02 June 2010

Rave Review: Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies

They've been to the beach. They've patronized the library. And now, Brian Lies' adorable bats are going to watch--what else?--a baseball game. The third installment in this highly appealing series is full of charm, visual humor and--if you are a Red Sox fan--a couple of in-jokes for your reading pleasure.
One of the reasons the bat books are so much fun is the opportunity they provide for sight gags. After a couple of double page spreads of bats flying towards the ball park, Lies treats his readers to the sight of bats hanging from the rafters to take in the game, catching mothdogs and Cricket Jack from a flying vendor. Groundsbats prep the mound with a fork. A dismayed fan hides behind his wings. There is so much to see in each illustration--right side up as well as upside down. And in this particular title there is also the scope for word play to add to the humor. Start with the title: Bats at the Ballgame. Everyone knows that you can't play baseball without a bat! It was inevitable that the line "bats at bat" would be used at some time during the story, yet it's still funny when it finally comes round. And the opportunity to accuse the bat ump of being blind.......well, I suppose Lies just couldn't help himself there!

Red Sox fans will notice that the good guys are wearing red caps (and socks!) An old-timer talks reverently of a player, number 24, making an outstanding catch in the field (I wonder if Dwight Evans is a particular hero to Lies.) There is a green, manual--make that, "batual"--scoreboard, not unlike the one on the Green Monster at Fenway. And the mention of a "pesky pole" is just blatant! But even if the reader isn't a member of Red Sox Nation--simply a fan of the game--there is plenty to enjoy in this clever, affectionate, and engaging love letter to baseball and the fans who follow the bats of summer.

Bats at the Ballgame is due for release in September, 2010. Just in time for the postseason.


The Bumbles said...

Aw man! I was hoping this was available now - I've got a slew of nieces and nephews who would really enjoy this book for their birthday - all of which occur this summer :0(

Kara Schaff Dean said...

I agree that a summer release would have been better! But I just as highly recommend the other Bat books for summer birthdays--particularly Bats at the Beach. And if you're looking for a Red Sox picture book, how about the Ted Williams PB bio, "No Easy Way" by Fred Bowen. That was a very good, too.

Thanks for stopping by!

blies said...

Hi- Thanks for blogging BATS AT THE BALLGAME!

There ARE references to the Red Sox in this book, and there are also references to many other teams. For instance, if you look deep into right field, beyond the ivy (Wrigley Field), you'll see a scalloped fence: it's the ornamental frieze at Yankee Stadium, inverted. You'll also find a tiger, a marlin and many other team symbols.

The main reason for the red "home team" uniforms was that they contrast well with the green grass, and grab your eye better than other colors do. There are at least six teams which have red in their uniforms: the Nationals, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Reds and Angels.

Do I protest too much? I hope not. Whatever team they root for, fans are all connected by a love for the game. More than anything, I wanted it to be a Baseball Nation book.

Happy Reading!

Kara Schaff Dean said...

Hee--thanks for stopping by blies!

I guess this just goes to show that a reader brings their own perspective to a book :) While I missed the references to other teams which you mention, did I see a bat making a "luckiest man" speech when the grandfather bat talked about the golden days of the game?

I was thrilled at the opportunity to read the book in advance, and I agree that fans of the game are going to love this book, no matter what team they support!

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