Wednesday, March 31, 2010

9 Authors - 12 Baseball Questions

The Line Up
1 Change Up Baseball Poems by Fehler SS
2. Keeping Score by Park 1st
3 Mudville by Scaletta 2nd
4 Brooklyn Nine by Gratz CF
5 Prince of Fenway Park by Baggott RF
6 Six Innings by Preller 3rd
7 Comeback Season by Smith LF
8 Painting the Black by Deuker - C
9 The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Cochrane - P

In case you missed it
the beginning
questions 1-3
questions 4-6
questions 7-9

10. All of these novels extend beyond the field. Baseball is at the core and its surrounded by love. Depending on which book you read there’s also happiness, fear, understanding, history, forgiveness, recovery, racisim, new beginnings, courage, loss, pain, love and family.

As a writer, how did you find the balance between the game and life?

Fehler - Baseball is a main part of my life. In both you win some and lose some. You don't dwell on the losses but put them behind you. Each day you wake up, you think, "It's a good day (for a baseball game or for life). Today something good will happen. By the end of the year many good things have happened, and you think, "Next year will be even better."

Park - Pretty much the same way I do as a person. During the season, I follow baseball avidly; I rarely miss a televised game. But that still leaves plenty of time for everything else. Likewise, in Keeping Score, Maggie loves the Dodgers, but there's lots of room in her life and on the page for her to learn about war and friendship and what we can and can't control in life. I'm the kind of fan who believes that a love of baseball should enhance your life, not swamp it.

Scaletta - Going into this my model was Mark Harris, who wrote baseball novels that were all about baseball and baseball players -- the in-game action, the weariness of the road, the camaraderie and chatter among players. In his first book, The Southpaw, he didn't really bother to make it about anything else, and that's what made it stand out. He took baseball seriously enough to write a book about it. Then he went and wrote a sequel that showed how real life becomes a part of the game, and to my mind wrote the best baseball novel of all time, Bang the Drum Slowly. I actually wanted more baseball than Mudville delivers, but once you have characters and situations the book becomes what it was meant to be.

Gratz - Baseball has to be the bridge that gets you to the real story. Neither of my baseball books is *about* baseball. It's always about something else, with baseball as a means to solving whatever issues the characters have. That's the key. If there's too much baseball in the book, I'll know it, because the rest of the story is getting short shrift.

Baggott - In the best ways, they’re mirrors of each other

Preller - My idea for “Six Innings” was simple: use a Little League baseball game as a vehicle for exploring these various characters. I don’t believe that “baseball is life,” as the t-shirts proclaim; life is life. But for many boys of a certain age, it is the field of play and the common ground, where character is revealed. So the book takes place on two levels: 1) the game itself, which is fun and exciting; and 2) the back stories and the personalities of the participants. That is, the plays and the players.

Smith - In the book, the two have become something of the same for Ryan. Every Cubs fan is at least somewhat superstitious, but in the years since her dad died, the fate of the team has come to mean everything to her, especially once she meets Nick. She’s had a string of bad luck, and so have the Cubs, but her faith in the team is absolute, and she wants to believe that if they can win, everything will be okay. So it’s not really about balancing the two – baseball and life –- as much as it’s a matter of blending them. The main thread running through the story is really Ryan’s desperate sense of hope, which is more about life than baseball at its core. The book is first and foremost a love story. The backdrop just happens to be Wrigley Field. And, as it says in first chapter, where better than that to learn about heartbreak and loss?

Deuker - I'm attracted to sports novels because, as a person who loves to compete in any game with anything that bounces, I've found that you learn a lot about a person in the heat of a game. Good sport, poor sport, generous, selfish , dogged, a quitter, accepts responsibility, blames others. Even more -if a person changes on the athletic field, you can be sure he has changed in "real" life too. The golfer who stops throwing his clubs is a different person than the hot-head who did. Each game, in fact, is a mini-lifetime. So, in my books, I balance the sports activity with the real-life drama, but both reflect on one another. Howard Cosell once said something like: The games aren't interesting. It's the stories within the game that are interesting. In my books, the games wouldn't be interesting if the reader didn't care about the life stories of the people playing them.

Cochrane - I love going back and forth: between the solitude of writing, for example, andthe sociability of teaching. I like to read and I like to play catch. The beauty of baseball is that it can so easily be folded into your every day life: you can listen to a game while you pay bills; you can talk about a game with the people you work with, and at your son’s little league games, you can talk about your community. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and. It’s all part of the mix of a rich and interesting life.

11. Baseball or sports novels in general can relate to comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s classic line, “ I get no respect” with regards to awards like Newbery and Printz.
Why do you think that is? What do you think will happen first – a baseball novel gets a shiny medal or the KC Royals win a playoff series?

Park - Women heavily outnumber men on the ALA award panels. (And I do mean heavily, easily 90 percent or higher most years.) Many of them are sports fans, but they are probably still in the minority. I do think sports novels have a higher bar to jump to overcome the biases of people who think, 'oh, it's just a game'. One example that comes to mind: Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. To me that's not just a good sports novel; it's a fantastic novel period. But no predictions from me. I learned that young, growing up a Cubs fan!

Scaletta - Spinelli's Maniac Magee is kind of a sports novel and has one of the great baseball scenes from kids literature. It involves a frog. Great stuff. And of course they slapped a shiny metal on that one about 18 years ago. The Royals last made the playoffs 25 years ago, when they won it all. So I put this at even odds

Gratz - Ha. Well, optimist that I am, I think a baseball novel will win a Newbery honor before the Royals win a playoff series. It's a combination of factors: I think the days of small market teams regularly competing in the Major Leagues is over. Sure, we've seen teams like the Rays and Marlins surge over the years, but that was due to exceptional scouting and development. The teams that invest in those will do well, regardless of payroll. The teams that don't--the Reds, the Pirates, and the Royals all come immediately to mind--will continue to trot out not-ready-for-prime-time kids and over-the-hill veterans, and fill the spaces at the bottoms of their divisions. The last sports book I can remember winning a Newbery award is 1985's The Moves Make the Man, Bruce Brooks' excellent basketball novel. (Which also, coincidentally, is the last time the Royals won the World Series! And, I think, the last time they ever won a playoff series.) It's been a long dry spell for both sports books and for the Royals, but I see a sports book rising to the top before a baseball team from Kansas City.

Baggott - Ha. Funny. It’s genre within genre, in a way, and so I think it’s the ways that the best baseball books play with or subvert the genre within the genre that make them interesting.

