June 29 – International Mud Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2009 when the students of Bold Park Community School in Wembley, Western Australia teamed with the boys of the Nepalese Panchkhal Orphanage to “celebrate the visceral and primal connection we all share with Earth and the outdoors.” Since that day, schools, families, and early childhood education centers have worked to remind us that we all need to take time to play in the mud sometimes and reconnect with what makes us human. In 2015, the day was expanded to include the entire month of June to allow us to decompress from the high-tech, high-pressure world we live in and to connect with others.

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball

Written by David A. Kelly | Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez

 

“Lena Blackburne wanted to be a famous baseball player.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t one of the greats. In fact starting in 1910, Lena moved around from team to team, playing a variety of positions. He made appearances at every base and played shortstop; he even had a go as pitcher. But he wasn’t a star at any of these positions. He was never going to make it to the Hall of Fame.

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

After he retired from playing, Lena became a coach. One day the umpire came to him with a complaint about the soggy baseballs. They were too hard to throw and too hard to see. Besides that, when they were hit, they didn’t soar very far. The problem was that new baseballs had a slick sheen to them, “so players soaked them in dirty water. It got rid of the shine. But it also made the balls soggy and soft.”

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

Players tried other methods to get rid of the shine, but they had drawbacks too. Shoe polish just turned the balls black, and “spit and tobacco juice…made the balls stink.” Lena Blackburne sat down and considered the problem. The answer came to him in a most unusual place—an old fishing hole where Lena liked to go when he was off the road and home.

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

While fishing one day, he happened to step into some dark brown mud. It sucked at his boot, and as Lena pulled his foot out he had an idea. The mud was “smooth and creamy like chocolate pudding. But it felt gritty.” At the ballpark, Lena rubbed the mud on the balls. When the mud dried, it was easy to wipe off. The mud left the balls with a good finish—not soggy, black, or smelly. At the next game, “the pitcher threw muddy fastballs, curveballs, changeups, and sinkers. The batters hit muddy singles, doubles, triples, and home runs.”

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

Lena returned to the fishing hole and dug up more mud. He put it into containers and began selling it. Teams all over the league bought Lena Blackburne’s Baseball Rubbing Mud. Lena’s famous mud is still used today and is officially the “only thing that’s allowed on major-league balls.” Lena Blackburne always dreamed of being in the Baseball Hall of Fame. While he didn’t make it there as a player, he is remembered for his contributions to the game he loved in a special exhibit for Lena Blackburne’s Baseball Rubbing Mud.

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

An Author’s Note including more about Lena Blackburne, his baseball statistics, and his special mud follow the text.

Kids who love baseball will be intrigued by David A. Kelly’s unique take on the game. By exploring a small detail that had large effects on the quality of play, Kelly, a masterful writer of sports books and mysteries for kids, including the much-loved Ballpark Mysteries and MVP series, presents a picture book mystery with a surprise ending for younger readers. Kelly’s inclusion of Blackburne’s disappointments shows children that each person’s unique contributions are often found in expected ways.

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, coiurtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

Kids get a front row seat at the baseball stadium in Oliver Dominguez’s stunning illustrations. As Lena swings and misses, readers can almost hear the smack of the ball in the catcher’s glove and the ump yelling, “Steee-rrriike!”  When Lena Blackburne becomes a coach and ponders the problem of the soggy baseballs, kids will enjoy seeing baseballs bobbing in a wooden bucket of water, laugh to see a player spitting on a new baseball, and wonder what idea has Lena so wide-eyed at the fishing hole. Baseball lovers will want to linger over the up-close views of players preparing for a game and celebrating their win.

For baseball and other sports fans, young inventors, creative thinkers, and anyone who loves history, Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball is a fascinating read and would be welcome in home, classroom, and library collections. 

Ages 6 – 10

Millbrook Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761380924

Find out more about David A. Kelly, his ballpark mysteries, and his other books on his website!

View a gallery of artwork and videos by Oliver Dominguez on his website!

