Baseball Is...

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Baseball Is... Book Poster Image
Ode to America's pastime hits it out of the park.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Just about everything you need to know about the basics of baseball is here, including types of balls thrown (fastball, curve ball, slider), types of plays (walk, steal, double play, RBI), number of men in the lineup, and much, much more. These are listed as elements, and the book is not intended as a how-to manual, but the book-length list is impressive and comprehensive. Kids learn a bit about a few historically significant players (Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Babe Ruth) and discover some fun historical facts, including that President William Howard Taft was the first to throw an opening pitch and that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt lit the first night game by sending a signal to the field in Cincinnati through a telegraph wire. 

Positive messages

Baseball is a wonderful, multifaceted game with a venerable history that has served to unite a diverse fandom, even and especially in times of war. It's also a game wherein you fail more than you succeed. As Borden writes, "It's hustle / and failure / and trying again."

Positive role models & representations

Baseball players are cast in a noble light for trying so hard to succeed. Individual baseball greats are spotlighted not only for breaking records but for breaking barriers and being great humanitarians. Borden points out that Babe Ruth was born poor and was sent to a school for orphans but "grew up to show the world how to hit home runs." He always signed autographs for thousands of young fans "because for the Babe...it was the kids who mattered the most." She calls Jackie Robinson "a great man, / a fine man, / whose courage in baseball / brought equal rights / for those of color." She notes that Roberto Clemente was known for his "dedication to those in need." 

Violence & scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Baseball Is... by Louise Borden (America Is...) is a loving look at the sport that covers all the bases -- literally! Her encyclopedic list of all the elements involved in the game and in being a spectator is evocative and poetic, sometimes offering striking contrasts that characterize the sport: "Baseball is a crescendo of joy that fills the stands. And baseball is sudden silence. The hush of error. Then groans or boos."

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What's the story?

BASEBALL IS... offers an affectionate, comprehensive look at all the elements of the sport from the big leagues to Little League to backyard pickup games, from the point of view of both the players and the fans. And there's plenty on the field as Babe Ruth watches a homer soar, Jackie Robinson slides into home, and Roberto Clemente grabs a fly ball in the outfield. Ballpark builders get their due, as do the announcers, the bat boy, the scoreboard, umpires, the Negro League, and the women's leagues. A few fun historical facts are dotted throughout, as well.

Is it any good?

This is a wonderful ode to America's pastime told in spare, poetic text and textured colored pencil and watercolor illustrations. There's action in the stands, as vendors hawk their snacks and souvenirs, fans cheer and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and a kid catches a ball in his gloved hand. The spare, poetic text turns lists of elements such as the lineup, innings, plays (the bunt, steal, walk, RBI, error, pop fly, grand slam), and balls (fastball, curve ball, knuckle ball, slider) into evocative collective memory.

Raúl Colón's warm illustrations capture the love of the game, the emotion of the shared experience, and the joy of watching a game where anything can happen at any given moment. Author Louise Borden notes, "It's a game of seconds, / and minutes / and hours... / and it's a game never stopped by a clock."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about baseball. What's fun about playing or watching it? 

  • Do you think the author and illustrator capture the feel of baseball? What's your favorite image in the book? 

  • What does baseball mean to you? Make your own list of "Baseball is...." 

Book details

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