Preller - Baseball novel. I was personally gratified and surprised by the general respect directed toward “Six Innings.” I think the overwhelming majority of reviewers treated it as a book, rather than merely a (cough, cough) “sports book.” I wrote that book, in part, because I knew that’s where so many boys live, interact, cry, laugh, form friendships, and passionately care. The larger issue is “books about boys” in a world where the gatekeepers are overwhelmingly women. Look at the Cybils: roughly 85% of the judges were women. Read the blogs; women are writing most of the reviews. Fine, upstanding, well-intentioned women who, for the most part, care deeply about readers of all types. It’s not their fault. But make no mistake, this is a woman’s world and a sports book that’s mostly intended for boys has got a big hill to climb. It’s just a matter of time. Bruce Brooks earned a Newbery Honor with “The Moves Make the Man,” and while not a baseball book, it still makes the point. You can’t do this job unless you believe that good work will find its way – and I do believe that. Otherwise, there’d be no facing that blank page.

Smith - A good novel is a good novel is a good novel, whether or not there’s some baseball thrown in there. If something truly deserving comes along, and there happens to be a baseball theme to it, then I have faith that it will find its way to the top. Baseball provides such a powerful backdrop to human drama, and it’s a wonderful canvas for so many worthy stories. One of my favorite pieces of baseball writing is the brilliant first section of Underworld by Don DeLillo. So the bar is set pretty high, which is always a good thing.

Deuker - Definitely the Kansas City Royals. This is a good question, though. One of my pet peeves revolves around "boys reading." It's a truism that "boys don't like to read." Maybe what we should say is that boys don't like to read the typical "school appropriate" books. They want action--be it on the basketball court, the battlefield, or the top of Mount Everest. They're not so keen on talk, whether it be talk in the book or discussion about the talk in the book in the classroom. Giving them a book to read, letting them read it, and then not pestering them with discussion questions might be worth trying, at least on occasion. I don't discuss every book I read. My wife and daughter read my books, but they don't read any other sports books. The majority of English teachers and librarians are women. It's not surprising that they don't gravitate toward the sports novel. That said, I will also say that there are many librarians and teachers out there who recognize that boys will read if the right book is put into their hands. If not, my books would never have won six state awards. My hope (and my sense) is that they are slowly winning the battle. I've gotten emails from teachers describing high school courses entitled: The Sports Novel. The teachers tell me that they're finding the boys to be enthusiastic readers often for the first time. That kind of word-of-mouth can be very powerful. So maybe a Newbery or Printz is out there for one of us some day.

Cochrane - I hope somebody, somewhere is working on a book about the Royals beatingthe Pirates in a thrilling World Series and that book wins all the big prizes.

Fehler - I see no reason why a baseball novel shouldn't win a major prize, I've read so many wonderfully-written deserving baseball novels - including more than one on this list. I see less hope of the KC Royals winning a playoff series. But the great thing about baseball is that on opening day all thirty teams begin with the same record, and as we've seen many times through history: surprises happen. A hot hitter, an exciting rookie, a few players having career years, a few breaks here and there, being in a weak division where a five hundred team can make the playoffs. On Opening Day all fans almost everywhere can say: "This is our year." And actually believe it.

12. Do you have anything coming out this year? Or what are you working on?

Scaletta - Yep, I have a book coming out in July called Mamba Point. It's about a kid who moves to Africa and befriends a deadly mamba. There's still lots of rain in it, so fans of Mudville should like it.

Gratz - I'm working on another baseball book! It's called DREAM TEAM, and it will be out in January of next year (2011). It's the story of a boy from Decatur, Georgia, who falls into a fantasy world populated by characters from classic children's books, like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Toad from Wind in the Willows, all of whom are playing in a huge fantasyland baseball tournament.

Baggott - The Ever Breath came out in December and I’ve waded deep into the edits of its sequel, The Ever Cure. I also write for adults and my novel The Provence cure for the Brokenhearted will come out this time next year under my pen name Bridget Asher.

Preller - I have two books coming out this summer in hardcover. A picture book, A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade (Feiwel and Friends), brilliantly illustrated by Greg Ruth, who is an absolute star; and a middle-grade title, Justin Fisher Declares War! (Scholastic), which I see as my rebound book after the much more serious Bystander. Justin Fisher is funny, lighthearted, quick and easy to read. A “just for fun” book, which includes several cameos from my 2008 title, Along Came Spider. I’m currently writing my first YA novel. It’s set on Long Island, with many scenes at Jones Beach, and I’ve felt an unfettered sense of freedom while writing it. Untitled, due in 2011.

Smith - I’m working on another YA novel that will be out in 2011, a love story about two strangers who connect on a flight from New York to London. (chiming in for a quick second to mention Smith's other YA novel You Are Here)

Deuker - I have a football/mystery coming out this September. It is entitled Payback Time. In a nutshell, a mysterious boy tries out for the football team. He's a senior, new to the city and to the team. The school newspaper reporter notices his speed, strength, and ability at practice. But somehow the coach doesn't notice, because the boy plays sparingly--only when the game is on the line. When he does play, though, he excels. So why doesn't he play more? Things aren't adding up; with every game, the reporter grows increasingly suspicious. Is this boy really just a new kid at school? What's his real story? The reporter uncovers the truth, and then learns that even though he got everything right, he got everything wrong, too.

Cochrane - I’m working on a novel, which so far anyway, doesn’t have any baseball in it. I’mnalso working on being a good father, husband, and teacher—wish me luck.

Park - Two middle-grade novels coming out this year: Book #9 of The 39 Clues series in May. A Long Walk To Water, based on the true story of a Sudanese refugee "Lost Boy," due out in November. They're very different, but I hope readers will enjoy them both.

Fehler - Never Blame the Umpire, a middle grade novel, was just published at the beginning of March by Zonderkidz. The cancer-stricken mother of a baseball-playing 11-year-old girl uses the umpire as a metaphor to try to help her daughter through the hard times. It's a novel of baseball, tennis, and poetry and also of love and faith and hope

Thank you Gene Fehler, Linda Sue Park, Kurtis Scaletta, Alan Gratz, Julianna Baggott, James Preller, Jennifer Smith, Carl Deuker and Mick Cochrane for saying yes to answering 12 questions without knowing what the outcome would be.

