Phil Bildner“Reading is NOT optional.” Anyone ever lucky enough to encounter the dynamic Phil Bildner will realize very quickly that: “Reading is Not optional” is his motto and his mantra. Bildner truly believes that reading is the key to life. It is the very source of freedom and liberation for everyone. He leads by example, taking every opportunity to be observed reading a book-a real book. His effervescent personality has fueled his efforts to give the gift of literacy to all who come into his sphere and has served to make the experience a wonderfully enjoyable one. His creative approach to writing and reading engages students and teachers, alike. Phil Bildner grew up in a Long Island suburb, Jericho, NY. He attended Johns Hopkins University (undergraduate degree in political science) and then went on to New York University School of Law for his J. D. (’90). After successfully passing both the NY and NJ bar exams, he went to work in a large Manhattan law firm; but after less than a year he realized that he was “just not an adversarial person.” What he really loved was working with and teaching “kids.” After communicating with the Chancellor of New York City Schools, he proceeded to garner the credentials necessary to become a teacher by earning his master’s degree in elementary education from Long Island University. His informative and helpful website contains the following quote from Bildner. While pursuing my master’s, I began teaching in the New York City Public Schools. For the first five years, I taught fifth and sixth grade in the Tremont section of the South Bronx. A lot of the time, we lacked the basics–paper, pencils, chalk for the blackboard. So I got creative in the classroom. I built my language arts curriculum around music and song lyrics. Dave Matthews, Barenaked Ladies, Blues Traveler, and Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean of The Fugees all came to my class. My class was featured on the CBS television program, Coast to Coast.I transferred schools in 1998 and went to teach at P.S. 333, The Manhattan School for Children located in Upper Manhattan. For the next six years, I taught English and American History to the sixth, seventh and eighth graders, and once again, I got to use my classroom as a playground for creativity. The school integrated music and the arts into the curriculum. We worked with Lincoln Center, theatre companies, Off-Broadway shows, and many museums and cultural institutions.While I was working at MSC, my first picture book came out. I incorporated my writing experiences into my teachings. As a year-end project, the kids chose a topic in history or an historical figure, researched the subject area, and shaped it into their own pictures books to be shared with the kids in the younger grades.I left the classroom in 2006 in order to write full time. I now have a whole bunch of picture books (Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy, The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, Twenty One Elephants, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Turkey Bowl, The Hallelujah Flight, and The Unforgettable Season), a couple teen novels (Playing the Field and Busted), and along with Loren Long, a New York Times bestselling middle grade chapter books, Sluggers!But I wasn’t entirely finished with teaching. In July 2007, I began chaperoning student-volunteer trips to Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. I founded The NOLA Tree, a non-profit service organization and served as the Executive Director as we worked with other non-profit and service organizations on community building and development projects. Participants at The Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference (June 2012), had the pleasure of learning this information first hand as Bildner spoke about his work with children of a variety of ages and the evolution of his efforts to lead them to literature–from the classroom to his nationwide presentations and workshops. Though a full-time writer, he still devotes time to workshops and presentations around the nation. “Word Matters, Words Matter” was the title of his presentation and he spoke about the importance of exposing and helping students to use words/story/language to the fullest advantage in every setting. An avid advocate of reading aloud, he encouraged the audience to read aloud at every opportunity and to encourage their students to do so as well. The presentation was peppered with recommendations of books that he has found “useful and exciting” for working with students. (Wonder by R.J. Palacio, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Kissing Tennessee and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance by Kathi Appelt, to name just a few) and lots of concrete “tips” for classroom teachers and librarians. Series books (he loves the Captain Underpants series by Pilkey) and those with “high humor” quotients were highly recommended by this obviously masterful teacher. Among his many suggestions, were ideas such as encouraging students to observe the world around them for their own writings as the best ideas “come from everyday life.” He explained how attention to details makes a huge difference for students as they try to capture their ideas on paper. In his own writings, he is extremely aware of the physical design for a picture book: “the negative space, short chapters, lots of illustrations,” all of which make it easier for students to engage with