Author: Kevin Christofora
Illustrator: Dale Tangeman
Once again the team of author Kevin Christofora and illustrator Dale Tangeman have combined their wonderful talents crafting their second book in the Hometown All Stars series, Magic Bat Day which concentrates on learning the fundamentals of baseball batting.
The picture book kicks off with lively carton photos of the principal characters including the principal one, Nick.
Nick is all keyed up in taking part in his second day of baseball practice as he rises early and dresses himself. He can hardly wait to show off his new uniform to his classmates.
His mother can't believe the change that has transpired with Nick and tells him he is acting like a big boy! A cartoon baseball image appears on the top left hand corner of page 3 where we read that Nick's coach has informed him and his teammates that they will all wear their uniforms to school to promote team spirit.
At school Nick dreams about playing baseball and when he lunches on hots dogs and apple pie, he is reminded at being at the baseball park.
Once school is out Nick races to the magical baseball field with its perfectly mowed lawn and white lines, similar to what he had seen on television when watching the pros play ball.
While the team is assembling on the field, the coach blows his whistle and informs them that the order of the day will be learning the correct way to hit the ball. He also holds up a baseball card of one of the greatest hitters of all time, Babe Ruth, after which he tells the players that they will find their own magic bat, learn how to hit the ball, and perhaps one day will be just like the Babe.
At the conclusion of the warm ups, the team is split into two groups and Nick goes to the dugout to pick up a bat that feels good. The players follow the coach to the practice area and while walking with him, they are told that hitting and batting are similar words and everyone can be a hitter and batter.
Circles are created with spray paint, where Nick's teammates are told to place their feet as it keeps their bodies facing the correct direction. Every player is assigned their own hitting station and each receives a helmet, batting tee, and a bucket of balls.
After putting his helmet on, Nick grabs his bat, places his feet in the circle and is now ready to receive his first batting lesson. He is told to make two fists with his hands and line is knuckles in a straight row, after which the coach pulls out a black marker and draws a black line on his hands, so he won't forget. The fundamentals of batting are clearly explained in a few steps including putting the bat on your shoulder, relaxing, raising the bat up to get ready to hit, and finally taking a swing.
Disappointingly, Nick misses his first attempt. A different ball is then placed on the batting tee with a black dot. The coach also adjusts Nick's elbow telling him that when he swings, he is to stare at the black dot, and then slam it. Lo and behold to his amazement, Nick's bat connects with the ball making the coolest sound.
Praising Nick, the coach asks him to do it again. This is followed by the entire team hitting dozens of balls. After blowing his whistle to end the practice, the coach asks if everyone had fun, did they find their magic bats, did anyone hit the ball really far and what was their favorite part of the day. Everyone's parents help out by picking up the equipment and returning it to the shed so that the coach can devote his full attention the the kids.
What stands out in this picture book is the realization by Christofora that kids are easily bored when confronted by jargon and technicalities. Consequently, he stays away from confusing explanations and complexities while presenting in bit-sized chunks a simple step-by-step process in teaching batting and hitting to kids. The book also serves as an excellent compliment and reinforcement of the skills kids would receive when actually taking part in live baseball practices.
Christofora is well matched with Tangeman whose illustrations effectively reflect the tone of the story and the lessons taught.
This instructive book has the added benefit of inviting us to join in the practices and remember when we too were small learning how to hit a ball.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.