Author: Kevin Christofora
Illustrator: Dale Tangeman
Kevin Christofora, author of the series The Hometown All Star Books, which are illustrated by Dale Tangeman, is a passionate baseball fan but moreover he loves teaching baseball to kids. He attributes his inspiration for the writing of the series to his experience as a Little League baseball coach as well as his supportive community in Woodstock New York.
In the debut interactive picture book of the series, Nick's Very First Day of Baseball, Christofora captures that time in childhood when youngsters can hardly wait to begin baseball practice and eventually partake in a game.
Children ages 3 to 7 will immediately engage with the principal character, Nick, who is so excited about learning how to play baseball that he exclaims on his first day: “Everywhere I went, I dreamed of baseball. I had baseball all over my brain.”
As the story unfolds, Nick recounts how every afternoon he practices baseball while his parents are kept busy with various chores. He even uses his dog Yogi to play catch as he throws him crackers.
The all important day finally arrives when Nick meets his teammates on the baseball field where he along with the others go through the preliminaries of receiving their new uniforms, caps, shirts and their own number. The coach even writes everyone's names inside of the team member's caps after which he explains what will be taking place during the practice sessions.
Once the practice begins Nick and his friends take part in warm up exercises such as jumping jacks and toe exercises finishing with a nice, slow jog, after which the team meets to review what they did and discuss their favorite parts.
The concept behind the writing of this picture book is wonderful and what really stands out is the emphasis placed on associating baseball with fun particularly pertaining to the drills and team play. Kids are also informed how baseball practices are conducted as well as other aspects of the learning experience through the cartoon baseball images that appear at the bottom of some of the pages. For example, one such image shows how coaches teach while being on one knee when talking to the players enabling him to be on their level and thus making the teammates feel more comfortable. In another, we read where the coach gathers the team behind the pitcher's mound, so they don't play in the dirt.
The book concludes with a series of questions where the coach encourages the players to shout out the answers and if they are correct, they will receive some baseball cards. Some of the questions include why do we play baseball, what is a glove used for, which base do you touch second, which base's shape looks like a house and if you run around the based, how many do you touch. All of these questions reinforce the learning experience and contribute to the fun in playing baseball.
Tangeman's striking elaborated illustrations are richly expressive and perfectly detailed all of which contributes to the the book's overall visual appeal with their lush colors.
Adults will appreciate this excellent teaching tool as it is not just another picture book but one that functions well as both entertainment and educational concerning learning the fundamentals of baseball. Every page will no doubt assure many rewards through their repeated readings.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.