the story itself. Citing Sluggers, he spoke of how the physical aspects of a “real” book work to enhance the experience for the reader, especially a struggling reader. His own “writer’s notebook” is a treasury of ideas and observances of how people interact or how the light shines at particular times of the year. Sprinkling his talk with vignettes from his own life, he gave teachers a sense of the power their interactions with students encompass: his fifth grade teacher (Mr. Crammer) gave him “permission” to write a report about baseball (a subject he loved and was willing to research). “Respect children and their interests. Listen to them and give respect to their creativity and ideas. If kids read, let them!” he said, as he practically bounced around on the stage, pouring his energy into the subject. The presentation continued with examples of his work with students in the classroom, in music groups, making videos, volunteering, and especially in “parent-teacher conferences” that included the students. The story of Marina was especially touching as he described how the young girl and her mother finally grasped his message: “Marina, you can be smart and cool AND creative.” He gave Marina the courage to pursue her creativity as well as giving her mother “permission” to acknowledge her daughter’s talents, even when they were different from those of her peers. Stressing that writers make mistakes, he also stressed that it takes courage to make any mistakes-if “you do not try, you won’t ever make a mistake BUT you won’t have had the chance to know you can do.” He wants “kids to know that they can be serious and silly” and that their ideas can be used in traditional methods of crafting plots, developing characters, and perfecting writing skills; but that they also can use their humor to enrich and expand those skills. While lots of laughter was issuing from the audience, there was also note-taking and nods of agreement or appreciation as he spoke about the process of writing for and with children. The writing process itself requires planning, preparation, research, and attention to all of the details, including the art for the book. “Fact checking” can be made to sound more glamorous than “research.” As he described his own process, he gave the teachers ideas for making student writing projects more authentic for them and a better all-round learning experience. “Use nonfiction picture books as a first source of information for a “research” project,” he suggested as he discussed the importance of research. Wikipedia is not one of his recommendations for research. He also described his RII approach. “Reading Interest Inventory” lets teachers make writing suggestions based on students’ actual interests. “Dump the backpack on the desk-take an inventory and discover that particular student’s interest. Observe the decorations on the notebook of a reluctant writer and have an immediate place to start. Have a student clean out her desk and glean her interests from the things that she treasures or that have simply collected there.” Of course, he did not overlook the fact that “The real writing takes place during the re-writing.” He had slides of examples of how the re-writing (editing) process is so very important in every part of daily writing: one showed the word “author” misspelled on the school’s marquee and another was of a wonderful “author visit cake” that had his name misspelled. Needless to say, students love it that their teachers make mistakes, too. Keeping in mind that he was addressing teachers and librarians, he also discussed the nuts and bolts of engaging students as writers. His suggestions were straightforward and included: Read aloud daily, promote Read-A-Longs, read what they read and discuss “popular” books, never push, accept their tastes, accept all forms of reading as valid, ask questions about their interests, encourage active sharing of all kinds of interests (music, video games, sports, movies, celebrities, etc.), encourage art as well as words, use drama as a hook (“teachers are actors everyday”), develop Reader’s Theatre as a part of classroom activities, suggest notebooks to record “daily life” as a reference/resource for true-to-life scenes, recognize reluctance but be persistent in “finding the writer in that eighth-grade boy.” Throughout both parts of his presentation his dedication to working with students was inspirational. It was obvious that he shares his ideas and ideals in order to afford more students the opportunity to have writing experiences that can, and often do, change their attitude toward reading, learning, and “education” as a whole. Phil Blinder’s exuberance and high energy was contagious and the audience was lifted to the belief that they, too, could “light a fire” with words.Browse though these titles by Phil Bildner and keep in mind that more detailed information (Awards, State Reading Lists, Reading measurements, etc.) about Blinder’s books is available at www.clcd.com.Contributor: Sheilah Egan ReviewsBlastin’ the BluesLoren Long and Phil Bildner When readers last met the Travelin’ Nine, they were on a train to St. Louis. The Chancellor’s men tried to get the baseball and kidnap Graham. His older brother jumped off the train. Now he, Dog, Woody, and the baseball must get back on a train to meet up with the team at their next location. A visit with an old man and Woody’s stories on the train enlightens Griffith about the Rough Riders and the magical