World Series book

October 21, 2014

A few weeks ago, I reflected on the beginning of the year. I realized a stumbling block to my reviewing books and decided I didn’t like it. The realization sparked a plan to change. Taking a personal day, I took two bags of books, my sticky notes, and computer to the nearby Starbucks. Books laid out, pen in hand, I wrote. I had so much fun. I laughed at books, trying to hold my chuckles in. (I’m sure the groups of men around me wondered what I was up to.) I found a system I can manage and am happy.

In the height of the World Series, one Giant’s player needs to be highlighted: Willie Mays. He is one of the best all around baseball players.  In You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! Jonah Winters shares how Willie’s hero, Joe DiMaggio, inspired Willie to play hard. His natural talent mixed with determination and fatherly coaching, Willie worked at perfecting his baseball skills. By age 15, his career in the Negro Leagues began.

In 1951, Willie Mays was drafted by the Giants, rejuvenating the team with his intense effort. In the 1954 World Series, Willie made an incredible catch  – and was viewed by millions of people on TV.

“You could fill a whole book with all the jaw-droppin’ plays Willie made, all the homers he hit, all the bases he stole.”

View the amazing catch:

Savorings for reading and in writing for You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!:

  • Explode the moment – the catch, the throw
  • Quotes – radio announcers
  • Repeating line – “He was the kid who…
  • Voice – draws the reader in
  • Ticket inserts – informational text highlighting the history and stats behind the story



The Effa Manley Story

July 3, 2011

Audrey Vernick,  intrigued me with her biographical narrative, She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story. Effa Manley loved baseball. The history begins with a brief scene at school, highlighting racial prejudice. As an adult, Effa moves to New York City. She loves the excitement of Babe Ruth and the Yankees, yet is bothered by the discrimination she finds even in Harlem. Don Tate‘s illustrations are striking and illuminate the love that Effa Manley had for the game and its players.

Effa and her husband, Abe Manley, created a baseball team in the Negro national League, the Eagles. She coordinated schedules and ran the business. She cared for her team and went beyond what other owners did. In 1946, the Newark Eagles won the Negro League World Series.

As more African-American players were signed into the major leagues, the Negro League suffered and eventually ended. Effa loved the players and wrote numerous letters to the Hall of Fame fighting for the recognition of many players in the Negro Leagues. She did so until she died in 1980.

Her influence continued until 2006 when many more players were added. Effa was the also honored and inducted as the first woman.

She was recognized for all she did for her players, for her civil rights work, and for getting the major leagues to treat Negro League teams with respect.”

View a video clip about the book found on the author’s website. Audrey Vernick has an awesome discussion guide for the book. It ties in to the civil rights movement and has some comparison/ contrast with Rosa Parks. You’ll need to check it out.

Savorings for reading and in writing for She Loved Baseball:

  • Magic of 3 – notice the above quote as one example
  • Repeating Line – “That’s just the way things are,” people said.
  • Hyphenated words – high-stepping home-run swing
  • Summarizing
  • Proper Nouns – people, places, teams, organizations; this book would allow students to have fun learning conventions with several examples throughout the book
  • Possessive nouns – several unique nouns with possessive ‘s

A Million Dollar Baseball Card

May 22, 2011


The past few years, our family has attended the National Sports Collector Convention. I love the history that I learn through the artifacts that are there. My oldest son and husband love the baseball cards, and everyone loves meeting a famous professional athlete.

One memory I have is seeing the famous Honus Wagner T206 card. It has sold at auction forever two million dollars. Amazing that a 1″ x 2″ piece of cardboard could be worth that much! Okay, I know it is history, but it still blows my mind.  In the introduction of the book, some background is given in regards to this famous baseball card. I appreciate the character of Honus. He had the cards pulled from cigarette pacts, because he was concerned that children who were fans might be influenced negatively.

Baseball is the game I’m growing to love. I love watching my sons develop through the game and our daughter in softball. Another baseball lover, Jane Yolen, crafts a wonderful snapshot of the famous baseball player in ALL STAR!: Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever. Jim Burke uses his paintings to create a baseball game setting your mind attaches to.

All Star!: Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card EverHonus was born in Chartiers, Pennsylvania to German immigrants. He went to school through the eighth grade and then began working in the coal mines alongside his father and older brother. He worked loading two tons of coal for 79 cents per day. Honus commented that the work was hard but good exercise. The story continues sharing how Honus worked hard to get into baseball. And when his opportunity arrived, he showed everyone how great of a hitter and short stop he could be.

