Monday, June 1, 2009
Sometimes you run across a children's author who has found the perfect niche for their writing. They know exactly who their audience is and their voice comes through loud and clear. This is the case with Dan Gutman, author of a wonderful series of baseball books, that my own sons loved when they were between 8 and 12 years old. These books have the ability to draw in even the most reluctant of readers.
The protagonist in each of the books is 12-year-old Joe Stoshak. Joe (a.k.a Stosh) loves baseball, and is somewhat of an expert on the subject. He's also a big collector of baseball cards. Unfortunately, he isn't quite the player he wishes he could be. Stosh lives alone with his mom, a nurse, who struggles to make ends meet. His dad is a distant figure in the background.
In the first book of the series, Honus and Me: A Baseball Card Adventure, Stosh comes across an original Honus Wagner baseball card, while cleaning out a neighbor's attic. Because he is such an expert on baseball, he immediately realizes that he has found something very valuable, which could really help his family's financial situation. What Stosh doesn't realize is that the card has the power to take him time traveling.
Later that night, Honus visits him in his bedroom and together they are whisked back to the 1909 World Series. The book is well-researched and filled with authentic baseball references. It even has some old, grainy photographs of Honus and other players. Gutman does a great job bringing the players of the time alive. Honus, in particular, comes across as a true gentleman. I'm not going to give away the plot here, but if you have a child who likes baseball (or even one who doesn't), I can pretty much guarantee they will like this book.
In addition to the compelling story, Gutman includes a couple of interesting sidebars at the end. The first is an actual article Honus Wagner wrote for Sporting News in 1950 on Baseball Tips for Kids. The second is information about the Honus Wagner baseball card which, as some of you may know, was sold for $2.8 million a couple of years ago.
All of the books in the series are well researched and easy to read. Without even realizing it, kids will learn a lot about the history of each time period that Stosh visits. In both Jackie and Me and Satch and Me, race relations are addressed in a frank way, and readers will see how African-Americans were so unfairly treated. In Shoeless Joe & Me, readers will learn about the 1919 Black Sox scandal. In Babe & Me, readers will learn about Babe Ruth, as well as the time period he played in-The Depression. All in all, I highly recommend these books; they're a perfect blend of fact and fantasy.
Other books in the series include:
Jackie & Me (Baseball Card Adventures)
Babe & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure
Shoeless Joe & Me (Baseball Card Adventures)
Mickey & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure (Baseball Card Adventures)
Jim & Me (Baseball Card Adventures)
Ray & Me (Baseball Card Adventures)
Satch & Me (Baseball Card Adventures)
BookNosher Tidbit: If your kids became enthralled with the series, they may want to find out more about Dan Gutman. He has an interesting website, which includes facts about him, as well as the many books he's written. And if your class is interested, he has created a DVD for grades 3-6 about the baseball card adventures.