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge is the book showing after question number 10. I used this one because I like the cover. Also its baseball and poetry. April is National Poetry month

The Boys by Jeff Newman is the book showing after question number 11. I used this one because over at Fuse #8 Production SLJ blog, Betsy Bird has this one down as an early caldecott prediction. A review at Fuse#8

She Loved Baseball by Audrey Vernick illus. by Don Tate is the book showing after question number 11. I used this one because I loved it. Its due out in October. The story of Effa Manley the first woman to be inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Song of the Whales Uri Orlev

The Song of the Whales by Uri Orlev trans. by Hillel Halkin
Michael and his parents move to Israel to be closer to his ailing grandfather. Michael doesn't like to do the things other nine year boys like to do. He has no interest in sports, video games or TV. He prefers to spend time around adults. Michael instantly connects with his grandfather. One night Michael's grandfather lets him in on a secret. He can travel through dreams. Michael begins to go on night time adventures with his grandfather.

Song of the Whales is a slim beautifully written novel. I thought it was nice that Michael wasn't worried or embarrassed that he had no interest in what other boys his age did. He had his own hobbies and interest. I loved Michael's relationship with grandfather. Micheal has the same gift to navigate dreams and help a dreamer like his grandfather.

Michael's grandfather is a vegetarian. There were a moments in the book when I thought the author stepped over the line talking up vegetarianism. I do wish the grandfather was nicer to his helper Madame Saupier. There was a time when he used to take her into his dreams.

In the end I really enjoyed Song of the Whales, the writing and story are very good. I am always fond of books touch upon dreams. I loved that the characters are Jewish and the novels set in Israel and its not about the Holocaust. I've been wanting to do this write up for awhile but I waited. I figured today was the day, since its the first day of Passover . Song of the Whales comes out April 12. ages 10up

When I did a quick search for reviews of The Song of the Whales, I came across more on Uri Orlev . I found it very interesting. It talks a little about the fantasy genre in Isreal

Sunday, March 28, 2010

9 Authors - 12 Baseball Questions

The Line Up
1 Change Up Baseball Poems by Fehler SS
2. Keeping Score by Park 1st
3 Mudville by Scaletta 2nd
4 Brooklyn Nine by Gratz CF
5 Prince of Fenway Park by Baggott RF
6 Six Innings by Preller 3rd
7 Comeback Season by Smith LF
8 Painting the Black by Deuker C
9 The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Cochrane - P

In case you missed it the beginning questions 1-3 questions 4-6

7. Ryan Walsh has fond memories of going to home games at Wrigley Field with her dad. Do you prefer to go to home or away games?

Smith - Home games, absolutely. There are plenty of reasons why Cubs fans are unlucky, but we’re incredibly lucky in at least one very important way: we’ve got Wrigley Field. And there’s nothing quite like it. From the old-fashioned scoreboard to the ivy on the back wall to the bleachers, and of course, the atmosphere of the place itself, there’s nowhere I’d rather spend a summer afternoon.

Deuker - Away games for sure. It's great to see how other fans behave. I remember hearing, at a Philly game, the guy next to me say: "Mike Schmidt was a bum. He hit 500 home runs, and not one of them mattered."

Cochrane - I am especially fond of hitting the road to see a game. Every summer for more than 20 years, I’ve gone on a baseball trip with my best friend from Minnesota—we watch a game or two in a new stadium, explore the city, and catch up on each other’s lives. I have a favorite Wrigley memory too: my younger son always loved the Cubs and Sammy Sosa, so I got tickets for a game on his 10th birthday: July 1, 2004. We drove all night from Buffalo after a little league game,and communed with the Bleacher Bums. Henry wore his birthday gift—a Sosa jersey. During batting practice Matt Clement threw a ball in the stands, which I caught somehow. And in the 10th inning, Sammy Sosa hit a walk-off home run over the left field bleachers. Really—you can look it up. I decided that no matter what else happens to Henry, after that afternoon, he’s had a happy childhood.

Fehler - Home games are more fun because of the connection with the crowd.

Park - I like both home and away games. Home for obvious reasons; away, because I love seeing different stadiums, and it's sometimes fun to be on the wrong side of the cheering

Scaletta - My favorite games have been at spring training. Both home and away.

Gratz - I do enjoy home games when I'm a fan, because you can find lots of friends in the stands who agree that the umpire needs to be run out of town. There's a particular pleasure in wearing your colors to an away game though. It's like you have a target on your back. But there's perhaps nothing sweeter than being an away team fan when your team wins away. Everybody else around you is pouting, and you get to walk out all smug and victorious.

Baggott - Home games. I’m a family person and get no thrill from wagging my love for my team in someone else’s face. Besides, I’ve absorbed my husband’s ties. He feels like he grew up in Fenway Park. It’s like visiting relatives, the family homestead.

Preller - Home, definitely. When that home stadium rocks – when something truly great happens (1 in 20 games), it’s an exhilarating feeling. Again: could be the Knicks in Madison Square Garden; doesn't have to be baseball. I have a good friend who lives four hours away, we rarely see each other. So each year we pick a date to go see the Mets play at a new ballpark. We’ve done weekends in Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. We’re dreaming of L.A.!

8. Away from the game for a few years, Ryan Ward, quickly takes to his new position, catcher. Who is your favorite Molina brother?*

Deuker - My favorite Molina brother is Bengie, naturally, since I grew up living and dying with every game the San Francisco Giants played. But the catcher that really sticks in my mind is the long-time Los Angeles Dodger, Johnny Roseboro. As a Giants fan, I naturally hated the Dodgers. It's just in our DNA. The rivalry in my childhood days was heated--some might say over-heated. Mays, McCovey, Marichal vs. Koufax, Drysdale, etc. If Mays hit a home run off Drysdale, McCovey knew to expect a little chin music. He didn't dig in. Rhubarbs were common. During one infamous Sunday sell-out game at Candlestick, Juan Marichal came to the plate to face Sandy Koufax. After a pitch, Roseboro's throw back to Koufax ticked Marichal's ear (or so Marichal claimed afterward). Marichal turned around and attacked Roseboro, repeatedly hitting him in the head with his bat. Years later Marichal retired and in due course became eligible for the Hall of Fame. The "Roseboro incident," however, kept many writers from voting for him. One year went by; then another. It looked as if Juan Marichal, the Dominican Dandy with the high leg kick, might never get in. And then . . . Johnny Roseboro spoke up for him, saying that one incident should not keep Marichal out of the Hall, and that he (Roseboro) had accepted Marichal's apology. Juan Marichal was subsequently elected to the Hall of Fame and I became -- unbelievably -- a great admirer of a Dodger.

Cochrane - I love all the Molina brothers! I do have a special affection for Bengie, the first to enter my consciousness, but I also like to imagine there’s a fourth obscure one, like Zeppo Marx—wouldn’t that be a good premise for a novel, the Last of the Molinas?

Fehler - Yadier is my favorite because he was the catcher on my fantasy team last year.

Park - Yadier, because he has the coolest name.