International Mud Day Activity

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Make Your Own Sensory Sand

 

While this sensory sand may not be exactly mud, it’s sure as much fun to play with!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miracle-mud-cover

You can find Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

March 28 – Baseball Opening Day

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About the Holiday

Today is what baseball fans wait for all fall and winter—Opening Day! This year is particularly exciting as it marks the 150th anniversary of America’s Pastime, commemorating the foundation of the Cincinnati Reds in 1869. So, get ready to cheer on your favorite team—and don’t forget the peanuts and cracker jacks, as the old song says!

Calkins Creek sent me a copy of Yogi for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Calkins Creek in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra

Written by Bard Rosenstock | Illustrated by Terry Widener

 

Even as a kid, Lawdie Berra had a way with words…and sports. While he loved his family, his Italian neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, and his friends, he was not fond of school. “When neighbors asked, ‘How do you like school?’ Lawdie answered, ‘Closed.’” Like other boys in “The Hill,” Lawdie had baseball fever. Using borrowed equipment, makeshift bats, and shin guards made from magazines, they played in “an abandoned clay-mine dump.” Their team name was the Stags, and they were one of the best teams in the local leagues.

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Image copyright Terry Widener, 2019, text copyright Barb Rosenstock, 2019. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

When the Stags went asking for sponsorship for uniforms, storeowners told them “baseball was a ‘bum’s game’” and sent them on their way. Lawdie’s brothers were even asked to try out by major league teams, but their father insisted they get real jobs. When it was Lawdie’s turn to ask, they helped convince their father to let him have a chance. He finally said yes.

Lawdie joined an American Legion travel team with his friend Joey Garagiola. He had a lot to learn, and when he wasn’t playing he sat on the sidelines with his arms and legs crossed. A snake-charming yogi in a movie inspired his teammates to nickname Lawdie “Yogi,” and the name stuck. Even though his form was awkward, he was fast and helped his American Legion team to the national playoffs two years in a row. Then the St. Louis Cardinals came calling. They signed Joey, but not Yogi.

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Image copyright Terry Widener, 2019, text copyright Barb Rosenstock, 2019. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

In 1942, Yogi was given a shot on a New York Yankees’ minor league team. He played for one year before enlisting in the Navy to fight in World War II. When the war ended, Yogi went back to the minor leagues. His play captured attention, and on September 22, 1946, he joined the lineup in his first major league game. He hit two homers and continued hitting. But the newspapers and his New York Yankees teammates blasted him for his looks.

When the pitchers complained about his catching and signaling, he practiced until “home plate became like Yogi’s living room—he talked to everyone there and no one came in unless he let them.” At the plate, he psyched batters out with his chatter and disarmed players and fans with his baseball smarts and goofy grin. He went on to play for nineteen seasons and helped the Yankees win ten world series. When he retired from playing, he continued with baseball for twenty-nine more years as a coach and then a manager. “Yogi knew how to help young players. Believe in yourself. Ignore the chatter. Work hard. And never forget, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’” People loved Yogi and his unique way with words—a love that continues today.

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Image copyright Terry Widener, 2019, text copyright Barb Rosenstock, 2019. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Back matter includes an Author’s Note about Yogi Berra’s life on and off the diamond, photographs, statistics of Yogi’s career, a note about Yogi-isms, quotes about Yogi Berra, an extensive bibliography and other resources, and a bit about the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.

Barb Rosenstock’s thorough biography of Yogi Berra is a soaring tribute to this icon of baseball. His dedication and perseverance in the face of setbacks and derision is inspirational, and his good-natured, generous character makes him a role model for all. Rosenstock’s detailed storytelling is fast-paced and suspenseful and punctuated with repeated phrasing that will rivet readers to what comes next. Sprinkled throughout the pages are some of Yogi’s famous quotes that endeared him to the world.

Terry Widener knows how to take readers out to the ballgame. His bold, realistic paintings of Yogi scrapping together baseball equipment as a child, working up through the minor league ranks, and finding his groove as a hitter and catcher are loaded with action and up-close perspectives. You can almost hear the characters speak, smell the leather of the catcher’s mitt, and feel the camaraderie of the crowd. And if you instinctively reach for that baseball coming your way, no one can blame you. Throughout the pages, Yogi is outlined in white, emphasizing his standout qualities on the field and off. So, get ready to settle in for the game and one of its most beloved players—no tickets required.

