Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Baseball Edition

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball by David A. Kelly; Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez (Millbrook Press, April 1, 2013)

Description from GoodReads:
This nonfiction picture book tells the story of Lena Blackburne and his Baseball Rubbing Mud, which major league teams (and many other teams) use to take the shine off brand-new baseballs. This is also a story of how failure in one area led to triumph in another: Lena played in the majors starting in 1910 and hoped to be a great baseball player, but he wasn't. However, thanks to his mud, which he began selling in 1938, he's an enduring part of the game and there's even a tub of the mud in the Hall of Fame.

My thoughts on this book:
For those readers who enjoy reading about the back history of a sport or learning about those little quirks that surround a sport, then Miracle Mud is perfect.  How often do you think about what it would take for a new baseball to be ready for game play?  I had assumed that you open a box of new balls, take a few out, and voilá they were ready.  Yes, I was so wrong.

Blackburne began playing major league baseball in 1910.  Though he may never have been a great ball player, he did discover the solution to getting a new baseball ready for a game that didn't involve water, shoe polish or spit.  Blackburne discovered the miracle solution when he went to visit his old fishing hole and encountered the sticky mud.  Now new balls could be prepped without all of the other issues resulting from water or shoe polish.

Dominguez's illustrations enhance Kelly's text. The author note at the end provides readers with more information about Blackburne and his mud.  My favorite fact was that though Blackburne never made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame, his mud certainly did.  Definitely a fun read, a great gift for your favorite baseball fan, and an excellent addition for a classroom or school library collection. 

Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead; Illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Carolrhoda Books, April 1, 2013)

Description from GoodReads:
In 1936, the New York Yankees wanted to test a hot prospect named Joe DiMaggio to see if he was ready for the big leagues. They knew just the ballplayer to call--Satchel Paige, the best pitcher anywhere, black or white. For the game, Paige joined a group of amateur African-American players, and they faced off against a team of white major leaguers plus young DiMaggio.

My thoughts on this book:
As a teen, I loved reading baseball biographies.  Seriously!  I am not really a huge sports fan but baseball was something different.  So, I have enjoyed the various baseball picture book biographies or books on baseball history that I have discovered.

In Something to Prove, the story focuses on one particular game on February 7, 1936 when Joe DiMaggio faced off against the bigger than life Satchel Paige.  Even though the outcome of that game is already known, Skead managed to make readers feel a part of the excitement and tension of that game.  In addition to the focus on a piece of baseball history, the book also exposes young readers to the reality of racial discrimination and civil rights which was a significant issue in baseball at that time.  The author's note at the end provides some additional information for readers.     

Skead's text pairs well with Cooper's illustrations for a complete book.  This is one book that would make an excellent addition to a school or classroom library.      

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