baseball, who the Chancellor is, and why he wants Graham and the ball. Readers are introduced to Cy Young when Graham has an opportunity to take batting practice against him. A baseball game against the New Orleans Pelicans is arranged with hopes that the Travelin’ Nine will win and add much needed money to their coffers. They did not anticipate that the Chancellor would bring in an ace pitcher–none other than Cy Young himself! In this fifth book in the “Sluggers” series, the melodrama continues, as does the old-time baseball lingo in this baseball fantasy. Long’s charcoal illustrations add a further dimension to the book and are helpful to younger readers. The illustration of Theodore Roosevelt shooting at the magical baseball in the saloon will surely catch readers’ eyes. Interesting little tidbits are peppered throughout the book, such as how Cy Young received his nickname and the line spoken by a newspaper reporter about the new red uniforms the St. Louis team is wearing: “[T]hey look like a bunch of cardinals that flew.” Those who have been reading the series will look forward to the next and final book. 2010, Simon & Schuster, $10.99. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781416918677BustedPhil Bildner Mr. Danzig, the principal at Coldwater Creek High, addresses the seniors regarding behavioral expectations for their upcoming school-sponsored ski trip. He warns them of his zero tolerance policy for using drugs, drinking alcohol, or sexual behavior of any sort and spells out the consequences, including: suspension, immediate parental notification, no prom, and not walking across the stage at graduation. Even as he speaks, the best and brightest students are making and eventually follow through on their plans, certain the rules do not apply to them. Later, when they are caught drunk, high, and involved in sexual behavior, they are shocked the teachers will not cut a deal for honor students or athletic stars. Meanwhile, bored students in Ms. Nixon’s math class decide to enliven things with a gambling operation. A jealous student eventually roughs up the ringleader, leading to multiple injuries that keep him from playing spring soccer, a different sort of consequence. The problems at Coldwater come to a head when Andre, a bright but troubled student, taunts, threatens, and physically abuses vulnerable members of the student body and staff. Jordan and Liz report his behavior to the principal, but he is unable to act without proof. Andre becomes more and more blatantly abusive to his many victims. Principal Danzig must walk a fine line between helping this troubled teen and providing a safe environment for his students and staff. From the unspeakable acts of Columbine, to the continuing issues of teen drug use, not just the problems but the contributing dynamics are detailed. This vivid portrayal of the multiple issues facing students and staff in today’s high schools makes this a valuable catalyst for dialogue among students, parent groups, future teachers, and administrators. 2007, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, $15.99. Ages 14 up. Reviewer: Carol Kirkham Martin (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781416924241Game 1Loren Long and Phil Bildner Three siblings follow their mother, disguised as their father, across the country as barnstormers (a group who put on baseball exhibitions for pay). Guy Payne, their father, died in the Spanish-American war as he carried his youngest son’s baseball with him. He was the catcher for the team, and now his wife takes his place. At Guy Payne’s funeral, his brother, Uncle Owen, returns the baseball, now tattered and torn, to Graham, the youngest son. He shares a cryptic secret with Griffith, the oldest son, and charges him with keeping his family safe, and warns that an unknown danger is coming. The children make a pact to stay together during each of the Travelin’ Nine’s games, but during game one of the schedule, in Cincinnati, strange images appear on the field that only the children and their team can see. They end up losing the game, but both Ruby and Griffith study the phenomenon and try to piece the mystery together. In book two of the series, the mystery continues to unravel. Sidebars help the young reader to understand the rules and terms of baseball from the turn of the century. The illustrations, drawn in black charcoal, compliment the old-fashioned feel of the text. A unique and clever beginning of each chapter is exemplified by the first letter of the first sentence in each chapter being illustrated with baseball figures to form that letter. 2007, Simon & Schuster, $9.99. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Gail C. Krause (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781416918639Game 2Loren Long and Phil Bildner This story takes place in 1899 when three young children–Griffith, Ruby, and Graham Payne–start their new life after leaving their father’s funeral. Owen, their father’s brother and their uncle, gives them an old battered baseball that holds a wealth of mystery. That summer as the Payne family travels with the Travelin’ Nine, weird things start happening when Griffith, Ruby, and Graham hold the baseball in their hands at the same time together. They begin to see and know things that no one else can see or know–like the late night stroll Griffith takes toward the stern of the steamboat, deep in thought. He looks over and not so far away sits a large bald eagle on the