________________ CM . . . . Volume I Number VIII . . . . August 4, 1995

Bats about Baseball

Jean Little and Claire Mackay
New York: Viking Penguin, 1995
32pp, cloth, $17.99
ISBN 6-670-85270-8

Subject Headings:

Grades 2 - 4 / Ages 7 - 9.
Review by A. Edwardsson.


Ryder's grandmother was bats about baseball. On his first birthday, she gave him baseball pajamas. When he turned two, she got a Blue Jays pennant for his room. When he turned three, she gave him a baseball cap and 9 baseball cards from her own collection. When he turned four, she gave him a bat and a ball. When he turned five, she gave him a catcher's mitt. And as soon as he learned to read, she bought him a baseball dictionary. She was crazy. Even when she was babysitting him, Ryder's Nana went right on being bats about baseball. Once the baseball season started, it wasn't easy to talk with her about anything else. But Ryder kept trying.

Poor Ryder -- he doesn't meet with much success. While his Nana is fixated on the T.V., he tries to engage her in a discussion of possible careers. In response to each of his questions, Ryder's grandmother makes seemingly unrelated comments about the game she's watching. For example:

"Nana," he said, "do you think I should be an ornithologist when I grow up?"
"The Jays play the Orioles today," she said. She nestled down in the big chair. Ryder perched beside her.

So the premise of this pun-filled story is that, although she appears to be oblivious to Ryder, his playful Nana is actually listening and reacting to what he says. The authors are two notable Canadian writers, and each has a number of successful children's books to their credit. This collaboration, however, is a disappointment. It might be a hit with mid-elementary baseball fans, but even they may not have the vocabulary or verbal sophistication to get the all jokes:
"I could be a chiropractor like Uncle Bonaparte," Ryder said.
Nana stretched. "We need some back to back hits to break out of our slump."

The word-play between the two seems forced as it stretches for a laugh. Ryder never does get his grandmother's undivided attention, and he obviously doesn't share her love of the game.

Fortunately, most of the occupations Ryder dreams up are accompanied by pictures that can enlighten the reader. Kim LaFave (of Amos's Sweater fame) has provided vibrant illustrations that spread across both pages with lots of humourous detail. The text is clear and contained on the lower half of pages on a white background. All in all, the zany pictures that portray a grandmother who doesn't fit the usual stereotype, and the punch-line ending, make this an acceptable, perhaps optional purchase.

A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree and a Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba Branch of the Canadian Author's Association.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364