In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, baseball was literally how Americans passed the time on a warm summer evening. These books about baseball will help summer readers pass the time.

“The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams and the Record-Setting Summer of ‘41” by Phil Bildner, Illustrated by S. D. Schindler, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011, ages 7 and up.

Baseball is a sport of statistics, and die-hard fans will likely remember the numbers from the summer of 1941 because two hitting records are still standing for players Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. This informational picture book tells the parallel stories of a Yankee and Red Sox who both had the best baseball seasons of their lives. The detailed watercolor and ink illustrations take readers back to this unforgettable season when baseball fans followed these two incredible players to see if they could keep their streaks alive.

“Lucky: Maris, Mantle, and My Best Summer Ever” by Wes Tooke, Simon & Schuster, 2010, ages 8 and up, 180 pages.

Wes Tooke’s first children’s novel is the perfect mix of fact and fiction, sharing a behind-the-scenes description of the summer of 1961, when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris battled to see if either would end the season beating Babe Ruth’s home run record. The competition is described through the eyes of Louis, a batboy for the Yankees and avid baseball fan. Louis feels competition of his own with an unwelcoming new stepbrother and an overbearing stepmother. Maris nicknames Louis “Lucky” and their friendship inspires both the player and the boy.

“Sluggers #6: Home of the Brave” by Loren Long & Phil Bildner, Simon & Schuster, 2010, ages 8-12, 316 pages.

A magic baseball, an evil villain, and a helpful eagle make for a suspenseful adventure for the Payne children, Griffith, Graham, and Ruby. Part of a traveling baseball team, the family earns money to pay off their big-league debt by playing for the crowd. Set in 1899, this mystery is part of the Sluggers series, which chronicles the family’s baseball travels. Loren Long, an acclaimed illustrator, includes exquisite charcoal sketches, which bring the characters to life.

“Who Was Jackie Robinson?” by Gail Herman, Illustrated by John O’Brien, Grosset & Dunlap, 2011, ages 7 and up, 105 pages.

This biography of baseball-great Jackie Robinson tells the story of the first African American to play in the major leagues. As a Brooklyn Dodger, Jackie served as an inspiration to many players and fans, and went on to win the President Medal of Freedom for making the world a better place. The simple text and pen and ink illustrations are combined with maps, statistics, and historical background to create a rich and interesting informational book.

The phrase “take me out to the ball game” takes on a whole new meaning when reading one of these baseball books, to be enjoyed by fans new and old.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler

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