side railing with its snow white neck and hooked orange beak. Griffith gazes closely when without a word from him, the eagle nods toward him flies away. Then there is the time when Graham sees an old, dirty and disheveled man standing near the front of the streetcar. His shirt is ragged and his pants are filled with grime. It seems they stood there forever staring at each other. Then with a nod of his head the old man vanishes like the ghost he appeared to be. During this adventurous journey, the Payne family grows closer to each other and become a better family. They grow up and learn the real meaning of what family is all about. These are adventures no reader would want to miss out on. 2007, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $10.99. Ages 8 to 10. Reviewer: Denise W. McGrain (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781416918646Game 3Loren Long and Phil Bildner As the Travelin’ Nine baseball team continues its cross-country barnstorming to raise money to pay the Payne family debt, the mystery continues as the Payne children try to figure out who the Chancellor is and why he wants the baseball their Uncle Owen gave them. Griffith, Ruby and Graham learn more about its magical properties in the game against the Chicago Nine. They watch for the Chancellor’s men, but they don’t see them at the ballpark. That night, Griffith is confronted by the Chancellor, who tells him that he wants something else besides the baseball. As the team boards the train for the next game, Ruby and the baseball are missing. Baseball lingo abounds throughout the text with terms defined in the margins. The authors use the 1899 setting to introduce readers to Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and some of Chicago’s history such as the Great Fire and the 1893 World’s Fair. For fans of the game, the story is full of baseball history and lore with explanations of how the 19th-century game was played. Readers are introduced to three real players: Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Ed Reulbach, who would go on to play for the Cubs and eventually be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Long’s charcoal drawings are full of marvelous facial expressions and body language, elongated ballplayers in their turn-of-the-century uniforms, close encounters with the bad guys, lots of action and an enormous cow. The first letter of the first word in a chapter is ingeniously created from drawings of ballplayers. This is the third book in the “Barnstormers” series. It can be read independently of the first two, but most readers will probably want to start with the first. The ending for this melodramatic story is a cliff-hanger, for what happened to Ruby is unresolved, and the reader will have to read the next book to find out. Baseball, mystery and fantasy fans will relish the mix. Readers can follow the team from city to city with the map on the end papers. See you in Minneapolis. 2008, Simon & Schuster, $10.99. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781416918653The Greatest Game Ever Played: A Football StoryPhil BildnerIllustrated by Zachary Pullen For years, professional baseball was the prime sport occupying the national interest of devoted fans. The New York Giants ruled the scene; but when the Giants baseball team moved to California, a great opportunity presented itself. Pro football, a less popular sport at the time, squeezed into the vacant spot and eased its way into the hearts of the television-viewing audience. The Greatest Game Ever Played spins a touching story of a father’s unwillingness to accept the sport of football replacing his beloved baseball team, and his son’s desire to continue sharing his time and fascination of this sport with his dad. This touching, heartwarming story marks the first ever NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants football teams played on December 28, 1958, resulting in sudden-death overtime. It is still referred to as the greatest game ever played. But what’s more important is that it also weaves the touching story of a son’s reluctance to give up his time with his father and his father’s rediscovery of the joys of sharing this sport with his son. The marvelous illustrations are a study in expressions and mannerisms right down to the steam coming from breaths in the cold air. A great book for fathers to share with their kids. 2006, G. P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Joan Elste (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780399241710The Hallelujah FlightPhil BildnerIllustrated by John Holyfield As Phil Bildner says in his author’s note “who knew” about James Banning and Thomas Allen and their incredible flight from coast to coast in a dilapidated plane. They did not have much money, but came up with a plan to get people to help them and then allowing them to sign their names on the plane’s wings. In September of 1932, they set out from Los Angeles and what a trip it turned out to be. They braved burning heat, landing in the dark with no lights anywhere, prejudice at places where African Americans could not be served, and terrific storms. In other places they were greeted as heroes, fed and feted and after nineteen days of flying, they flew over New York Harbor and saluted the Statue of Liberty. They called themselves the “Flying Hoboes” and they named their adventure “The Hallelujah Flight.” This is a book that sheds some light on a little known accomplishment in early aviation history. The story is beautifully told and the illustrations are a delight and add to the story through humor and wonderful expressions on the faces of Banning and Allen. The end papers show the route and stops for this amazing adventure. 