After the Series: Character-Driven Baseball Books for Youth

Here in Chicago, students and teachers are still recovering from the World Series—among other things. Although I loved watching the playoffs this year, historically, I’ve preferred to experience baseball in book form.

Growing up, baseball was the family sport. Hence, I’ve read my way through literally hundreds of baseball games, from t-ball to coach pitch to high school away games. I was allowed to read at all my brother’s games, except when he was at bat or pitching. At least I’m in good company—Stephen King has been known to bring a book  or two to Fenway Park. I read many books about baseball, although I gravitated towards books that focused on the changes a character was experiencing, changes complemented by the role of baseball in his life.

This genre is heavy on the Brooklyn Dodgers, my absolute favorite team as a child. I was ten when I found out that the Dodgers weren’t in Brooklyn anymore. I cried. I asked my parents why they hadn’t had told me. “We thought you knew,” they said.

baseballdisplayBaseball season may be over, but enthusiasm in Chicago remains high. At our neighborhood school, almost every kid visiting the playground on the weekend has a ball or bat. And it’s true at the school I work for, where I continue to overhear conversations like the one between two fifth grade girls—one a Cubs fan, the other a White Sox fan who rooted for Cleveland—sharing one of our baseball
books and re-constructing those crazy final few innings of Game 7 of the World Series.  

To fill the gap of baseball-related entertainment, I’ve constructed a display of favorite baseball titles. No waiting till next year! Here are some of our favorites to read now:

A Diamond in the Desert, by Kathryn Fitzmaurice  

This novel is based on the true story of a baseball diamond constructed in a Japanese internment camp during World War II and the boys who played there. (For students who may be looking for something shorter, the picture book Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki also tells the story of a boy playing baseball in an internment camp.)

Dad, Jackie, and Me, by Myron Uhlberg

This picture book ties the love of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson with the relationship between a boy and his deaf father.

Game Seven, by Paul Volponi

A 16-year-old baseball player dreams of being a great player just like his famous father, who defected from Cuba and plays for the Marlins.

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, by Mick Cochrane

Molly tries out for the boys’ baseball team after the death of her father.

Heat, by Mike Lupica

All of Lupica’s novels are popular in our library, but this story of a 12-year-old baseball phenom dealing with difficult family situations tends to be the favorite.

Mighty Jackie the Strikeout Queen, by Marissa Moss

This fun picture book tells the true story of 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell, who struck out Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth during an exhibition game in 1931. monedavis

Mo’Ne Davis: Remember My Name, by Mo’Ne Davis  

Even students with no interest in baseball are routinely fascinated by this memoir from the 13-year-old girl who pitched in the Little League World Series.

One-Handed Catch, by Mary Jane Auch

Based loosely on real events, this is the story of 11-year-old Norm, who tries to begin playing baseball again after losing his hand in an accident.

Take Me Out to the Yakyu, by Aaron Meshon

This lovely picture book compares baseball traditions in the United States and Japan through the eyes of a boy and his grandfathers.

wearetheshipTeammates, by Peter Golenbock

During the early days of Jackie Robinson’s time with the Brooklyn Dodgers, shortstop Pee Wee Reese left his position in the field to put his arm around Robinson and call him his teammate.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, by Kadir Nelson

This is a a stunningly illustrated history of the Negro Leagues from the 1920’s through the 1960’s.

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About the Author:

Gundry Rowe is a K-8 librarian at Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, IL. She is National Board Certified in Library Media and has been working in children’s bookstores and libraries since she was 16. Although she prefers to balance reading kids' chapter books with books for adults, instead she finds herself reading Little Blue Truck for the 57,000th time to her two little boys.

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