Tuesday, April 07, 2009

More baseball: Change-up

The Texas Rangers were supposed to lose their first game yesterday—but surprise—they WON! Two home runs and a great game all around! Time to celebrate ANOTHER collection of baseball poetry: Gene Fehler’s new book, Change-up; Baseball Poems (Clarion, 2009). I reviewed his novel-in-verse, Beanball, last year, and loved it! It was baseball for teens, with a gripping injury-recovery story in a baseball setting.

This year’s collection is for a younger audience, perhaps 2nd grade and up, a fun story-threaded collection of 38 poems in a combination of free verse and rhyming forms. It begins and ends in winter with poignant poems looking forward and back, and then builds in first person poems that reference recurring characters (friend Sammy, girlplayer Gabby, Mom, Dad, Gramps, Coach) poem by poem. One of my favorite elements of the poetry is the balancing of baseball references and emotional connections—linking the sport with memories that build a childhood and fill a lifetime. Yet, none of this is heavy-handed or syrupy sappy, thank goodness. Here’s one lovely example.

When Dad Is Away
by Gene Fehler

Dad taught me how
to hold my bat
away from my body
when I swing
and how to let the ball
spin off my fingertips
when I throw
and how to oil my glove
and wrap string around it
with a ball inside
so when I sleep
the pocket will remember
the ball just as clearly
as I remember
my dad’s face

Fehler, Gene. 2009. Change-up; Baseball Poems. Ill. by Donald Wu. New York: Clarion, p. 41

First-time illustrator Donald Wu creates characters and scenes in acrylic and colored pencil that accompany every poem, adding to the feeling of “story” that builds through the collection. His characters have personality, yet never overwhelm the words and the poetry. One note: the illustrations and look of the book skew young, so children will find it inviting and engaging. The poems also lend themselves to being read aloud and performed chorally. But those who work with tweens and teens should not overlook this collection. The poetry still holds up for older readers, too—you just may have to cover the book in a brown paper wrapper! ☺

Go, team!

FYI: The publisher offers a wonderful Poetry Month kit with several downloadable activity pages for their new spring poetry titles, including Change-up. The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Poetry Kit includes:
* A letter from award-winning poet Joyce Sidman
* Great activities for the classroom
* Downloadable stickers
* Poem-A-Day calendar
Check it out!

Image credit: www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com


Marinela said...

Nice poem!

Thanks for sharing!

joyce said...

Love this baseball theme, Sylvia. Our Minnesota Twins had their first home game yesterday, and the city was swarming with Twins fans!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks, folks!

I remember Twins games when I lived there in the 70's. Good times! :-)

laurasalas said...

Wow--love that poem.

I'm not a baseball fan (shhh!), but I'll be reading to some kids before a St. Paul Saints minor league game in August. In addition to my own poems, I'm definitely going to bringing today's and yesterday's baseball poetry books to share. Thanks!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Glad to help. The great thing about both these collections (and others) is that there are poems about all kinds of things-- not just "sports" per se. This one is as much about dads and relationships as it is about the glove and the game, of course!