Scaletta - I never thought too much about the issue, but I like how those guys play. They are catchers' catchers, all three of them. Tough at the plate, willing to take a hit, and quick on the pickoffs. Any team is lucky to have a Molina behind the plate, if they can't get a Mauer.

Gratz - Bengie. If I were still playing fantasy baseball, he's the one I would choose first. Good power numbers for a catcher, with an average that won't hurt you. Also: who wouldn't like a player whose nickname is "Big Money"?

Baggott - Benji. Not because of anything he did. I just loved that movie Benji when I was a kid.

Preller - They are brothers? I thought the same guy kept getting traded.

Smith - Probably Jose, because he once played for the Cubs. I always joke that I’m not really a baseball fan as much as a Cubs fan, so my knowledge of players outside the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field is pretty much limited to ex-Cubs.

9. Molly’s the only girl on her baseaball team. She’s a pitcher with a wicked knuckleball. It’s a trick pitch that if thrown well will keep hitters confused and the score low. Do you prefer pitching duels or high scoring games?

Cochrane - I am in the minority here, I suspect, but I love watching good pitchers. In thepast few seasons, I’ve developed an appreciation for smart and strategicpitchers, the ones who really know how to change speed and work the corners. I love wily old guys like Tom Glavine and Jamie Moyer, maybe because I aspire to be a wily old guy. Their kind of pitching seems so much like writing.

Fehler - Both. When my team's ace is pitching, I prefer a pitching duel because I know I have an edge. When the other team jumps off to an early lead, I want a high scoring game; I know I'll have a chance. All things equal, I'd pick the pitcher's duel, where one small decision or mistake can make the difference: a bunt, stolen base, playing the infield back instead of in, going from first to third on a one out single, etc.

Park- I love them both. But of course if you're an American League fan, you might not be familiar with a pitching duel, so let me explain... (Just kidding, but I remain rabidly anti-DH.)

Scaletta - Pitching duels all the way. An ugly high scoring game can be entertaining, but the ones you remember are the 1-0 ten inning games, like game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

Gratz - Pitching duels, I think. The games move quickly, and every little hit and run really matters. Slugfests are lots of fun, no doubt, but I do love a chess match of a game brought on by a pitching duel. I've see a few no-hitters on television, and I think they're riveting.

Baggott - I like a game that has at least one high moment in it. Many times, a game will have a home run or a two-run scoring double here and there, but there’s no real pressure moment. It doesn’t matter to me what the score ends up being, so long as there is a unique moment of drama.

Preller - Pitching duels

Smith - I think pitching duels are a lot of fun. High scoring games are great too, of course, but there’s a certain tension that comes along with a good pitching battle, the way everyone sort of holds their breath to see what will happen. That’s pretty hard to beat.

Deuker - Here's the perfect game. After six innings, a 2-2 tie. Then, in the bottom of the 8th, a big hit with two outs for a 4-3 lead. Closer comes in, gives up a double. Runner moves to third on an out. Pop-up, strike out. Two hours and twenty minutes. A beer, a hot dog, some peanuts.

* There are currently three Molina catchers in the majors. Bengi, Jose and Yadier. All are allstars.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup Ronald Koertge

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ronald Koertge
14 yr old Kevin is an MVP first baseball. After he comes down with mono, Kevin can't play. Stuck in the house, Kevin borrows his dads book about poetry and learns about different styles including haikus, sonnets and pastoral.
He uses the journal his dad gave him to write poems in the various styles. Kevin keeps his poetry writng a secret. He doesn't think his teammates will understand. I really liked Kevin and getting to know him through his poems. I loved watching Kevin work on his poetry.

For the record - that last poem was in couplets, which are (obviously) a couple of lines that rhyme and walk that old Shakespeare walk (which is called iambic pentameter)

It really isn't that good a poem. It's kind of in pieces, and I had to hammer in some of those rhymes just to make them fit. Maybe I got a minor league muse?

Shakespeare Bats Clean up is a novel written in free verse. Each page leads into the next, but this style gives a reader a little more freedom to pick a page at random to enjoy.

Baseball and poetry together is a beautiful thing. Perfect reading for April, poetry month and the start of a new baseball season.

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs was released in early March. I picked up Shakespeare Bats Clean up after seeing the cover of the follow up at Guys Lit Wire in the sidebar. I really like this cover.

I've linked this post to Poetry Friday which is being hosted this week by Julie Larios at The Drift Record

For more baseball and books check out - 9 authors - 12 baseball questions

9 Authors - 12 Baseball Questions

The Line Up
1 Change Up Baseball Poems by Fehler SS
2. Keeping Score by Park 1st
3 Mudville by Scaletta 2nd
4 Brooklyn Nine by Gratz CF
5 Prince of Fenway Park by Baggott RF
6 Six Innings by Preller 3rd
7 Comeback Season by Smith LF
8 Painting the Black by Deuker C
9 The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Cochrane P

In case you missed it the beginning, questions 1-3

4. The Schneider families love of baseball can be traced all the way back to 1845. What is it about baseball that encourages family connections?

Gratz - One of the reasons baseball connects generations is that its been around so long. No other American sport has such roots in our history and lives. A grandfather who hasn't seen the Cubs win a World Series has something in common with a grandson who hasn't seen the Cubs win a World Series. A modern Braves fan can compare their more recent winning ways with the dreadful Braves of the 70s and 80s. Without getting too sentimental about it, baseball has a way of bringing generations together around familiar teams and famous players. Other sports may do that as well, but where baseball stands apart is its pace. The slow pace of a baseball game almost *forces* you to talk with the people you went with, and often with the strangers sitting all around you. Pretty soon you're talking about the old days, or some new eighteen-year-old kid with a 95-mph fastball, or that terrible trade your team made last season, and the lines of communication are open. There's something there for you to talk about, to share, and it doesn't matter how old you are, or even if you're related by blood. Now, you're family.

Baggott - I think it’s the lazy pace. That baseball only really heats up (other than ‘roid rages) in September and October when you need the heat. With that slow pace, there is time for reflection, story-telling, gathering memories of loss, heartbreak, success, and victory. All the stuff that makes us human is in our stories that we tell between innings and visits to the mound by the tubby coaching staff in their saggy-bottomed pants.

