Children’s Book Review

Baseball is in the air! Let’s take a look at some of the best baseball books for May.

F is for Fenway: America’s Oldest Major League Ballpark

By Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by John Dykes; Sleeping Bear Press, $16.95, 40 pages, all ages.

Boston’s beloved Fenway Park turned 100 years old on April 12, 2012. Celebrate the centennial of America’s oldest ballpark by sharing this gem with baseball lovers of all ages. Twenty-six poems span the alphabet with vocabulary straight out of the Fenway lexicon. (“P is for Pesky’s Pole/Mr. Red Sox, number 6,/got to base on bunts and hits.” Fascinating facts in the margins explore each ditty’s topic in greater depth. Massachusetts native and sports illustrator John Dykes captures the park and the Fenway fans with lively pencil and ink illustrations on paper.

Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit

By Chris Van Dusen; Candlewick Press, $15.99, 32 pages, ages 4-6.

Randy Riley may be a baseball loving a science genius, but he can’t quite master the logistics of swinging a bat. After one particularly poor showing, Randy returns to his robot-laden room, only to look out his telescope and discover a fireball headed straight for his town! After calculating that there are nineteen days until impact and destruction, Randy sets out to stop the fireball from crashing down on his town. Science, robots, and, of course, the national pastime, all work together in this lively and energetic adventure. Gouache illustrations create an idyllic 1950’s suburbia, complete with robots that would be right at home on an episode of The Twilight-Zone.

Homer

By Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner; Scholastic/Orchard Books, $15.99, 32 pages, ages 3-4.

The canine-loving duo of deGroat and Rotner (“Dogs Don’t Brush Their Teeth!” and “Shades of People”) are back with Homer, a golden retriever who loves baseball. In fact, he plays first base for the Doggers in the Big Game against the Hounds. The Doggers are behind, 3-0, at the bottom of the ninth. Will Homer save the day? This quick romp will keep little readers engaged, as will the digitally-enhanced photos of dogs in baseball uniforms. Keen adult baseball fans will notice references to actual players from Major League Baseball. For example, “Rocket,” a Border Terrier, is the pitcher for the Doggers, while “Sandy” the Silver Lab throws the ball for the Hounds. (Rocket refers to Roger Clemens and Sandy is an allusion to the Dodger great leftie, Sandy Koufax.)

There Goes Ted Williams; the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived

By Matt Tavares; Candlewick Press, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 6-9.

Baseball aficionado Matt Tavares (“Zachary’s Ball”) brings the epic life of Ted Williams to children with this informative picture-book biography about Teddy Ballgame. Tavares chronicles Williams’ unfailing dedication to the game, from practicing fingertip pushups perfecting his swing long after the game was over. The book even illustrates Williams’ dedication to learning navigation as part of his pilot training during World War II. This tale about the value of hard work and sacrifice to achieve greatness is sure to inspire a new generation of baseball fans.