Monday, April 06, 2009

Opening Day for Baseball: Rules of the Game

Last year, Marjorie Maddox gave us A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (Boyds Mills/Wordsong, 2008), a fun collection of poems about collective nouns (like “pride of lions”) that I blogged about last April. This year, her attention turns to baseball, with the picture book anthology, Rules of the Game; Baseball Poems. Here you’ll find 42 poems on many, varied aspects of the sport including “The Batting Order,” “The Sweet Spot,” “In the Bullpen,” “Grounder,” “The Pop-up,” “Pinch Hitter,” and my favorite, the concluding poem, “Grand Slam.”

Grand Slam
by Marjorie Maddox

Dreams brimming over,

childhood stretched out in legs,

this is the moment replayed on winter days

when frost covers the field,

when age steals away wishes.

Glorious sleep that seeps back there
to the glory of our baseball days.

Maddox, Marjorie. 2009. Rules of the Game. Ill. by John Sandford. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, p.32.

She fills the poems with baseball jargon (which I enjoy, but don’t always understand), but her loyalty to the game doesn’t keep her from communicating the ins and outs of the game—literally. These are some of the smartest sports poems I’ve encountered and I love her careful and vivid word choices.

Both she and the illustrator also manage to infuse a variety of ballplayers into the poems and images, so we see girls and boys playing the game, as well as grown ups and kids moving vigorously across the pages in expressive pencil drawings. The collection has a very kid-friendly look and the poetry can work on multiple levels for readers (and listeners) in the middle grades and up.

It’s Opening Day here in Texas and the Rangers are kicking off the season. I’m in the mood for peanuts and hot dogs, fireworks and fastballs!

For more poetry books about baseball, look for:
Adoff, Arnold. 1986. Sports Pages. New York: HarperCollins.
Burleigh, Robert. 2003. Home Run. New York: Voyager.
Fehler, Gene. 2009. Change-up: Baseball Poems. New York: Clarion Books.
Graves, Donald. 1996. Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash. Honesdale, Pa. : Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press; [New York] Distributed by St. Martin’s Press.
Gutman, Dan. 2007. Casey Back at Bat. New York: HarperCollins.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1996. Opening Days: Sports Poems. San Diego: Harcourt.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1999. Sports! Sports! Sports! New York: HarperCollins.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1993. Extra Innings: Baseball Poems. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Janeczko, Paul B. 1998. That Sweet Diamond: Baseball Poems. New York: Atheneum Books.
Johnson, Don. 1991. Hummers, Knucklers, and Slow Curves: Contemporary Baseball Poems. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Knudson, R. Roxanne, and May Swensen, comp. 1988. American Sports Poems. New York: Orchard.
Koertge, Ron. 2006. Shakespeare Bats Cleanup. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.
Morrison, Lillian. 1992. At the Crack of the Bat: Baseball Poems. New York: Hyperion.
Prelutsky, Jack. 2007. Good Sports; Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing, and More. New York: Knopf.
Smith, Charles R. Jr. 2004. Diamond Life: Baseball Sights, Sounds, and Swings. New York: Orchard Books.
Testa, Maria. 2002. Becoming Joe DiMaggio. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Thayer, Ernest L. 2006. Casey at the Bat. Toronto: Kids Can Press. (and many other versions)

Play ball!

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