Preller - As a boy, baseball was always entangled with my mother, who was (and still is, at age 84) a passionate fan. By rooting alongside her, caring just as deeply as she did, we formed a bond. I believe that my love for my mother and my love for the game are inextricably linked, a confusion of one for the other; that somehow my love of the game is an expression of my love for her. Today as a parent, I’ve experienced the same with my children, but from the other end of the telescope. That said: baseball is just the vehicle, it could be a different sport or non-sports activity. As much as I love baseball, I think it’s a sport that gets over-sentimentalized; I don’t get mushy about it

Smith- I think it’s a bit like any sports allegiance that’s passed down through the years. It’s a chance to spend time together, to root for a common goal, to hope and cheer and dream together. In the case of the Cubs, even losing generates a kind of camaraderie, a collective despair that has become sort of a badge of honor, made all the more bearable because it’s shared.

Deuker -The pace of the game and the season is slow. That allows for savoring both the individual games and the unfolding of the season. In the old days, when players stayed with the same team for years, the bonding of families around teams was even stronger.

Cochrane - I’ve said baseball is something people can love side-by-side: we can all love itbut in different ways. It’s maybe the one childhood passion (besides reading maybe) that may last a lifetime. There’s so many stories connected to the game—it can almost be like another, supplementary family history—tragedies andtriumphs and traumas, eccentric characters—that a family can share, a kind of mythology.

Fehler - I was first drawn to baseball by listening to my grandfather, a Cub fan, listen to his Cubs on the radio; and my dad, a White Sox fan, listen to the Sox on the radio. I learned that their teams usually finished far out of first place while the Yankees were winning every year, so they unintentionally taught me to be a Yankee fan. With my own two sons, from the time they were old enough to throw a baseball, we spent hours in the yard playing ball. Then I coached their youth teams for several years. Baseball is a chance for families to spend time together, sharing a mutual love. Even non-players can share the joys of listening and watching the game. Baseball is one of the best universal languages I know of.

Park -The game stays the same even as it changes. Which means that fans across the years have much in common. I love watching games with fans across a wide age range, each with a different perspective but all united by love of the game.

Scaletta - Someone in the Ken Burns documentary pointed out that baseball is one interest you can have from a small boy to an old man that doesn't change. So several generations can go enjoy a baseball game together at the same level. And unlike other sports, there's plenty of time to talk about the game. So it's a good togetherness activity for a family.

5. Its 2004, Oscar believes he can break the 86 yr old curse on his beloved Red Soxs. Are you a superstitious fan?
Baggott -Sweet mother! I’ve got my fingers crossed and I’m knocking on wood, and I’m rubbing sticks together, and a black cat lives at the end of my street, and there’s a ladder! Go Red Sox! (Move over, son, you’re in mommy’s Lucky Seat!)

Preller - No

Smith - Incredibly. There are so many Cubs curses to worry about, particularly the one about that stupid billy goat. When I first moved to New York City, where I live now, I couldn’t believe how confident Yankees fans were about their team’s chances. They’d be back six or eight games in August, still talking about how they were a sure bet to win the Series. Nobody in Chicago would ever be that cavalier. You spend half the season waiting for the other shoe to drop. By September, my knuckles are practically raw from knocking wood so often.

Deuker - I don't have a superstitious bone in my body. I do have a great deal of difficulty watching a close game on television. Too nerve-wracking. Oddly, I have no trouble listening on the radio or watching in person.

Cochrane - When things start to go badly for my team in a tense game, I will sometimes leave the room. I am not sure that is superstitious so much as just cowardly. I don’t want to watch the train wreck.

Fehler - I'm not really a superstitious fan except for one thing: whenever I'm watching a game and something bad happens to my team, I know I am responsible. I know if I weren't watching, that bad thing would never have happened.

Park - Ptooey on superstition, that's what I say. Hey, don't touch that. It's my lucky glass, but I can't drink from it until the sixth inning. And of course I can only go to the bathroom between innings, with one exception (pitching change).

Scaletta - Nah, but I love that dimension to the game and joke about it all the time. Especially when the other pitcher is throwing a no hitter, I make a big deal it to "jinx" the guy.

Gratz -Not terribly. I love the superstitions surrounding baseball, but I'm happy to talk about a no-hitter or a perfect game when it's happening. Honestly, nothing I say or do has any effect on a game whatsoever. I still joke about "jinxing" things, but it's just another way we invest ourselves in the outcome, as though we had something to do with it. Instead, I like watching baseball games as though they are already fated. As though what happens on the diamond was always going to happen. In that sense, it's like I'm watching a movie-even if I'm at the game, live. The events play out as they were scripted to play out, and I'm just an appreciative witness.

6. Sam is sidelined all season. He announces all six innings of the little league championship game. Who is your favorite baseball announcer?

Preller - I go back to my boyhood love of the New York Mets – a passion shared with my mother. The original Mets announcers in those early years were a trio: Lindsey Nelson, a savvy veteran who famously wore loud, outlandish sports jackets; Bob Murphy, smooth-voiced and affable; and Ralph Kiner, the former slugger who kept listeners entertained with old-time baseball stories and malaprops. In my mind, you couldn’t separate those men; they were a team of complementary parts, and they worked the games together from 1962-78, when Nelson retired.

Smith - I grew up listening to the great Harry Caray, and nobody sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” like he did. Now I love Ron Santo, another Cubbie favorite. He was an amazing player and is now an amazing announcer, not to mention a pretty remarkable human being.

Deuker - Joe Morgan. First of all, as a SF Giant he hit a home run that kept the Dodgers out of the playoffs. Secondly, he is insightful without being pompous. I can't stand the "scientific" guys and I can't stand the "poetry" guys. Joe gets it right.

Cochrane - The late Herb Carneal, longtime Twins announcer. He was old school, a hint of a southern accent, a genius of narrative. He told you what pitch was thrown and where it was and didn’t editorialize. During the off season he compiled notecards with facts about the players which he inserted into his play-by-play. My wife and I used to count his FPP (facts per pitch). But he wasn’t afraid of silence: he’d pause and you could hear the vendors in the background. He believed the game itself was interesting, and that we didn’t need to hear about the zanyantics of his colleagues to stay involved: he respected the game and his listeners.

Fehler - My favorite announcer growing up was Jack Brickhouse, announcing Chicago Cub games. I loved the countless anecotes Brickhouse was always telling about oldtime players. I learned much about the early history of the game from listening to him.

Park - Gary Cohen, New York Mets, for play-by-play, and Ron Darling for color. I also love Jon Miller. Sentimental vote to Jack Brickhouse (I never got to hear Vin Scully or Red Barber or Mel Allen broadcast a game live).

Scaletta - Bob Casey, of the Twins. There is NOOOOOOOOO smoking in the Metrodome. I also like Bert Blyleven on TV.

