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



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

Everthing but the Horse

March 24, 2011

Holly Hobbie is the author/illustrator of the Toot & Puddle series.  The two friends are adorable. 

The author shares a childhood memory in Everything but the Horse.  As a young girl, she moves to the country, a farm full of potential.  Hollie loved raising the animals.  The only creature missing on the farm was a horse.  She watched the neighbors ride their horses and would pet them in the fields.  Hollie dreamed.  The farm had the barn, hay, bridle, but her family was not in favor.

The love of horses spurred Hollie into drawing them  She went to the library, researched in books, and taught herself to draw horses.

Hollie’s birthday finally came.  her surprise was waiting in the barn.  At this point in my reading, I was just as anxious as Hollie.  Was she getting her horse?  Was her dream coming true?

Savorings for reading and in writing for Everything but the Horse:

  • Memoir
  • Character emotion
  • Exploding the moment
  • Passage of time
  • Perseverance – Holly’s dream spurred her to better herself through drawing.

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:))