March 31 is Opening Day for Major League Baseball, and most of the kids in Pacifica are already deep into softball and Little League practice. So this week, I did a storytime about baseball. Here’s what we read:
This book is nominated for the 2014-2015 California Young Reader Medal, and I had already shared it with some second grade classes last month. It’s a rhyming story about a boy who is terrible at baseball, but a genius at invention. When he looks through his telescope and sees a giant fireball rocketing towards Earth, Randy Riley quickly invents a robot who hits the greatest home run ever, and saves the town. This one was a really big hit with the kids in my storytime group, and quickly got snatched up at the end.
The story about a dog baseball game featuring a big golden retriever named Homer, this is an adorable, funny book told in photographs. The kids got into a mini-scuffle over who would get to check it out.
An illustrated version of the classic Abbott and Costello routine. This would be a fun one to read with a partner, or use for Reader’s Theater. The illustrator makes each player (Who, What, I Don’t Know, etc.) a different animal, making them easy to identify as the joke continues. I’m not sure that all the kids got the joke, but they laughed as the dialogue got more heated and complicated, and several of them asked to check it out at the end.
The Froggy books are always a hit, especially because the kids love joining in on yelling, “FROGGGYYY!” (It’s a great opportunity to point out the word on the page too, which is important for pre-readers). In this book, Froggy makes several mistakes at his T-ball game: throwing himself out, catching actual flies instead of fly balls, and finally running towards his real home, instead of home plate.
B-I-N-G-O! I sang this to go along with Homer, and used a dog puppet, who barked the missing letters, and licked the kids’ faces in between verses.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game We did this as a sing-along, and I played it on the ukelele. (I found the chords on Ultimate-Guitar.com).
INSTRUMENT PLAY-ALONG WITH A CD: I’m Gonna’ Catch You by Laurie Berkner, from Under a Shady Tree: a catchy song with a brief baseball reference.
CRAFT: Model Magic Baseballs
This ended up being a lot of fun. Originally, I had planned to just use white Model Magic for the ball, and have the kids draw in the lines for the seams with a red marker. But I had a tiny bit of red Model Magic left in my bin, along with a package of black, so the kids ended up rolling thin strips of the red for the baseball seams instead. They also used the black to make soccer balls, and some of them even made baseball bats.
If you aren’t familiar with Model Magic, it’s a soft, light, air-dry modeling clay made by Crayola, and available in most craft stores and on Amazon.com. It worked beautifully for the balls, because it actually bounces. It’s also light enough that, even if the kids threw the balls at one another, they wouldn’t hurt. My son has used Model Magic for years to make little models of whatever he was interested in at the time: Pokemon, Mario, etc. It’s far less messy than Play-Doh, and really easy to manipulate.
OTHER BASEBALL BOOKS
I also read baseball books to two classes of second graders this week, which was fun because I could share some of the longer ones. Here’s what I read:
The second graders enjoyed this true story about George Herman Ruth, who was such a troublemaker as a child that his parents sent him away to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. St. Mary’s was strict (the boys could even be whipped if they so much as talked at mealtime), but the one thing that George loved there was baseball. After he became a professional ball player, he heard that St. Mary’s had been destroyed in a fire, so he invited the school’s band to join him for the rest of the baseball season, and raised money to help them rebuild. Very readable, with large, colorful illustrations.
A funny follow-up to the old poem, Casey at the Bat. In this story, Casey hits the ball, which rockets off over the fence, knocks the Tower of Pisa, breaks the nose off the Sphinx, scares the dinosaurs into hiding, and plummets back onto the field, where Casey is flied out. The kids enjoyed the outrageous silliness of it, and it gave me a chance to put in a plug for Gutman’s chapter book series, The Baseball Card Adventures. These are sports adventure stories for slightly older kids (grades 4-8) about a boy who uses baseball cards to travel back in time to meet famous ball players.
One of the second grade teachers had this book in her classroom, and pulled it out so the kids could hear the original poem. Some of the vocabulary is a bit advanced, but the illustrations by C. F. Payne do a great job of conveying the story. The kids all seemed to enjoy it.
This was the favorite of a lot of the boys. Another picture book biography by Matt Tavares (author of Becoming Babe Ruth). This one tells the story of Ted Williams’ rise to fame as the greatest hitter who ever lived. It includes an exciting anecdote about how his plane was damaged by enemy fire in the Korean War, forcing him to choose between ejecting and possibly breaking his legs, or taking his chances with a crash. The kids also were appreciatively grossed out by the description of Williams hitting until blood streamed down his hands. My only complaint about this book is that the kids were curious about when Williams lived and died, which wasn’t included in the text or the notes at the end. But the kids in both classes loved it.
What are your favorite picture books about baseball?