Take Me Out to the Ballgame by Augusta Scattergood
True confessions (Don’t you love a story that begins with those two words?).
When I’m writing a novel, I occasionally add embellished details from my real life.
As do many writers.
Of course, by the time I complete the final draft they may not be recognizable. But some of my settings, an occasional character, and even a few plot points really happened.
When I was in junior high, a family member’s health caused my parents to take my siblings and me out of school. They plopped us down in Florida for a short recuperative period. We were not happy to leave our friends. But when they told us we’d be renting a house previously lived in by a famous baseball player, we were all in.
Before you picture an 8,000 square-foot beach-front mansion complete with several pools, a five-car garage, and many large screens, let me say it was a modest rental that our family of five squeezed into, typical of the early 60s.
My younger brother and sister and I spent hours searching for clues proving the baseball star had slept there. We found nothing. Not one ball lost in our blooming Birds of Paradise. No baseball cap forgotten on a closet shelf. Not even a secret note tacked inside a cabinet door or hidden in an old tackle box.
But that memory made it into THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY, my middle-grade novel about a boy and his uncle who move to Destiny, Florida, former (imagined) home to baseball great Hank Aaron.
Another true confession? I wasn’t much of a baseball player as a kid, but I now love books that feature kids and sports, especially if there’s a clever twist and a heartfelt plot. Teachers and parents know what an enticement these books are for the kids who may not love reading as much as they love their sport or their sports hero.
Here are a handful of my recent favorites, aimed mostly at middle-grade readers. I’d love to add your recommendations to my growing list, so do share in the comments section.
Take note: baseball books aren’t just for boys. Girls play on these teams!
SOAR by Joan Bauer
Early one morning, a baby is discovered abandoned at a workplace. That baby grows up to be a truly remarkable kid who loves baseball and his adoptive dad. What great premises. In fact, Jeremiah and his dad have one of the most loving and connected relationships in recent middle-grade novels. There’s also a robotics subplot, a town tragedy, and a bit of romance. Although his heart health prevents him from actually playing the sport, Jeremiah’s big heart truly loves the game. I love this book.
THE WAY HOME LOOKS NOW by Wendy Shang
Another baseball story that’s really so much more. Peter Lee’s immigrant father and his very sad, very disconnected mother are perfectly written. The family dynamics here play out against a baseball backdrop, and those scenes will ring true for sports fans. It’s a heartfelt family and friendship book, set beautifully against a background of the 1970s.
PLUNKED by Michael Northrop
If you like your sports stories with a side of laughter, this one’s for you. But it’s not all laugh-out-loud funny. Jack is an endearing kid, one young readers will totally get. He’s a baseball star with a new fear of getting hit by a ball, again. As a parent, I loved how his are downright embarrassing, not to mention stuck in the 80s.
THE KID FROM DIAMOND STREET: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
Share this brand new non-fiction picture book about a little-known figure in baseball history— a ten-year-old whose love of baseball led her to do remarkable things— with kids of all ages. Another winner from the author-illustrator team of Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team. Set in the early part of the twentieth century, delightfully told, this book reminds us that baseball— and books about the sport—are for everybody.
For more baseball books, old favorites as well as new, check out these Barnes and Noble suggestions: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/cover-your-bases-with-these-10-baseball-books-for-young-readers/
Blogger Mia Wenjen creates such great booklists. This one’s no exception: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2011/05/top-10-baseball-books-for-reluctant-readers-ages-9-12/
If you’d like to eavesdrop on a conversation between Wendy Shang and me about our own middle-grade, 1970s, baseball-themed novels, here’s the link: http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2015/04/conversation-augusta-scattergood-author-stay-destiny/
And if you or your students have ever wondered about that all-time favorite 7th-inning stretch tune? Click here for a bit of that history:
Augusta Scattergood is the author of two middle-grade novels, GLORY BE and THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. Her third novel, MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG, is also historical fiction and will be published in August, 2016. She occasionally blogs at http://ascattergood.blogspot.com/. Or find her on Facebook and Twitter (ARScattergood) where she more than occasionally hangs out.