THERE GOES TED WILLIAMS:
THE GREATEST HITTER WHO EVER LIVED
By Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2012
37 pages, $16.99
Baseball season is here, and who doesn’t like exciting stories of homeruns and heroes?
Ogunquit author and illustrator Matt Tavares leads off with a wonderful biography of Ted Williams, “the greatest hitter who ever lived.” Written for Little League boys and girls, ages 6-10, and everyone else who loves baseball, this is a beautifully illustrated story about the Boston Red Sox legend, from his early days as a gangly kid growing up in San Diego, to the homerun he hit at his final major league at-bat in 1960. Tavares has also penned other baseball books for children, including MUDBALL and OLIVER’S GAME.
Tavares tells how Williams (1918-2002) was teased as a kid because he was tall and skinny, and how he practiced and practiced to be a good ball player, becoming a fearsome hitter. He also tells of Williams’ patriotic service as a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, including his harrowing escape from a crashed and burning jet fighter.
But this is a baseball story, complete with ballpark action like Ted hitting the longest homerun in Fenway Park history (460 feet), his game-winning homer in the 1941 All-Star Game, and his awards for highest batting average (.407), and being named the Major League Player of the Decade for the 1950s.
Williams played for the Red Sox from 1939 to 1960, with a few years off to fight in two wars. During those fabled baseball years he became every kid’s favorite player, from sandlot to minor league ball. Learn why he never signed with the Yankees, and why determination, sacrifice and hard work can really make a sports legend’s dream come true.
RANDY RILEY’S REALLY BIG HIT
By Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press, 2012
32 pages, $15.99
Another excellent baseball book for children this year is Chris Van Dusen’s RANDY RILEY’S REALLY BIG HIT. This vividly colorful, rhyming story in best suited for younger ball players, ages 4-7.
Van Dusen lives in Camden and is an accomplished author and illustrator. This baseball fantasy follows his hilarious KING HUGO’S HUGE EGO of last year. Van Dusen admits he has always loved baseball and robots, an unusual combination perhaps, but he cleverly combines both in this funny and fanciful tale of a little boy who saves the day.
Randy is a smart kid who loves science, outer space and baseball. He is a genius with the first two, but not very good at baseball. When he is at bat his imagination wanders, he thinks too much about gravity and such, and always strikes out. He understands all that scientific stuff, but can’t seem to connect the bat to the ball.
One day while looking through his Space Boy telescope, he spots a huge fireball hurtling towards earth, aimed directly at his town. He warns his parents, but they don’t believe him. Then it becomes official when a radio announcer says the fireball will strike earth in 19 days.
Randy skips playing baseball with his friends; instead, he builds a giant robot powered by 97 flashlight batteries. On the fateful day, Randy guides his mechanical robot, now armed with a factory smokestack as a huge bat, to the local ball field. Randy sees this pitch clearly, “a fastball, low and inside.” With one mighty swing the robot smacks the fireball back into outer space, saving earth from catastrophe.
This is a delightful story, whimsical in verse and illustration, revealing how a smart little boy can overcome almost all obstacles, but he still can’t hit a curveball.
— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.
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