Gratz - Vin Scully. Hands down. Even though he mostly does TV now, he's an old-school radio announcer, which means he's always talking, always filling that empty space with facts and anecdotes and play by play. I love that. I can turn on a Dodgers game and just LISTEN. In second place for me is Thom Brennaman, who announced for the Diamondbacks, and I think is now with the Reds. He's no-nonsense, which I like, and not afraid to call 'em like he sees 'em, even when that means criticizing his own club. I really hate those announcers who find something positive to say about everything. Honestly, sometimes your team just sucks, and you have to own up to it. Thom's dad, Marty, was always a straight shooter too, and another good one. I also like Steve Stone--who, I should point out, got fired from announcing the Cubs for saying they sucked.

Baggott - Retired Red Sox announcer Ned Martin. When my husband hears his voice, he’s young again.

Good Fortune Noni Carter

Good Fortune by Noni Carter
I always have to mentally prepare myself for a novel set during slavery, especially one that's almost 500 pages. So Good Fortune sat unread for awhile. The other day, I was finally ready. I am glad that I made time for this book ecause there is a very good story inside.

14 yr old Sarah was four when she's kidnapped into slavery. Than her name was Ayanna. Now its 1821 Sarah is a slave in Tennessee. At night she dreams of her family and freedom. Mary, a slave who works in the house becomes Sarah's new mother. Mary's son Daniel her new brother.

Sarah splits her time between working the cotton fields and caring for the two small children in the house. When the children play school, Sarah uses the oppurtunity to educate herself. Sarah is determined to learn to read and write no matter the risk.

When Sarah learns that Daniel and a few of his friends are planning to escape, she wants to go. One of the master's sons Jeffrey has his eye on Sarah. She wants to leave before he can put his hands on her.

Sarah has feelings for John, Daniel's friend. John feels the same way. Their relationship is fragile and dangerous thanks to Jeffrey.

Good Fortune is 470 pages, and reads like a novel half its size. Sometimes long novels jump too far ahead in the story and I've feel as if I've missed something. Other times they don't seem to move at all and the story seems to drag. Good Fortune doesn't fall into either one of those categories. I loved the paced. Carter's writing is very good. Sarah's voice is clear and strong throughout.

One of the things that stood out for me in this novel is the research that went into it. If a young reader had never read a novel about slavery, Good Fortune would be the second one I gave them right after To Be A Slave by Julius Lester. ages 11up read an excerpt

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

9 Authors - 12 Baseball Questions

The Line Up
1 Change Up Baseball Poems by Fehler SS
2. Keeping Score by Park 1st
3 Mudville by Scaletta 2nd
4 Brooklyn Nine by Gratz CF
5 Prince of Fenway Park by Baggott RF
6 Six Innings by Preller 3rd
7 Comeback Season by Smith LF
8 Painting the Black by Deuker C
9 The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Cochrane - P

In case you missed it how this came to be. Enjoy the first three questions, please come back for other nine.

1. Change up, tells the story of a baseball season through poetry. In the first few poems, the boy as the baseball itch. He can’t wait for the season to begin. What’s your favorite part of a new season?

Fehler - Baseball has always been by far my favorite sport. After baseball season ends I'll occasionally watch a football game and even a basketball game. But nothing thrills me like baseball. The start of a new season is like opening the curtain to seven more months of exciting drama. And when the drama ends as it did last year with my favorite team, the New York Yankees, winning the World Series, I have enough happy memories to last me through many of the long hard winter months that lie ahead. When spring training finally comes, and then opening day, and I've had the chance to study the thirty teams' rosters and look at trades and injuries and rookies, I can begin to anticipate all the excitement and frustration that await me throughout the upcoming 162 regular season games, games which are a prelude to the increasing excitement of the baseball drama's final act.

Park - My favorite part of a new season is seeing the Mets take the field for the first time. Everything is so promising, and at that moment, the perfect season seems not only possible, but completely within reason!

Scaletta - I actually love spring training because I can listen to the games on the radio during the day and it makes me think about warmer weather.

Gratz - I think my favorite part of the season are the dog days of summer. Those games right around the all star break where you begin to know if it's your season or not. Where you know who's having a great season, and who's not. Where the players are settled in; where the hitters have enough at bats to have real averages, and the pitchers haven't worn out yet. It's also the time teams start looking to make trades and address needs in their ballclubs, and that's always exciting to me. Growing up, I was a Reds fan, but all their games are blacked out for me on television due to crazy weird MLB territory rules, even though I live in North Carolina. By default, I sort of became an LA Dodgers fan, because those games are on late at night and they're not blacked out. I also learned a lot about Dodger history doing research for The Brooklyn Nine, and I have a lot of respect for that organization overall.

Baggott - I love to see the big, lazy giants stretching and jogging, as if all they’ve done is sleep since October, and now they are breaking their hibernation before heading back to the long, tumultuous hunt.

Preller - As an armchair GM, I really enjoy the off-season, that intellectual jigsaw puzzle of assembling the team. And of course, there’s nothing quite like hope and possibility of Opening Day.

Smith - I’m sure any Cubs fan would agree that the best part of the season is definitely the beginning. At that point, you haven’t had a chance to be disappointed yet. You’re still operating on sheer promise and blind hope. One hundred plus years of history isn’t even enough to get you down. The whole season is still before you, and there’s nothing better than the feeling that this will be the year.

Deuker - I look forward to seeing Ichiro go through his whole routine at the plate: deep knee bends, sleeve tug, etc. Writing down 6-4-3 in my score book for the first time is also a thrill, unless it's one of my beloved Mariners who has banged into a rally killing DP.

Cochrane -Growing in Minnesota, I cheered for the Minnesota Twins, and I still do. I love the sense of optimism that comes with opening day—it’s like the first day of school: anything can happen, it’s a clean slate, this year we might finally do it right. I have a wonderful boyhood memory of going to an opening day game with my grandfather—someone gave us tickets—the one and only year Billy Martin managed the Twins (before he got into trouble by punching out a marshmallow salesman). I have many vivid memories from the afternoon—for example, the Twins’ starting pitcher, Tommy Hall, a lefty so thin his nickname was “The Blade.”

2. Its 1951, Maggie is a die hard Brooklyn Dodgers fan. When they lose to the NY Giants in that famous pennant race, she is heartbroken. What playoff loss make your stomach churn the most?

Park- Too many to count. But the first one that comes to mind is Game 7 of the 2006 playoffs, Mets against the St. Louis Cardinals. Endy Chavez's miracle catch-into-a-double-play seemed like a sign that the Mets would win. And when they didn't...Ouch. It still hurts. I drew on that memory, and many others from my years as a Cubs fan, to portray Maggie's devotion to the Dodgers in KEEPING SCORE. She's passionate and loyal despite the disappointments year after year. Like all true fans, Maggie knows that baseball can break your heart, but that nothing else gives you the chance to practice so regularly at the art of hoping.

