Batter Up! Books About Baseball (a Librarian’s List)

(Originally published at Redeemed Reader on May 27, 2013; updated July, 2023)

Aside from the beach, nothing says “summertime” and “American” more than a game of baseball, complete with hot dog, iced beverage, bleachers, and the elusive foul ball dropping into the stands. Our local Minor League team has great promotions all summer that include regular fireworks, $1 hot dog night, bring-your-dog night, and many more. AND, they sponsor their own summer reading challenge which results in … you guessed it… free tickets to the games! Let’s play ball!

Books About Baseball

Next best thing to a great game of baseball are great baseball books. Here’s a Librarian’s List to get you started (listed in order of age range):

Skead_Something to Prove

Something to Prove: the Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead and illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Carolrhoda Books, 2013). Hot off the press, this beautifully illustrated picture book describes the meet-up between legendary pitching great, Satchel Paige, and the hottest rookie of the year, Joe DiMaggio. Remember: at the time, baseball leagues were segregated. A white team was looking at DiMaggio, but they wanted to be sure he was good, really good, before shaking things up. Satchel Paige was the perfect test. (Recommended for ages 4 and up)

Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon (Atheneum, 2013). From my review: Take Me Out to the Yakyu is a colorful, joyous celebration of two cultures, two grandparents, and baseball. Using symmetrical text and images, Meshon compares and contrasts an outing to a baseball game with a boy’s two different grandfathers: one outing is in America with the American grandfather, and the other is in Japan with the Japanese grandfather. (Recommended for ages 4 and up).

Satchel Paige Don’t Look Back by David A. Adler and illustrated by Terry Widener (Harcourt, 2007). A Satchel Paige biography (as opposed to the one-time event book just listed) by prolific picture book biographer David Adler, this is perfect for young baseball fans who want to know more (Recommended for kindergarten and up).

she loved baseball

Brothers at Bat: the True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno (Clarion, 2012). Janie’s reviewed this gem before, but I wanted to remind you—it’s a GREAT book. (Recommended for ages 4 and up)

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Don Tate (Collins, 2010). A woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame!? That’s Effa Manley, a devotee of baseball if there ever was one. (Recommended for ages 4 and up)

Queen of the Diamond by Emily Arnold McCully (FSG, 2015). From my review: A few pioneering women loved [baseball], too, and played their hearts out. Lizzie Murphy helped her brother practice throwing and catching until she was as good as he was. Cleverly, she managed to get a spot on his team and proved her mettle. Eventually, she became the first player—man OR woman—to play for both the American and National League All-Star teams. Watercolor illustrations capture Lizzie’s spunk and talent as her pigtails fly with her skirts. (Recommended for ages 4 and up)

nelson_we are the ship

There Goes Ted Williams: the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived by Matt Tavares (Candlewick, 2012).  Sometimes, an athlete has a signature gift, a real talent. That’s Ted Williams. Consistently, he hit that ball–and hit it well. Perfect inspiration for those young baseball players working on perfecting their batting skills. For more information on Tavares, check out this video about his art. (Recommended for ages 4 and up)

We Are the Ship: the Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson (Jump at the Sun, 2008). Nelson’s artwork coupled with the size and length of this book make it a perfect coffee table book for the baseball lovin’ family. Lush paintings of famous players (all from the perspective of a child, so we look up at the man) and Nelson’s use of “we” throughout the book make for an engaging read of the history of the Negro Leagues. Told with honesty and without rancor, this book tells a much needed story of baseball’s early years in this country. (Recommended for ages 7 and up)

Stem in the World Series by Marne Ventura (SportsZone, 2020). STEM in the World Series looks at the four STEM categories (science, technology, engineering, and math) in turn, examining how each has contributed to the grand game of baseball. Physics (science) has helped players know whether to slide headfirst or feet first into home plate. Technology has helped us watch the game in our own homes. Engineering informs those who build stadiums and even contributed to the invention of artificial turf. And math… well, any baseball fan knows that numbers are involved. Reviewed here. (Ages 7 and up)

Stealing Home: Jackie Robinson Against the Odds by Robert Burleigh (Simon & Schuster, 2007). From Janie’s review: The illustrations give you a feeling of an old-time baseball game. This gripping picture book is written in a poetic style paced to make you turn just one more page. Great for all baseball fans from seven to seventy. (Recommended for ages 8-10).

Silent Star by Bill Wise (Lee and Low, 2014). From my review: Baseball games are full of distinctive sounds: the crack as the ball and bat make contact, the roar of the crowd, the umpire’s “Strike!” Imagine if a professional baseball player was deaf, couldn’t hear these sounds at all? William Hoy was such a player—one of the first professional deaf baseball players ever. (Recommended for ages 8-10).

Christopher_dog

The Dog That Pitched a No-Hitter by Matt Christopher and illustrated by Daniel Vasconcellos (Little, Brown, 1988). Have a young boy who’s just started reading independently and loves sports? This is a great little series about a boy who can communicate with his dog telepathically, and his dog just so happens to be great at sports. A couple of volumes are about baseball. You’ll find it in the juvenile shelves, not the easy reader section. (Recommended for ages 4 and up; target age is probably 6-9).

