February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

JLG’s On the Radar: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (But Bring a Book)

April showers bring May flowers, and April also ushers in baseball season. The original baseball anthem was written by a man who had never attended a ball game, but the books below are written by authors and illustrators who are experts in the sport. One author describes the differences between American and Japanese baseball. Another writer, using a picture she discovered while doing research for a different work, delves into the history of a man who brought the favorite pastime to a Japanese internment camp. A picture book biographer details how a boy’s life changed when he was introduced to the game, launching a history-making career path. The following baseball-themed selections are more than entertainment; they inspire students to hit their own home runs and to make the best of the strikes life throws their way.

MESHON, Aaron. Take Me Out to the Yakyu. S & S/Atheneum. 2013. ISBN 9781442441774. JLG Level: NEK : Nonfiction Early Elementary (Grades K–2).

A young boy hits a double header―one grandfather takes him to American baseball games and his other grandfather (ji ji) takes him to games in Japan. In America, he goes to a stadium. In Japan, he goes to the dome. Transportation to the game is different. In Japan, he rides a short red bus that turns into a train; in America his pop pop drives the station wagon. Snacks are different and so are the souvenirs. Both countries sing at the seventh inning stretch―but they sing different songs. No matter the differences, going to a baseball game is wonderful!

An interesting author’s note continues to compare the Japanese and American versions of the sport. Perfect for use with CCSS initiatives, educators won’t strike out with this picture book.

MOSS, Marissa. Barbed Wire Baseball. illus. by Yuko Shimizu. Abrams. 2013. ISBN 9781419705212. JLG Level: SE : Sports Elementary (Grades 2-6).

Kenichi Zenimura was small. He was barely five feet tall and weighed about one hundred pounds, but he wanted to play baseball. Born in Japan, his family moved to California where Zeni got the chance to play in the Fresno Leagues. He played with three other teammates in an exhibition game along with star members of the New York Yankees. He went to his homeland and played there. But life took a different direction when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The American government rounded up Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps. Zeni and his family tried to make a home for themselves in an Arizona camp. Though it was not a prison, having nothing to do made it feel like one. So, he decided to play baseball, but first he would need to build a field in the hot desert. He inspired others to join him and make the best of their difficult circumstances.

While researching internment camps Moss came upon a picture of Zenimura and the exhibition team. She looked at other pictures of the field that the Japanese Americans built. The characters’ determination in the face of adversity is a powerful example of how our choices can make a difference not just to ourselves, but to those around us.

TAVARES, Matt. Becoming Babe Ruth. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763656461. JLG Level: SE : Sports Elementary (Grades 2-6).

George Herman Ruth would never be called “well behaved.” When he was seven, his parents finally sent him to Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Though it wasn’t truly a prison, the 800 residents called themselves the “inmates.” Run by the Catholic Church, they learned to follow rules, work, and play baseball. Brother Matthias took a special interest in George, teaching him how to play every position on the field. When he turned sixteen, crowds of people came to watch him play―including a baseball scout for the minor league team Baltimore Orioles. After observing him pitch for 30 minutes, the scout offers Ruth a contract “right then and there.” The youngest kid on the team, he quickly becomes known as “the Babe.” By 1920, Babe Ruth is sold to the New York Yankees for $125,000―the largest amount ever paid for a player. Later that year a fire burned down Saint Mary’s, and the baseball giant did not forget the man who taught him what he knows. He wrote a letter to Brother Matthias, and what he did would be forever remembered by the school’s inmates.

Tavares’s tribute to Ruth and the school that gave him a second chance to direct his path is an inspiration to all those who struggle with life’s lessons.

For strategies about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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