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.

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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

June 20 – International Tennis Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2014 and sponsored by the U.S. Court Tennis Preservation Foundation with support from world-wide national tennis governing bodies and associations, today’s holiday aims at raising interest in the game of tennis. One goal of the day’s celebrations is to have simultaneous matches, tournaments, and exhibitions at tennis clubs, schools, universities around the world. Those who participate are encouraged to upload images to social media with the hashtag #itennisday. Why was June 20 chosen for this holiday? It commemorates the Tennis Court Oath of June 20, 1789, on which date nearly 600 people packed a tennis court near the Palace of Versailles during the French Revolution in a show of hope and solidarity. A painting of the event by Jacques-Louis David honors this pivotal protest. To celebrate, grab a racquet and head to a court near you. You’ll also want to gear up for the summer’s tennis tournament season.

Serena: The Littlest Sister

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu

 

On that day when “Serena stood in Arthur Ashe Stadium and kissed the trophy,” her fans, sisters, and parents cheered. How had that day come about? It started thirteen years earlier when Serena, then four years old, joined her older sisters on the tennis court where their dad coached them. As he showed Serena how to swing, her sisters celebrated when she hit one and ran after the ones she didn’t. Mostly, the equipment they used was old and donated. Sometimes the balls had even lost their bounce, but “their father explained that it was good practice for Wimbledon—a Grand Slam tournament where the balls bounced lower because the tennis court was made of grass.”

When they weren’t on a real tennis court, the girls played a pretend game of tennis on the sidewalk. Serena loved when she won these games “because, well, Serena loved being the star.” As they grew, their father never allowed them “to use the word can’t.” Their mom told them, “‘Whatever you become, you become in your head first.’ So the girls dreamed of what they could become.” While the other sisters became a nurse, a lawyer, and a singer, Venus and Serena became top tennis players.

Venus was taking the tennis world by storm with her hard hitting, speed, and 100-miles-per-hour serve. Serena wanted to play in tournaments too, but her father said she wasn’t ready. But one day, Serena noticed an application for a tournament Venus was playing in. Serena filled it out and sent it in. At the tournament, Serena snuck off to play on one court while her parents watched Venus on another. Serena ran her opponent ragged and won the match.

Serena thought her father might be angry, but instead he was proud and began teaching her how to play against her next opponent. “Serena won all her matches, moving up and up until…she faced her big sister in the final match.” During the match, Serena asked Venus to let her win one game, but Venus ignored her plea. Later at home, though, Venus traded her gold trophy for Serena’s silver one. “Serena cherished that trophy.” Serena idolized Venus and did everything she did until her father reminded her that she was her own person. Some people didn’t think Serena would have the success Venus did, but her oldest sister told her, “‘You’ll have your day. And it’s gonna be even bigger.’”

After several years of winning, Serena, Venus, and her family moved to Florida for training. On those courts the girls stood out for their skin color, their beaded braids—and “their powerful strokes.” When Venus was fourteen, she was allowed to enter professional tournaments. She won her first match. When Serena turned pro, she didn’t win. The two teamed up as doubles partners, and by the time she was sixteen, Serena had grown in both height and confidence. She had her own style of play too.

The sisters continued to play as a doubles team, and in 1999 they won the French Open Doubles competition. Venus was eighteen and Serena was seventeen. That same year, the sisters entered the US Open, the tournament Serena had long dreamed of winning. Surprisingly, Venus was knocked out early, but Serena kept winning her matches. In the finals she met the player who had beaten Venus. Serena served eight aces and “her fierce forehand earned her point after point.” Serena won the match and became “the first black woman to win a Grand Slam singles tournament in more than forty years.” At the awards ceremony, Serena thanked her dad, her mom, and her sisters for all of their support. The crowd cheered as cameras flashed. “And one of the many headlines of the day read, Little Sister, BIG HIT!”

An Afterword highlights other victories Serena and Venus have enjoyed during their careers, follow-ups on their sisters, and quotations from each of the five sisters.