Baseball Is… by Louise Borden (Simon and Schuster, 2014). From Janie’s review: This lavish picture book is best described as an ode to a game that’s still justly called our national pastime. The passion for baseball has a small-town, homegrown feel about it, even for big-city fans who grew up with the Yankees or White Sox. The author’s love of baseball (which the illustrator seems to share) isn’t just personal; it’s almost mythic as she weaves memory with historical fact and legend. (Recommended for ages 4 and up).

The Only Game by Mike Lupica (Simon and Schuster, 2015). From Janie’s review: Most of the drama comes from baseball itself—the plays, the tactics, the last-minute saves and misses. If you love the game, you’ll love this novel. For non-baseball fans the attraction won’t be as strong, as there’s little in the way of sustained tension. Misunderstandings get resolved fairly easily and the deepest emotions remain unplumbed—but that’s fine for the kind of book it is. Sports novels for kids tend to showcase clean living, healthy competition, striving for and reaching goals, and facing down fears. Friends are true-blue, enemies can be won over, and parents usually know best. (Recommended for ages 8 and up).

Feinstein_Change Up

Plunked by Michael Northrop (Scholastic, 2012). Sometimes, you just want to quit, to not persevere through something hard, to not face your fears. This is just what 12-year-old Jack faces in Plunked after he gets hit with a baseball. And yet, he’s grown up playing baseball, and he’s a starter this year. A solid story of a boy who learns to hang in there and get back in the game. (Recommended for ages 9 and up, although it is accessible for strong, younger readers).

Soar by Joan Bauer (Viking, 2015). From Janie’s review: It’s a middle-school version of Field of Dreams, with the same mystical aura surrounding the game.  But Jeremiah has a unique, enjoyable voice, and from the beginning we know he’s a kid with heart (get it?) who seems wise beyond his years.  Soar offers no profound insights, but it’s a pleasant way to take us out to the ball game. (Recommended for ages 10 and up)

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion, 2004). From my review: When Turner Ernest Buckminster, III, moves to Phippsburg, Maine, from Boston, Maryland, he fervently hopes the town knows how to play baseball. But Phippsburg, Maine, is not at all what [Turner expects]. For starters, they play baseball like no baseball Turner’s ever seen. And everyone seems to be vigilantly watchful, particularly over Turner’s ability to be a proper “minister’s son.” Turner finally meets a friend, Lizzie Bright, only to find out that he’s disgracing his ministerial father (again). The (white) town doesn’t approve of (black) Lizzie nor her poverty-stricken community on Malaga Island. Events spiral out of Turner’s control even as he struggles to do the right thing, to love his neighbors (all of them), and to be a true friend. (Recommended for ages 12 and up).

Change-Up: Mystery at the World Series by John Feinstein (Knopf, 2009). I really enjoyed Feinstein’s Rush for the Gold last year and was glad he had a baseball book for me to recommend! Feinstein can create a great mystery, but he also shows some interesting behind-the-scenes action for major sporting events in his Final Four Mysteries. The two main characters are high school reporters (Stevie and Susan Carol). They tackle some interesting ethical questions in Change-Up, such as when to report an interesting story, and when to simply sit on it for the good of the man in question. (Recommended for ages 14 and up).

What are YOUR favorite baseball-themed books? Does your family enjoy heading to the ballpark?

For more books on baseball, check out the 736.3 section of your library’s Dewey shelves (other sports are also in the 790s). For other sports books reviewed here on Redeemed Reader, check out Emily’s round-up of hopeful sports books, Janie’s recent Final Four (plus one) lineup, gymnast Gabby Douglas’s autobiography, Janie’s review of Unstoppable, and Janie’s round-up of some football books. Book cover images thanks to goodreads; ARC of Something to Prove thanks to publisher via netgalley; other books from my local library.

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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3 Comments

  1. Amy @ Hope Is the Word on May 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I recently reviewed a new book by Matt Tavares:
    Becoming Babe Ruth–

    https://www.hopeisthewordblog.com/2013/05/09/read-aloud-thursday-becoming-babe-ruth-by-matt-tavares/

  2. Cathy on May 28, 2013 at 7:37 am

    One of our favorites is Bats at the Ball Game by Brian Lies.

    We currently have Casey at the Bat, illustrated by Christopher Bing (a Caldecott honor book) our from the library and our almost 6 yo son is enjoying it. We found a You Tube video of James Earl Jones reciting the poem that was a fun bonus!

  3. Betsy Farquhar on June 1, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Thanks for the Matt Tavares title, Amy–I’ll have to check that one out!

    And, Cathy, I can’t believe I left out Bats at the Ballgame!! I love that book. I guess I was in the zone of “real” baseball. Bats at the Ballgame is a perfect summer book.

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