids, 2017. 978-1944903084. $13.95. Gr. 2-4.

Marty, who loves baseball, is the score-keeper for her younger brother’s little-league team. Having taught him all she knows (which is more than most grown-ups) about her favorite sport, Marty is there to cheer him on! At one game the announcer doesn’t show up, and Marty has the chance to make her announcing dream come true. Some people don’t like the fact that a girl is announcing the game.  What will Marty do?  THOUGHTS: This book is written by The San Francisco Giants in-game reporter Amy Gutierrez. The author knows what she’s talking about both in terms of baseball lingo, and what it’s like to be a woman expert in a male-dominated sport.

Sports              Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Libenson, Terri. Invisible Emmie. Harper Collins, 2017. 978-0-06-248494-9. 185 p. $22.99. Gr. 4-8.

Thirteen-year-old Emmie used to be quite the chatterbox, but lately she’s been pretty quiet. The only person Emmie feels she can talk to is her best friend, Brianna. But since middle school started, Emmie and Brianna aren’t in many of the same classes, so Emmie just keeps to herself, spending as much time as she can drawing in her journal. Emmie wishes she could pluck up the courage to talk more, especially to her crush, Tyler Ross. One day Emmie and Brianna are joking around and writing love poems to their crushes, and in a rush to get to next period, Emmie drops hers on the ground. The poem is picked up by the class bully/clown, and soon everyone in school knows that Emmie wrote a love poem about Tyler! To make matters worse, Brianna is frustrated that Emmie would be so careless with their top-secret notes. Emmie begins to feel like a puddle of slime, and finds that the only way to move forward is to speak up for herself. THOUGHTS: Invisible Emmie is a cute and funny story that upper elementary and lower middle school grades will enjoy. Libenson mixes images and text in a unique novel that will appeal to graphic novel fans, but delight parents or teachers who are looking for more text heavy titles.

Realistic Fiction    Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Horvath, Polly. The Night Garden. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-374-30452-2. $16.99. 292 pp. Gr. 3-6.

Franny is a twelve-year-old aspiring writer who lives with her two independent, adopted parents. Life is in balance on their large shorefront property filled with many old gardens, even though WWII is at their doorstep. However, that balance is disturbed when Crying Alice drops off her three kids and leaves to stop Fixing Bob from making a huge mistake. Soon, each character is facing some dilemmas, and the unusual option to have a wish come true through the magical powers of the night garden.  THOUGHTS: Horvath will have young readers laughing and delighted while moved and wondering the true question, “What is a wish worth?”

Historical Fantasy     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

 

Clements, Andrew.  The Losers Club. Random House, 2017. 978-0-399-55755-2. $16.99.  230 p. Gr. 4-7.

Alec loves to read. All the time. Even during class, when he should be paying attention to the teacher. So when the principal threatens Alec with summer school if he doesn’t stop reading during class, he is in a panic. Suddenly, having to attend the after-school program seems like a boon: three hours of uninterrupted reading time. Only, Alec learns he is required to join an established activity, like the programming club or, worse, kickball, dominated by his arch-nemesis, Kent.  Undaunted, Alec petitions to form his own club, the perfect front to sit by himself and read. When he convinces a fellow bookworm to sign on, the Losers Club is formed – the name designed to keep others from joining. However, students slowly migrate to the club, kindred spirits who would rather read than be bullied by Kent. But now Alec finds he spends more time managing the club than reading!  THOUGHTS:  Another delightful Clements offering, an ode to books and reading. Bibliophiles will enjoy finding all the titles mentioned in the book, and many quiet students are sure to identify with Alec.

Realistic Fiction     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Upper Elem. FIC – According to Aggie; Evil Emperor Penguin; Danger Gang…; Smarty Marty…

Beaumont, Mary Richards et al. According to Aggie. American Girl Publishing, 2017.  9781683370109. 115 p. $9.99. Gr. 3-5.

This graphic novel tells the story of Aggie Winters Frye, who deals with friendship issues in an elementary school setting.  The story is relevant to any girl who finds that her relationship with a childhood friend is changing.  Aggie’s friend Fiona begins avoiding Aggie and no longer wishes to join her on Friday Fun Day after school or go to the Ice-stravaganza.  At first, Aggie believes that she will be “unfriendable”, but she eventually becomes friends with a new student.  This is not a new story, but one that is meaningful to the intended audience who will easily relate to Aggie’s story. The graphic novel format is very appealing and the characters are from diverse backgrounds.  A short holiday story is included as well and readers can read more about Aggie in the American Girl magazine.  THOUGHTS: While this book is slight, the storyline and format will appeal to elementary students.

Graphic Novel; Realistic Fiction       Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

 

Anderson, Laura Ellen. Evil Emperor Penguin. David Fickling Books, 2017. 978-1-338-13274-8. 64 pp. $8.99. Gr. 2-5.

Evil Emperor Penguin, or EEP for short, is determined to rule the world.  With his sidekick, Number 8, and his minion, Eugene, he quests for world domination, but nothing ever seems to go quite right.  From “freezing” world leaders (but instead knitting them sweaters) to fear gas (that brings EEP images of his mother), nothing goes quite as planned, and everything goes awry when Evil Cat, EEP’s archnemesis arrives.  THOUGHTS:  This first book in a new graphic novel series is an elementary crowd pleaser.  Reminiscent of Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb, EEP is hilarious in his desire for world domination.  This is a fabulous addition to elementary graphic novel collections.

Graphic Novel     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Bramucci, Stephen. The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo. Bloomsbury, 2017. 978-1-61963-692-7.  375p. $16.99.  Gr. 4 and up.

Ronald Zupan is a master adventurer, the son of the famous Helen and Francisco Zupan. The only problem is that his parents have not let him come on any of their adventures. On the morning of his 12th birthday, his parents do not appear, and Ronald knows they are in trouble. He teams up with the family butler, the girl who beat him in a fencing tournament, and a pet boa constrictor, to go find them in Borneo. Much adventure ensues.  THOUGHTS: Written mostly in Ronald’s bold and exaggerated voice, interspersed with more realistic details from the butler, this tale is quite funny. It seems like it could be an annoying children’s book, but all three main characters grow and learn from their experiences. This would be a good book for 4th graders on up who like action, adventure, or funny stories

Action/Adventure; Humor     Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Gutierrez, Amy. Smarty Marty Steps up Her Game. Cameron Kids, 2017. 978-1944903084. $13.95. Gr. 2-4.

Marty, who loves baseball, is the score-keeper for her younger brother’s little-league team. Having taught him all she knows (which is more than most grown-ups) about her favorite sport, Marty is there to cheer him on! At one game the announcer doesn’t show up, and Marty has the chance to make her announcing dream come true. Some people don’t like the fact that a girl is announcing the game.  What will Marty do? THOUGHTS: This book is written by The San Francisco Giants in-game reporter Amy Gutierrez. The author knows what she’s talking about both in terms of baseball lingo, and what it’s like to be a woman expert in a male-dominated sport.

Sports              Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School