Sure to encourage young readers to reach their full potential no matter their talent, Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra is a must for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2019 | ISBN 978-1629798240

Discover more about Barb Rosenstock and her books on her website.

To learn more about Terry Widener, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Enjoy this Yogi book trailer—it’s a home run!

Yogi Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Calkins Creek in a Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra written by Barb Rosenstock | illustrated by Terry Widener

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from March 28 through April 3 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on April 4.

Prizing provided by Calkins Creek

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Baseball Opening Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baseball-word-search-puzzle

Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Word Search

 

Step up to the plate and find the 23 baseball-related words in this printable puzzle.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Puzzle | Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Solution

Check out these other amazing blogs along the tour!

YOGI blog tour graphic

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You can find Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

May 24 – National Brother’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we take time to celebrate brothers! Whether you grew up with a brother (or a few) or have a friend you love like a brother, today’s holiday gives you a terrific reason to get in touch, relive some old memories, and make new ones! 

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team

Written by Audrey Vernick | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

 

When the weather warms and kids’ thoughts turn to sports, the afternoon air rings with the sounds of slamming doors as players race from home to the baseball diamond. Back in the 1920s and ‘30s, the same door slammed not once or twice, not three or four times, not even eight or nine! The door shut behind 12 brothers! Anthony, Joe, Paul, Alfred, Charlie, Jimmy, Bobby, Billy, Freddie, Eddie, Bubbie, and Louie Acerra. These 12 boys also had 4 sisters—but this is a story about baseball, and back then girls didn’t play ball.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

It could be said that “baseball set the rhythm of their lives.” Neighbors couldn’t remember a time when Acerra boys weren’t throwing or hitting a ball or running the bases at the local park. And there was an Acerra on the high school baseball team for 22 years in a row!

In 1938 the nine oldest brothers formed a semi-pro team and competed against other New Jersey teams and teams from New York and Connecticut. Their dad was their coach. The brothers all had different skills—Anthony could hit homeruns, and even hit a couple into the Atlantic Ocean from a seaside park; Charlie was a slow runner; and Jimmy had a knuckleball that was unhittable and uncatchable.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

But playing had its dangers too. In one game Alfred was going to bunt, but the ball bounced badly off the bat and hit him in the face. He was rushed to the hospital, but the accident caused him to lose an eye. Everyone thought he would never play again. But after he healed, his brothers helped him recover his skills and his courage.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

During World War II six of the brothers joined the war effort and spent years apart. Far from home they dreamed of the days when they played together on warm afternoons. When the war ended all the Acerra boys came home to their very happy mother. The brothers got back to what they loved doing best. Now Anthony was their coach, and from 1946 to 1952 they won the Long Branch City Twilight Baseball League championship four times—much to the pleasure of the crowds that came out to watch the Acerras play.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

As time went on the Acerras got jobs, married, and had families of their own. In 1952 the brothers played their last game as a team, having made history as the longest-playing, all-brother baseball team ever. Even though the Acerras played many, years ago, people have not forgotten them. In 1997 they were honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. The surviving seven brothers made the trip along with one sister and more than a hundred relatives. Now Jimmy Acerra’s uniform and glove are on display alongside exhibits about Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Willie Mays. If you visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, you can see them too!

Interesting and personal author’s and artist’s notes follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-brothers

Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

Baseball fans will love Audrey Vernick’s exciting, true story of this most unusual team. Her focus on the close relationship of the Acerra brothers elevates the tale from merely a sports story to one that reveals deep affection and support during difficult times. The different personalities of the brothers shine through in Vernick’s easy, conversational tone, and the inclusion of the Acerra brothers’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame shows that this story lives on for all generations.

Steven Salerno’s evocative illustrations will transport readers into a past where neighborhood leagues enjoyed the same level of loyalty as the majors. Capturing the brushed style, colors, and portraiture of pictures of the period, Salerno shows kids not only what it meant to be a baseball player in the 1930s and 40s, but what it meant to be a family.

Ages 4 – 9

Clarion Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0547385570

Discover more about Audrey Vernick and her book on her website.

To learn more about Steven Salerno, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Brother’s Day Activity

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Best Brother Award Certificate

 

Today is all about your brother and how great you think he is! Print and fill out this Best Brother Award Certificate and give it to your brother—or brothers!