Guide to Juvenile Baseball Books: M

Back to Juvenile Books index page

Every chapter features long-winded passages of baseball lore (e.g. "Famous Boners"), rather to the detriment of any narrative momentum.

A clunky story but an interesting anxiety. The "Millivac" machine is echoed years later in Kevin Baker's Sometimes You See It Coming.

Mid-20th-century series formula, almost indistinguishable from Clair Bee's Chip Hilton series. This one features the jealous teammate, the lowering father, the garrulous, inépuisable old coach, the catcher with a heart of gold. In one curious scene, hero Bronc Burnett barges into an athletic banquet where people are reciting a pastiche of "Casey at the Bat" and shoots up the event with a starter's pistol.

A pleasant book, but I wish they would have succeeded as coaches as well as at cheerleading.

The novel avoids plot formulas, at the same time risking diffusion of its drama (it's hard to have it both ways). In the end, the structure is somewhat contingent, even random, though the moral of the story is familiar: recreation is better than competition.

Agreeable and clearly-written story by an experienced softball coach; a Texas Bluebonnet nominee.

Diary-style chapter book divided into sub-chapters by times of day; more talky than most sport juveniles for younger readers.

One of a series where Jim has trouble playing each sport he takes up.

  • [Maddox, Jake] Batter Up! See Temple; Caught Stealing See Terrell.

  • One of a series by Mammano featuring the pachyderms trying out various sports.

    Twenty-two chapters (ten half-innings plus "warm-up" and "post-game") mirror the tedious pace of some real-life baseball games.

    Mantell's name does not appear on the cover, which is dominated by the name "Matt Christopher" and lists Christopher's other baseball titles. But the title page reads "Text by Paul Mantell." The story reflects Christopher's common themes of tolerance and welcoming of outsiders.

    It helps that her stepfather is a millionaire, of course … Like most series novels, this one is more complex and better-written than one might think. Still, I wonder about its message of accepting one's limitations. One the one hand, that acceptance is mature; on the other, one rarely sees boys' sport novels that emphasize settling for less.

    Ordinary junior reader.

    Part of a three-novel series that traces Rosie's peripatetic family from New York to L.A. via Chicago; only this central novel deals with baseball. It uses a technique wherein the entire plot takes place during a single ballgame, so that all dramatic complications and themes must somehow be worked into nine innings.

    This presumably-ghostwritten novel starts with the Horatio Alger formula: young man does rich older man a good turn, and is well-done by as a result. There is no baseball till about 100 pages in, but plenty of pitching-in-the-pinch advice develops along the way.

    And he does, but with a minimum of sensation. This is a sober thinking-lad's baseball novel, full of tactics and sound advice. It's also interesting for a fully-realized Hispanic character who becomes the Anglo hero's roommate, DP partner, and best friend; Juan Martinez speaks in halting English but is no fool. The characters read baseball literature (Jim Brosnan, Mark Harris), and the supporting cast is a curious mix of real and invented characters (Ralph Houk and Bibb Falk appear as themselves; "Johnny Payne" is a veiled version of Johnny Sain; other characters are entirely imaginary).

    Mostly just a gee-whiz teen mystery, but interesting in showing a multi-cultural team riven by racist jealousy. The book includes "Center Field Tips" from Mays, and a section giving the text of the Hall of Fame plaques of famous outfielders.

    "Red" Lassiter, the showboat with a heart of gold, is a type who would make no sense to a young reader seventy years later. "Grandest backstop prospect I ever coached," says his mentor Coach Ginty, "and because his dad's got so much money, the boy'll never see the inside of a pro uniform."

    Until the pelican coach takes the giraffe aside and lets him know that dissing your teammates is not in God's plan. Don't worry, they regroup to win the Big Game in this picture book, with the armadillo getting his chance to excel.

    Our embryo Jim Palmer recovers from his mortification in time to score the winning run in the big game.

    Interesting here is the theme of a culture under pressure and fraying in the internment camps, till sport forms a way of organizing life and reasserting cultural values. *

    Chapter book with standard child-detective fare, including the device of the unneeded talisman (the pitcher is able to win even without the stolen stinky socks).

    First in a series where the recurring protagonist plays Left Out on different sports teams.

    The conventions of the series, which casts all of its entries as diaries, means that the plot must follow a narrow channel, but Myers takes advantage of the constraints to tell a believable story of one of the latter years of the Negro Leagues. *

    Agreeable, strongly multicultural children's fiction. *