Guide to Juvenile Baseball Books: Dan Gutman

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Dan Gutman, prolific juvenile writer, is the author of the most durable baseball series of the early 21st century: the Baseball Card Adventures.

Criticism: Anderson

"Casey at the Bat" has been adapted innumerable times, but this one is a nicely-paced, cleverly-executed twist and re-twist of the old idea, and works well as a picture book for young kids.

Pilot for a short-lived series.

Charming use of the time travel device that has been seen in other baseball fiction (e.g. Darryl Brock's If I Never Get Back), but is put to good use here in a children's story.

So he can learn about prejudice first-hand (an experience unavailable in 1999?), the white hero becomes a black kid. This sequel to Honus and Me is a solid presentation of the standard lore about Jackie Robinson.

This series is growing thin, but that's never stopped a series before. I predict a long run ahead: Rajah & Me, Yogi & Me, Buckner & Me . . .

Interesting for its hagiographic treatment of Joe Jackson, who comes across like a mix of Little Lord Fauntleroy and Jean Valjean.

Fresh material here, but it's mostly expository; the book has no plot, no dramatic tension.

Weird mix of genre formulas, as baseball meshes with the Civil War.

And of all baseball greats, you would imagine that Satchel Paige would be the least nonplussed by a pair of white time-traveling hitchhikers.

Light-hearted enough till it takes an odd turn into temperance-novel territory. Read about Jim & Me at lection.

Unable to stop the fatal pitch, Joe gets sidetracked onto a parallel plot that teaches about race prejudice in the 1920s.

This installment leaps around in history a bit more than the others, and offers mixed messages on whether you can change its course. A new wrinkle is that while Joe keeps weaving around the past trying to change things, he realizes that what we really have power to change is the future.

Good fun, with more expository information and less plot than the usual Baseball Card Adventure. Includes a dollop of NSA-era paranoia: in this one the Government enlists Joe in a top-secret time-travel project (and then, true to form, can't even give him the right baseball card to get him where he's going).

Seems to be the final Baseball Card Adventure, with an extended valedictory sequence at the end. "Willie" of the title and cover illustration is of course Mays, making this the first in the series where Joe goes back in time to visit players still alive in his present (Branca and Mays). The time-line gets somewhat knotted, but Gutman plays it out in best SF fashion.