Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Today's read... Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille? by Mark Angelo

Today's read hits a favorite, American sport while incorporating a real life tale. I don't run across many historical picture books and was more than a little curious to see how this one would do.

Ready to see if it's a home run? 

by Mark Angelo
Illustrated by Patricia and Robin DeWitt
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

Set in 1958, a young boy and his friends want to be baseball players just like their Dodger idols. There’s just one problem: they don’t have a field to play in.
Luckily, the kids know a secret. There’s a mansion around the corner with a yard big enough for an entire ball field and the hedge surrounding it has a gap just big enough to crawl through. Apparently, the owner is a big-time Hollywood mogul. He won’t mind a few ball games, right?
This sensational true story of a young boy’s encounter with a Hollywood legend is rich with youthful determination and summer fun, highlighting how every child needs space to play.



Not only baseball fans will find themselves caught up in this story and feel victory at the end.

A boy and his friends love to play baseball, but there isn't an open area large enough for them to truly play a game. Except for the yard of a rich man's house down the street, that is. When they peer through a hole in the bushes and find no one around, they sneak in and cautiously play a game. As time goes on and no one ever notices them, they grow bolder and are soon playing without a second thought...until someone finally catches them and asks them to leave.

I'll admit when I first saw this book, I was a little skeptical on whether or not it would ring true to modern young readers. It's set in the mid-1950's and includes a powerful gentleman in Hollywood, Cecil DeMille, who I was more than sure kids had never heard anything about. But this tale manages to bring history to life in a way, which today's readers will identify with even when not being aware of the identity of the characters involved.

There is more text in this one, making it ideal as a read-aloud or for those readers, who have a better grip on their words. The tale flows smoothly and lures in as the kids chase their desire to simply play ball. The characters come across naturally and the vocabulary fits the age group nicely. Most importantly, it's never boring.

The desire to play is something almost every kid can identify, and it's very easy to feel nervous right along with the boy as he tries to find a way to continue doing what he loves. This may be set in the past, but the situation will ring true and familiar. Baseball fans will recognize a name or two, and those who aren't baseball fans won't have the story daunted with these mentions. As to the Hollywood big-shot, it doesn't matter who he is as far as the story goes. It's the atmosphere surrounding him, which is palpable and creates the tension. This will have listeners wondering if the boy can succeed or not.  

Finally, there are the illustrations. These are well done and bring across the time period nicely, while keeping it familiar. The situations drawn in and allow the emotions to come across clearly. It is fun just to slide through these and see the story, too. 

And here he is...               

MARK ANGELO has been a baseball fan since he was a little boy! He is also a globally renowned river conservationist and the founder of World Rivers Day, now celebrated by millions of people in over one hundred countries. Among his many accolades, Mark is a recipient of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor. His acclaimed debut children’s book, The Little Creek that Could, is the true story of a stream that came back to life. Through his work with groups such as the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, Mark has been a long-time advocate for outdoor spaces for all to enjoy. Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?, about a young boy’s search for a place to play ball, recounts an actual experience from his childhood. Mark lives in Burnaby, British Columbia, with his wife, Kathie.


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