Scaletta - I'm always a Twins fan and if they make the playoffs, I'm proud of them. So I'll have to go football with this win and say that nothing make me wince like the way the 1998 Vikings fizzled out in the championship game against the Falcons.

Gratz - In 1999 I was living in Cincinnati, and had been following the Reds pretty religiously, getting down to the ballpark whenever I could. They were really great that season. Not a great team like 1927 Yankees great, just a lot of fun, with really terrific chemistry and a knack for coming back late in games and never giving up. Jack McKeon was the manager that year, a crusty old veteran who knew how to get the most out of limited talent, and the team had great years from Mike Cameron, Pokey Reese, Sean Casey, Barry Larkin, Aaron Boone, Dmitri Young, Scott WIlliamson, and Danny Graves. Not superstars, most of them, but guys with a lot of heart and big hits and pitches at the right moments. At the end of that season, they finished in a tie with the New York Mets for the Wild Card spot in the playoffs, and there was a one-game tie-breaker played at Riverfront in Cincinnati. After a season of heroics and all-out play, the Reds just didn't have anything left in the tank, losing 5-0 to the Mets at home. It was devastating, but there was the hope that next year, the team might really be something special. Then, in the off-season, the Reds traded half their team to the Seattle Mariners to get Ken Griffey, Jr., and while it was always exciting to see Ken Griffey, Jr. play after that, it felt like the team lost all its chemistry from the year before. Griffey got hurt early and often, the team lost it's heart, and that was really the beginning of the end of Cincinnati's competitiveness for the last decade. But it was that playoff loss that really broke my heart.

Baggott - It’s a tie: Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone. But mainly it’s the absorption of my husband’s pain. When Dent hit the homer in the playoff game, he was a kid and cried a lot. But then he moved on and only remembered the pain of it in the 90s when the Red Sox were good, but never good enough. The Boone home run happened when he was an adult, the same age as Tim Wakefield, the pitcher who gave up that home run. It was much more personal for him because Wakefield is on a very human scale compared to most pro athletes.

Preller - Game Four, 1988 NLCS. The Mets were up in the series, 2-1, and leading the game going into the 9th, 4-2. But Mike Sciosca hit a shocking two-run bomb off Dwight Gooden to tie it up. That was a great Mets team that should have gone all the way – but the Dodgers had the magic. But honestly? I’m over it, these loses don’t really upset me for very long.

Smith - I’d have to say the 2003 National League Championship series game against the Marlins, when poor Steve Bartman tried to catch that infamous foul ball. It wasn’t even his fault, really. But I’ve never seen a team unravel so quickly. It was really hard to watch. I’m pretty sure I cried.

Deuker - It's the playoffs that never were that eat at me. The SF Giants to the 60's were often engaged in wire-to-wire pennant races with the Dodgers. Except for 1962, the Dodgers always won. With no wild card in existence, Mays, Marichal, McCovey, and Cepeda sat at home.

Cochrane - Not a play-off strictly speaking, but the last two games of the 1967 season in Boston: the Twins needed to win just one to get into the World Series, and they lost both. I loved the Twins then as much as Maggie loved the Dodgers, and I was devastated. I mention these games in my novel SPORT, but I am over it now, really

Fehler- I was in college when my New York Yankees scored a ton of runs against the Pirates only to to suffer an improbable World Series loss when Mazeroski broke my heart.

3. In Moundville a rival game has been rainout thanks to 22 straight years of rain. If you where caught in an awful rain storm, and the only umbrella available was that of your favorite teams rival, would you use it?

Scaletta - I love this question! If I had to choose between being sopping wet or wielding a Yankees umbrella, I'd get wet. If I had to choose between being on fire or getting extinguished with a Yankees fire hose, I'd have to think about it. They aren't even properly a Twins rival but they are the team we all love to hate.

Gratz - If we're talking baseball, yes. If we're talking college sports, and you handed me, say, a Florida umbrella, I would have to think twice about that. Depending on where I was. If I was at home in Knoxville, no way would I use a Florida umbrella. I think cars might aim for me.

Baggott - Absolutely. I don’t like to get wet. I own a great deal of Red Sox paraphernalia, but I really am a Red Sox fan on the inside, nothing so superficial as a logo can sway me.

Preller - Nope

Smith - Not a chance! I happen to be of the mindset that even garbage bags are more stylish than Cardinals umbrellas. Not that I’m competitive or anything.

Deuker - I couldn't use a Dodger umbrella

Cochrane - Sure. I love those little moments in baseball when rivalry breakdown: when, for example, a batter will stall so a catcher can compose himself after getting shaken up. Rivalry is strong in the game, but so is humanity—all that chatting down at first base. That’s one of the things I love about the game.

Fehler - I'd use the umbrella so I could stay healthy for a chance to cheer my Yankees to victory over the Red Sox, but knowing the evil nature of my rival, its owner would probably not loan it out.

Park - Of course. And when it stopped raining, I'd give it a good pop to turn it inside out, permanently.

Dear Primo Duncan Tonatiuh

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh
This is the story of two primos (cousins) Charlie lives in America, and Carlitos lives in Mexico. The cousins correspond via letters. They tell each other about everything, from their favorite foods, to how they get to school. Thanks to the letters, the cousins realizes though they live in different countries they have a lot in common.

Carlitos letters are in English, with a few Spanish words included.
In the town from time to time they have fiestas that last two or three days. At night there are cohetes that light up the sky and mariachis that play and play.

I love how the Tonatiuh allows readers or listeners who don't speak Spanish to understand the Spanish words. He also includes a visual image of the Spanish words to make it that much easier.

One of the things that stands out for me in Dear Primo, are the author's illustrations. Tonatiuh uses a style I am not use to. I love his use of color. The more I look at the book, the more I appreciated the art. In the back its says Tonatiuh was inspired by the ancient art of mixtecs and other cultures of Mexico.

I did a quick search , I wanted to know more about mixtecs art but came up empty. So I decided to ask Duncan Tonatiuh about his artistic style.

"My art is mostly inspired by ancient Mixtec codex. Most of those codex were done in the eleventh century I believe. I am attaching some images.I draw by hand but I color and collage texture into my drawings in photoshop. I developed my style while I was doing my BFA thesis at Parsons School of design.

I looked at a lot of Pre-Columbian art from Mexico and the Americas to develop the look of my thesis project. When I saw the Mixtec codex I was particularly struck. Something clicked. I really like the design of the images -the geometry and the repetition of colors and forms. I find them very musical.

