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

Oliver’s Game – Where a story comes from

November 18, 2008

Having a son who eats, breathes, and sleeps baseball, my eye catches books about the game.  Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, so Oliver’s Game was a treasure find.  I was even more thrilled when I noticed the Chicago Cubs were featured.

Oliver Hall loved baseball. …and he loved listening to Grandpa Hall’s wonderful stories about what he called the Golden Age of the Game.”

The story begins with Oliver finding a Chicago Cub’s uniform in an old trunk.  “Every item in this shop has a story to tell,” Grandpa Hall would say. After questioning his grandpa, Grandpa shares his story through a flashback.  He was 18 and asked to practice with the Cub team at the end of the Cub’s season.  Matt Tavares explodes the moment when ‘the rookie’ hits the ball.  You can feel his spirits soaring as his dream was coming true.

But the story takes a turn when World War II begins.  He joins the marines.  Upon turning the page, you see a young uniformed soldier on crutches in the dug out.  Your spirit as a reader cringes when you read, “After that, I stayed away from Wrigley Field.

Grandpa Hall shares how he struggled and then opened Hall’s Nostalgia.  Flashing forward, the story ends with them ready to watch the Cub game from his rooftop.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Oliver’s Game:

  • Exploding the Moment – “A shock ran up my arms as the bat struck the ball head on.”
  • Childhood memories – In Matt Tavares’s illustrator’s journal Dec. 16, 2001, he stated that “Hall’s Nostalgia is a tribute to a baseball card store I spent many a Saturday afternoon when I was a kid.”  I find that fascinating!  Kids need to know that authors take ordinary every day activities and weave them into their stories.
  • Internal struggle – being close to his dream
  • Flashbacks

America’s White Table

November 11, 2008

In honor of our veterans, Margot Theis Raven has written a beautifully moving piece called America’s White Table.  The American Legion and military events honor those men and women who have fought for our country.  Margot Theis Raven introduces this symbol of honor by writing a story of a mother telling a story to her three girls.  Each part of the table, from the white table cloth to the red rose, is explained.  She interweaves a repeating line:  “It was just little white table…“.  Margot also has the words of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” throughout the bottom of each two page spread.

The story unfolds through the eyes of the oldest niece.  She learns what happened to Uncle John during the Vietnam War.  When the story ended, Katie wanted to do something special.  Her sisters drew him pictures and another wrote him a letter.  Uncle John comes and Katie realizes that she will promise “to put the words from my heart into a little book about America’s White Table.

Margot Theis Raven goes on and shares in the Author’s Note the history of the white table.  “A group called the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association or the River Rats set the first MIA/POW Remembrance Table.”  May we not forget the courage and sacrifice our veterans have given for our freedom.

Savorings for reading and in writing for America’s White Table:

  • Repeating line – “It was just a little white table...”
  • Story within a story – flashbacks
  • Time of reflection
  • Gathering stories from families – writing them down to preserve for future generations
  • Illustrations – the coloring changes during the flashback