“Clearly he was a great baseball player…. And he did it all without drugs or fancy training programs or million-dollar incentives – just for the pure love of the game.”

Savorings for reading and in writing for All Star: Honus Wagner:

  • Simile – “legs that looked like large parenthesis
  • Several dependent clauses – in different placed in the sentence
  • Punctuation craft – quotation marks around titles, semi-colon, apostrophe uses
  • Exploding the Moment – rounding the bases to win the game
  • Vignettes – several 1 page short stories about Honus that supported his baseball talent and character



A Girl Baseball Pitcher?

May 11, 2011

C.F. Payne illustrations are realistic enough that I feel like I am a spectator in the stands in Might Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen. Marissa Moss leads the reader with a question, engaging you the moment you begin reading.

Jackie Mitchell was a seventeen-year-old-girl who had been throwing baseballs since she could remember. Her father believed in her during a time when girls were to be in the kitchen only.

He told her she could be good at whatever she wanted, as long as she worked at it. And Jackie worked at baseball. She worked hard.”

Marissa uses a flashback technique to begin the story. You are reading about Jackie in present day and then flashback to when she is a little girl, practicing. I love the fact that Marissa Moss threads persistence to a dream throughout the book. Jackie prepared for baseball and believed in herself.

You feel the tense moment in the game between the minor league team, Chattanooga Lookouts versus a top team, the New York Yankees. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were the star hitters; she was a girl. Jackie throws her fast pitches for strikes, surprising the Babe. After striking them both out, the story ends with Jackie proving herself worthy of pitching in the majors, an honor she never receives.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Mighty Jackie: the Strike-Out Queen:

  • Author’s Note – real photograph of Jackie with the rest of her story
  • Grabber lead   – “… something amazing was about to happen.”
  • Transitions with flashbacks
  • Exploding the moment – pitching to Babe Ruth
  • Magic of 3 – with sentences
  • Close Echo or repeating phrase – “to see only the all, to feel only the ball

Sandy Koufax

April 6, 2011

Baseball is a favorite in my family.  I love finding historical narratives on the subject.  You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! by Jonah Winter: Book CoverThe cover of this book is one-of-a-kind as the pitcher actually moves.  The title spoke to me, You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! Well, sorry to say, no I have not.  I have heard about several baseball players, as both my husband and oldest son are walking baseball almanacs.  So when I mentioned Sandy’s name, they both said, “Yeah. He was one of the best left-handed pitchers.”   As I opened the book and noticed the copyright (2009), a note caught my eye.  I was hooked.

“For the record:  a note from the author regarding Sandy Koufax.  He is still alive and will drop by training camp to give some tips.” Wow! Impressive.

Jonah Winters uses  questions throughout the text keeps the reader interacting.  In some ways, this technique is teaching children the reading strategy of questioning.  As a reader, you stop, reflect, and think about the text.

The language is very rich and the craft moves are endless. I also noticed that Andre’ Carrilho used mainly brown, blue, and gray hues for his illustrations.  From a book I read on boy literacy, boys connect with those colors the most. (That’s another post.)

The scenes of Koufax’s career span over several years, yet the author’s choice highlights key points that make you feel like you are watching a superb documentary.  I’m not bored reading this book.  There is so much information packed into the thirty-two page text.  Brilliant! If you teach biographical writing, this book would be a great mentor text.  I learned that Sandy Koufax was teammates with Jackie Robinson.  He also struck out Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.

Savorings for reading and in writing for You Never heard of Sandy Koufax?!:

  • Grabber lead – talks to the reader – “You gotta be kidding! You never heard of Sandy Koufax?! He was only the greatest lefty who ever pitched in the game of baseball.”
  • Voice – Brooklyn, New York dialect
  • Narrator – speaks as a teammate – “Did you see what I just seen?
  • Repeating phrase – “game after game” is used in sequential sentences to create intensity
  • Leaves me wondering – use of questioning
  • Baseball stats – nonfiction feature – snippets of facts highlighting Koufax’s and baseball greats that appeal to the analytical mind

new PES library book –

Definitely a book I want for my collection!!

Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back

February 4, 2011

David Adler once again shares a biography that will engage children.  February is Black History Month, and Satchel Paige:  Don’t Look Back is a great story to share.   I love to find books that capture character traits I want my students to develop.  This book shows the determination and stamina of a young man, Leroy Paige.  He gained his nick name “Satchel” when he began working at age 7 at a train station.  He would carry people’s bags, or satchels, by stringing them on a pole that ran over his shoulders.  Leroy also went to work sweeping a baseball field.  He loved the game and began practicing by throwing rocks.  Satchel didn’t let his lack of resources stop his determination to better himself.

Satchel Paige played in the World Series for the Cleveland Indians on July 7, 1948.  He was 42 years old.  In today’s baseball market, most players are much younger and are just ending their careers in their forty’s.  Not Satchel.  He played baseball until he was 60 years old.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Satchel Paige:  Don’t Look Back:

  • Perseverance and Stamina
  • Inferring – “Paige was overcome with emotion. His nerves, he later said, ‘were jumping every which way.’  He knew he wasn’t pitching just for his team but also for African-Americans everywhere.”
  • Magic of 3 – “He stretched.  He waited.  He shook his fingers.
  • Questioning
  • Semi-colon with a list

PES Library books

Testing the Ice

January 31, 2011

My daughter Eliz is celebrating her 14th birthday today.  We had a fun weekend going to the mall, dinner at a favorite Mexican restaurant, and movie with a friend.  Elizabeth shares her birthday with a special person – Happy Birthday Sam!

Eliz and Sam share their birthday with a historical figure who I greatly admire – Jackie Robinson.  Jackie not only was a great baseball player.  He displayed true character of courage under fire.  When I think of my sons playing baseball, I want them to have the same determination and focus that Jackie had.

In years past, I have posted other books about Jackie Robinson.  This year, I found another book written by Sharon Robinson, his daughter, and illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  Kadir has the most distinct, stunning paintings for his illustrations, vivid and bold.  I love them.

Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson: Book CoverTesting the Ice A True Story about Jackie Robinson is a story told through his daughter’s eyes.  It’s story about courage outside the ball park.  It’s a story about Jackie facing a fear for his family.

Jackie Robinson bought a home in the country with a river that brought lots of enjoyment to the family.  Even though his children would do their best to coax him to come out and swim, Jackie never did.  He was afraid of the water.  This story takes place in the winter after a hard freeze.  The children want to go ice skating and beg their father to let them go.  Jackie gives in, but first he ventures out onto the lake to check to see if it is safe.  As Jackie is walking out their, his daughter realizes the courage her father is showing to them.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Testing the Ice: a True Story About Jackie Robinson:

  • Memoir – lessons learned told through the daughter’s point of view
  • Character Thinking –  Mr. Rickey asked Jackie some tough question about playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Jackie shares his thinking, decision-making.
  • Foreshadowing – throughout the book, Sharon shares how Jackie would never go into the water.  The reader understands that Jackie cannot swim.
  • Magic of 3 – “out the sliding glass doors, down the back stairs and down the hall
  • Character building – courage

Players in Pigtails

September 13, 2009

While in Cincinnati this past summer, my son and husband went to the National Sports Collector’s Convention.  Rick and Wes love to search for great baseball cards.  Me, I love the history.  Family Day brings the rest of us to the event for a day of meeting players and sight seeing at the booths. 

Last year, I happened upon a booth where a kind, senior lady sat.  Flanking her table was a uniform from the 1940’s.  But not just any uniform.  The uniform was a dress.  Elizabeth noticed the pictures and the banner that said, “A League of Their Own”.  The lady, Dolly Niemiec Konwinski, played for the Grand Rapids Chicks from 1949 – 1952. 

This year, I returned with a book in my bag.  I talked with Dolly and brought out my book Players in Pigtails.  She was impressed with the book and kindly signed on the back page with the logo AAGPBL.  She said that playing was fun and encouraged anyone to get involved in sports.