Karlin Gray’s masterful biography of Serena Williams shows young readers the determination, confidence, and strong familial bond that followed Serena through her life and made her one of tennis’s most influential women players. The family’s remarkable life and focus on what one can achieve will inspire all kids, no matter what their dream is. Choosing seminal events in Serena’s and Venus’s life, Gray follows Serena’s reputation on the court as she loses and wins matches, building suspense until that day when she accomplishes her goal and wins the US Open. Her inclusion of articles and comments that cast doubt on Serena’s future success, demonstrates that even the greats face opposition and naysaying, and Serena’s sister’s advice to ignore it is sound.

Monica Ahanonu’s textured, collage-style illustrations leap off the page with vibrant images full of action and the girls’ personalities. As the girls race onto a court for practice, their eager expressions show their love of the game and being together. Even as a four-year-old Serena has the steely eyed gaze of a champion as she watches the bouncing ball and lines up for her swing. Ahanonu’s use of various perspectives and shadowing create dynamic scenes on the court, and tennis lovers will be thrilled at the many illustrations of Venus and Serena playing their sport. The bond between the sisters is evident in images of Serena interacting with one or more of her sisters. Those who remember Serena’s win at the 1999 US Open will recognize her joyous win.

Perfectly aimed at young readers who are the same age as Serena and Venus when they began developing their skills and sport, Serena: The Littlest Sister is an inspirational biography of a present-day role model that is sure to spark an “I can” attitude. Adults who have followed the Williams sisters’ rise to tennis stardom will be equally enthralled with this beautiful biography. The book would make a stirring addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 8 – 11

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146947

Discover more about Karlin Gray and her books on her website.

To learn more about Monica Ahanonu and her work, visit her website.

International Tennis Day Activity

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

Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle

 

If you’re a tennis ace, you’ll enjoy finding the tennis-related words in this printable word search puzzle.

Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle | Tennis Love Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-serena-the-littlest-sister-cover

You can find Serena: The Littlest Sister at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

June 5 – Global Running Day

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About the Holiday

Global Running Day is all about living a healthy lifestyle! There are so many reasons to take up running, from keeping in shape to clearing one’s mind to competing against other runners. The evolution of National Running Day, which was established in 2009, Global Running Day allows serious runners to recommit to their sport and encourages those on the fence to jump down and join in. This year people from 156 countries have pledged to run short distances and longer routes in their quest for personal health. An accompanying Million Kid Run gets young people thinking about their own health while having fun. Participating is as easy as running in your neighborhood, gathering with friends to run, or even playing tag with your kids. To learn more about the day visit the Global Running Day website!  

The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon

Written by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee | Illustrated by Susanna Chapman

 

“Bobbi loved to run. Into the woods, over the hills, through fields and by streams, Bobbi’s feet flew across the earth.” When Bobbi was little, she and her friends ran and played together. But as they grew older, her friends found other pursuits while Bobbi still loved to run. She took to the fields with her dogs, “going higher and higher, / just her and the sound of the wind in the fire.”

When Bobbi was grown, her father took her to watch the Boston Marathon. She loved the camaraderie of “hundreds of people moving as one. Kindred spirits, all running miles together.” Immediately, she wanted to participate too. When Bobbi told her parents that she wanted to run in the marathon, however, they thought her idea was strange. They told her she would hurt herself and that it was unladylike.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-girl-who-ran-young-bobbi

Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

But Bobbie wanted to run. She didn’t know if she could run that far but was determined to try. She trained in the woods, running “further and further, and she ached and perspired, / and the world whooshed on by, like the wind in the fire.” Because she knew her parents disapproved, Bobbi set out on her own across country to train. Every day she ran in a new place—“lush forests in Ohio and Indiana, vast plains in Nebraska and Kansas, majestic mountains in Wyoming and Montana.” She even ran with wild horses out west and up steep Rocky Mountain trails. At night she camped, “tired and happy.”