I adopted a lot of the aesthetic choices in those codex, like the fact that people are always seen in profile or the proportions, which differ from the classical western standards. I did not want to simply imitate those drawings though. Using digital techniques was a way for me to make those images contemporary and also make them my own.

Basically I try to combine something that looks very ancient with something that looks very modern. I am from Mexico, and Mexico has such a rich visual tradition. I want to keep those traditions alive but I also want to innovate and make those ancient aesthetics relevant and accessible to kids and people today.

I think what I do is a little bit like sampling. The way a dj/producer samples a base line, or guitar section, mixes it with a new drum beat etc and makes a new song. "

The Baseball Lineup And How It Came To Be

For many people April means poetry month, to me its one month closer to the baseball season. I wanted to do something special this year in honor of the upcoming season. After thinking about it for awhile, I got this idea in my head that I would do a an Around the Horn chat (infielders only) with 6 authors who wrote baseball novels I loved.

When I got to Linda Sue Park's Keeping Score, I said "uh oh" because that was book number seven.

Here are the first seven titles I thought of -

1 Prince of Fenway Park by Baggott 2 Six Innings by Preller 3 The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Cochrane, 4 Mudville by Scaletta, 5 Brooklyn Nine by Gratz, 6 Comeback Season by Smith and 7 Keeping Score by Park

If you've read just two of those titles you know why it never crossed my mind to knock it down to six. After deciding to add two more books, I quickly thought of Change up Baseball Poems by Fehler. I thought poetry would be a perfect fit at short stop.

Just one more book. I realized, I needed a catcher. My first thought was Deuker. He writes some of the best MG and YA sports novels. I did a quick search and sure enough Deuker wrote a YA novel called Painting the Black.

Now that I had all the authors and titles I wanted to include, there was one small thing, getting the authors to say yes. When I sent out nine individual request on a Sunday, I had no idea what was going to happened. By that Wednesday, all the authors confirmed.

I was surprised and very excited. It took much well power not to talk about this earlier and squeal with joy.

The Line Up

1 Change-up: Baseball Poems by Gene Fehler SS -
This was my 2009 Cybils choice for poetry. Check out this nice review at My World - Mi Mundo. Baseball fans will love this collection of poems.

2. Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park 1st
In this novel there is talk of the classic 1951 pennant race between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. For baseball fans that should be more than enough reason to pick up this wonderful book. Reviews via author's site

3 Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta 2nd
12 yr old Roy was one of my favorite male protagonist of 2009. I loved that he read Their Eyes Where Watching God to impress a girl. Named a top 10 sports books for youth in 2009 by Booklist. More honors and reviews via author's site

4 The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz CF
I had picked this novel to get a shiny Newbery sticker and I wasn't the only one. Named a top 10 sports books for youth in 2009 by Booklist Reviews via the author's site

5 The Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggott RF
This was my Cybils choice MG Fantasy for 2009 and a Cybils finalist. Reviews via author's site. For all the baseball fans who love the history of the game the author mentions Curt Flood. Curt Flood named in a middle grade novel, I was like WOW

6 Six Innings by James Preller 3rd
Preller doesn't waste time with the regular season. He goes straight to the Little League championship game. Named a top 10 sports book in 2008 by Booklist . Also in 2008 made New York Public Library Top 100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing List. 2009 ALA Children's Notable Book

7 The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith LF
I couldn't find contact info on Smith but I wasn't going to give up. If you've read this book you know why. Praise via publishers site. I have author James Kennedy to thank for getting me in touch with Smith.

8 Painting the Black by Carl Deuker C
I find it very fitting that Deuker the veteran for sports novels for young readers is behind the plate. He has won six state awards. If you are in need of a great sport novel check out Deuker's site

9 The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane P
Reviews via author's site. One of four spring books recommended for young readers by USA Today in 2009. I still remember the beautiful Haiku in this novel.

Here's how its going to work. I asked the authors 12 questions. The first nine questions are inspired by their books. The final three wrap up questions I thought of tie it all together. It will be broken up into 4 days, 3 questions a day.

I love the gender balance amongst the authors and within the stories themselves. This is more so for baseball fans but I do hope everyone gets something out of it. I hope that non baseball fans will have a better appreciation and respect for novels centered around sports after reading all the answers.

If you know any baseball fan please let them know about this. It's rated PG and appropriate for young baseball fans who may get a kick out of finding out the favorite teams of nine authors and other baseball related tidbits

Older fans will love the talk of the game and being able to a find few great books to share with young baseball fans.

I hope you enjoy. Please spread the word. Thanks
Questions 1 -3
Questions 4-6
Questions 7-9
Questions 10-12

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ruby Booker Trivia Queen 3rd Grade Supreme Derrick Barnes

Trivia Queen, 3rd Grade Supreme by Derrick D. Barnes
This is the second book in the Ruby and the Booker Boys series. Ruby Booker is in third grade. She has three older brothers at school she does her best not to be the forgotten Booker girl. Ruby Booker is a smart with her own sense of style from her mismatched sneakers to her backpack that's in the shape of a guitar case.

Ruby loves trivia. Ruby's school is having an animal trivia contest. Winner gets season passes to the Zoo for their entire grade. Ruby is youngest contestant. she is up against four other students, including two of her older brothers.

Ruby is a very likable character. The author takes the time to develop the whole Booker family. When Ruby doubts if she's good enough to compete, her parents support and encourage, helping Ruby to believe in her talent. This series is so well done and a lot of fun to read. I love it.

Read an excerpt

Recently, I learned that the Ruby Booker series is in trouble. If there isn't an increase in sales in book 3 Slumber Party Payback and 4 Ruby Flips For Attention scholastic may not release the next books in the series. I was sadden by this news but not surprised. I am sure books one and two were carried by Indie's and Chain bookstore. I am also sure in a lot of the stores the titles were simply shelved never to be displayed. Sometimes its not enough for a bookstore to carry a book especially when the titles get little to no promotion.

Yes, I know every book can't be displayed. However, I do believe every effort should be made to have visual diversity. I am referring to books featuring boys as well as kids of color.

Ruby and the Booker Boys is a early chapter series. Ages 7up. In this age category, publishers seem to target girls who love fairies or all things pink.

I wish publishers would catch a clue, boys read too and not all girls love fairies. Some would rather read about, a smart fact loving girl like Ruby Booker

Please check out my recent interview with Derrick Barnes about the Ruby Booker series over at Color Online
Also check out this Saving Ruby at TheBrownBookShelf.