I adored Brian Lies' Bats at the Library (reviewed here). And I adore baseball. So when I learned that Bats at the Ballgame was coming out, I naturally had to have it. And when I discovered that Lies (who lives in New England) had planted a couple of nods for Red Sox fans in the book, well, you may believe that I was in love.
Bats at the Ballgame begins with a group of bats (in red caps and white shirts) eagerly awaiting sunset so that they can play a baseball game against a longtime (blue-clad) rival. The book is filled with references that indicate a genuine appreciation for the game. Like this, on the second page:
"Restless wings begin to itch—
excitement's at a fever pitch.
At last it's time, and with a sigh,
we hustle out to diamond sky.
Hurry up! Come one—come all!
We're off to watch the bats play ball!
"We wing from dark to dazzling bright,
startled by the stunning sight
of colors like we've never seen:
the brown so brown, the green so green."
Of course there are also plenty of bat-specific details to go with the baseball details. A vendors offers "Mothdogs" and "Cricket Jack." The grounds crew uses a fork to rake the mound. Sugar packets are used for bases. And so on.
Lies writes in bouncy, rhyming couplets that positively cry out to be read aloud. Like this:
"At first, we're full of reckless joy—
their batters strike out fast.
But when our batters strike out too,
our laughter doesn't last.
The illustrations are fabulous, too. I especially enjoyed one of a grandbat and child in the stands, awaiting a pivotal call, hearts in their eyes. Lies' bats are all lovingly detailed, with textured fur that makes you practically want to stroke the page, and bright, intelligent eyes.
Lies' tones tend to be dark (as befitting books that take place at nighttime), making the Bats series perhaps better for slightly older kids than for preschoolers. Older kids will also be more appreciative of the details in the pictures, like the bats rolling the foul lines using a cannister of powdered sugar, and the audience hanging from the ceiling.
Bats at the Ballgame features an exciting game, true to how bats probably would play ball (if, you know, bats played ball). It's a lovely combination of whimsey and reverence for baseball. And yes, Red Sox fans, there is a "PESKY POLE." Bats at the Ballgame is a must-read for fans of the series, fans of baseball, and anyone who appreciates a lavishly illustrated, energetic read-aloud. Bats at the Ballgame is going to stand as one of my all-time favorite picture books. Highly recommended!
Publisher: Houghton MIfflin Books for Children (@HMHBooks)
Publication Date: September 6, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher. The publisher sent me an ARC, but I later purchased the finished book. Quotes are from the finished book.
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).