All of her training seemed for nothing, however, when Bobbi received a letter rejecting her application for the Boston Marathon. The letter said that women were incapable of running marathons, that it was against the rules for a woman to run, and that the rules had been written to protect women from injury. Bobbi was not deterred, however. She went back home and told her parents what she wanted to do. Her father thought she was crazy to attempt it.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

Bobbi knew that the only way she could run would be “to blend in with the men.” Dressed in men’s shorts and a baggy hooded sweatshirt to hide her hair and wearing men’s running shoes (running shoes were not made for women), Bobbi was ready to go. Her father refused to drive her to the race, though. He stormed out of the house, and drove away. Bobbi thought her dream was dashed until her mom came to her room, car keys in hand, and said, “‘Let’s go.”

Hiding in the bushes at the starting line, she sprang out and joined the pack of runners with the bang of the starting pistol. “So she ran with the pack, going higher and higher, / the world whooshing by, like the wind in the fire.” As she ran, she realized that the men around her had seen through her disguise. Bobbi was worried, but the men were supportive. “‘Hey! Are you running the whole way?’ one asked.” She told him she hoped to, but in that sweatshirt, she was getting hotter and hotter. She was afraid that if she took it off, she’d be thrown out of the race.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

The men around her said they wouldn’t let that happen, so Bobbi took off the sweatshirt. “Word spread quickly throughout the course. A girl was running! They couldn’t believe it!” All along the route, the crowd cheered and encouraged her. Hearing the roar motivated Bobbi to ignore the hard ground and her stiff shoes and face the last steep hill. “Closing her eyes, she imagined she was back in Montana running up the mountains, the soft earth under her feet.”

Her feet were blistered and she was parched with thirst, but she crossed the finish line—ahead of nearly half of the men. Photographers, reporters, and radio presenters swarmed around her to hear her history-making story. From that day on “hearts and minds were forever changed.”

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

The story of Bobbi Gibb is one that every girl and boy should know, and Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee’s excellent biography will have readers awe-struck by how she changed the way the world viewed women and their capabilities. A pioneer for women’s rights in every way—from her traveling the country alone to rejecting the prevailing ideas to competing on her own terms—Bobbi Gibb is an inspiration for achievers everywhere. Poletti and Yee’s conversational storytelling is both lyrical and honest, not stinting on the obstacles Bobbi had to overcome, including race officials, her own parents, and even the fact that running shoes weren’t made for women.

As the marathon approaches, readers will be enthralled by the building suspense. They’ll feel Bobbi’s determination, her disappointment, and her fear that she will be discovered and thrown out of the race, and will cheer along with the crowd at her victory.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-girl-who-ran-crowds

Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

Susanna Chapman’s gorgeous illustrations are infused with Bobbi’s boundless energy and spirit as she soars over grassy dunes with her dogs at her heels, zips through shady woods, and runs alongside wild horses in the shadow of the Rockies all the while trailing a red swish, representative of the fire within her. The turmoil surrounding Bobbi’s desire to run the Boston Marathon is depicted in words of rebuke, recrimination, and rejection printed in large, emphatic typefaces that swirl around her like a tornado.

The inclusion of the image of Bobbi’s mother with the car keys in hand on the morning of the race is a welcome reminder of the many unknown women of earlier generations who  contributed to the fight for women’s equality. A beautiful double gate-fold illustration of Bobbi crossing the finish line to cheering crowds and the waiting media puts the focus fully on Bobbi and the fire that spurred her on.

An Afterword tells more about Bobbi Gibb, and a timeline of seminal events in the Boston Marathon from 1896 to today, is a fascinating must-read.

The Girl Who Ran is an inspirational biography and revealing history from the not-so-distant past that offers encouragement and triumph. It would be a wonderful addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 8 – 12

Compendium, 2017 | ISBN 978-1943200474

Discover more about Kristina Yee, her books, and her films on her website

Learn more about Susanna Chapman, her books, and her art on her website

Global Running Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pioneering-women-in-sports-puzzle

Pioneering Women in Sports Word Scramble Puzzle

 

In every sport there have been women who have overcome barriers, incredible odds, set records, and inspired others. Using the clues and a little research, can you unscramble the names of these twelve awesome athletes?

Pioneering Women in Sports Word ScramblePioneering Women in Sports Word Scramble Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-girl-who-ran-cover

You can find The Girl Who Ran at these booksellers

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

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yogi-stags

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-yogi-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-sliding-into-neighborhood

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.

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

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-sliding-into-home

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!