Players In Pigtails (Scholastic Bookshelf)Shana Corey gives you an overview of how the women’s league began.  She loves history.  Shana shares more information about the league in her two page author’s note in the back.  She also shares information in an interview with Scholastic.  Click on the link:  Shana Corey.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Players in Pigtails:

  • Alliteration and Magic of 3 – “Her clothing was crumpled.  Her knitting was knotted.  Her dancing was a disaster.”  “She preferred sliding to sewing, batting to baking, and home runs to homecoming.”
  • Interjection of BOLD words – WOULD SHE?!
  • Show don’t Tell/ Inferring – “The leauge managers heard the talk, and their stomachs started to twitch.”
  • Clauses – After all, at least she was getting to play ball.
  • Transitions/ Passage of Time – Every spring; When she got to Wrigley Field; On opening day
  • Historical background – dress of the era; women’s role in society

Girls playing Baseball

February 25, 2009

Enjoying the sport of baseball, I love learning about historical events that are reflective of the game.  Angela Johnson shares a story told by a grandmama to her granddaughter in Just Like Josh Gibson (illustrated by Beth Beck).  The story begins with a glimpse into Josh Gibson’s life playing baseball and hitting a ball out of the park.  On that day, the grandmother was born. 

Her papa “showed up […] with a Louisville slugger and a smile.  He said his new baby would make baseballs fly, just like Josh Gibson.”

Grandmama continued to share how she learned to play well, but in those days, girls did not play baseball.  Until… a boy broke his arm and couldn’t.  Grandmama was the star of the game.  The story ends with her passing the legacy on to her granddaughter.

An author’s note shares information about Josh Gibson.  Surprisingly, it also shares about “one young lady during the 1950’s that did get to play with the boys though it wasn’t in the majors.”  I’m intrigued by the information shared and plan to read more about these famous baseball-playing women.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Just Like Josh Gibson:

  • Family stories – passing on the legacy
  • Repeating phrase – “Grandmama says...”
  • Close echo – “Those summer days were like magic as the balls sailed away, sailed away, gone.”
  • Ellipse – “Too bad she’s a girl….  Until …”
  • Author’s note – historical information

Happy Birthday, Jackie Robinson!

January 31, 2009

Today’s book is based on the life of Jackie Robinson, a baseball hero and pioneer of his time.  My family loves baseball and so I am often drawn to picture books about baseball, especially within the historical narrative genre.  My daughter, Eliz, is celebrating her birthday today as well.  When I share this book, Dad, Jackie, and Me,  Eliz reminded me that she was born on Jackie’s birthday, January 31. (So did another special boy named Sam – Happy Birthday!)

Stories about people persevering entice me.  I want to know their story and what drives them.  I want my children and students to have that drive, to continue on when the going gets tough.  Every day we face, our children face, difficult tasks, fears, and resistance at times.  Stories of everyday heroes can life our spirits and give us added hope, encouragement.

 Dad, Jackie, and Me written by Myron Uhlberg (illustrated by Colin Bootman)  is one of these uplifting books.  The author speaks from his heart through the character’s first person narrative .  The young, baseball-lovin’ boy shares his passion for the game and the the new Brooklyn Dodger’s first baseman, Jackie Robinson.  the distinction in this boy’s life is that his father  is deaf.  As father and son experience the game at Ebbets Field, a parallel similarity of discrimination is shared between player and father.  Both had an inborn trait they could not change and daily faced hardships from it.

“But Jackie never reacted.  He didn’t even seem to notice.  And he never complained.”

I believe everyone of us wish we could change something about ourselves.  Children do too.  Turning to the back, the author shares how he was the son of two deaf parents.  He shares how his father took him to games and would have him watch the discrimination Jackie received while on the field.  Myron Uhlberg’s father also related to prejudice for his deafness.  ” ‘It doesn’t matter, though,’ he always added.  ‘I show them every day I am as good as they are.’

I hope you savor this book personally and with your class as well.  Your students can and will relate.  They will be drawn in and become a spectator of the game.  As Black History Month approaches, read several books that will help students become aware that everyday they have a choice to be fair and accepting.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Dad, Jackie, and Me:

  • Climatic transition – “Our pitcher had a no-hitter going.  An then it happened.”
  • Show not tell – “On a simple grounder
  • Metaphor – “his face was a blank mask
  • Exploding the moment – “Then, in that awful silence, my father jumped to his feet.
  • Dialogue text in two columns – The pages have the illusion of a baseball card with the illustration above and with the narrative below, two t eight lines in length.  but on one two-page spread, the text is written in two columns per page due to short back-and-forth conversation between father and son.  Unique transition in placement of text for emphasis.

(PES Library book)

(A must-have book for my collection:))