2010, Putnam/Penguin, $16.99. Ages All. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780399247897Home of the BraveLoren Long and Phil Bildner In this the sixth and final book of the “Sluggers” series (formerly called “Barnstormers”), the Travelin’ Nine barnstormers return home to Baltimore where they discover that Guy Payne is alive. He tells his family how he was captured, then escaped and remained in hiding from the Chancellor. Now there is a game to be played in Baltimore, but the Chancellor has the magical baseball. The family and members of the team are keeping a close eye on Graham, for they fear the Chancellor will try to kidnap him. With Griffith at his side, Guy defeats the Chancellor in an exciting battle in the bay. Magical, mystical events intertwine with the baseball action. Now that the series is at an end, the issue of what happened to that special baseball must be addressed. Bildner and Long must have had a lot of fun as they resolved the issue by getting the ball into the hands of a youngster from the streets of Baltimore named George Ruth. The map in the front of the book is a helpful visual for readers who have been following the Travelin’ Nine as they traversed the United States. Since the “Star-Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key in Baltimore, it was a logical choice for the magical events of the game. However, within the story it was referred to as the national anthem. What’s more, at the game there was a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of the national anthem. While 1899 was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the composition, the anthem was selected by the U.S. Navy for official use in 1899. It did not become the national anthem until 1931. This is unfortunate, for the old-fashioned melodrama series has been fun to follow. Long’s charcoal illustrations interspersed throughout the story are just right for helping the reader picture the time period. 2010, Simon & Schuster, $15.99. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781416918684Playing the FieldPhil Bildner More than anything Darcy wants to play on the boys’ high school baseball team. She gets her chance when Brandon, the principal’s son on whom she has a huge crush, tells his dad that Darcy is a lesbian. The principal tells the baseball coach that he will have a new player. Darcy’s gay friend Josh flips out when he hears that she is willing to let the principal believe this lie. By the way, he also has a crush on Brandon. Telling her this is not a matter to be taken lightly; Josh threatens to expose her if she and Brandon join the Gay-Straight Alliance. Meanwhile Darcy wins a spot as a pitcher and replaces Brandon as the shortstop. To make matters more complicated, Darcy’s mother is dating the principal. Amidst these circuitous and complicated relationships Bildner presents a great deal of information about gays and lesbians. And why is it assumed that a teenage girl who wants to play sports with the guys is a lesbian? Interestingly it is left open-ended as to whether Brandon is gay. Some schools will need to be aware that the “b” word (it rhymes with witch) is used here. References to the sit-com “Friends” may date it. Humor permeates this book: the way the author sets up situations and Darcy’s reactions. This light touch makes the book highly accessible, fun to read, and perfect for discussing how we judge and label people. 2006, Simon & Schuster, $15.95. Ages 14 up. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781416902843Shoeless Joe & Black BetsyPhil BildnerIllustrated by C.F. Payne Many baseball fans claim that Shoeless Joe Jackson was one of the greatest hitters to play the game. He earned his nickname when he participated in a game wearing socks, not shoes, on account of blisters. Why was he such a great hitter? Why, it was because of his bat, Black Betsy. Just before he was to play in the minors, Joe fell into a terrible hitting slump. He paid a visit to his friend, Ol’ Charlie Ferguson who agreed to make Joe a bat. Shoeless Joe named his bat after Betsy Ross so people would honor it just like they honor the flag. Ol’ Charlie needed to make several bats and gave Joe specific instructions on how to rub Betsy with tobacco juice for the dark and scary-looking color. When Shoeless Joe moved up to the majors, he batted .408. No other rookie has managed to beat his record. Incredible multi-media drawings that evoke the spirit of the era accompany a beautiful nostalgic story. An Afterword tells more of Joe’s life, his career, and of the Black Sox scandal of 1919 that banished him from the game he loved. 2002, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, $17.00. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: Laura Hummel (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780689829130The Shot Heard ‘Round the WorldPhil BildnerIllustrated by C.F. Payne Bildner takes us back to Brooklyn in 1951, when “life revolved around the Brooklyn Dodgers.” Baseball fans can probably best understand the excitement of the young fans that summer when the Dodgers seemed headed for the pennant, until their arch rivals–the New York Giants–forced them into a play-off. But all readers can get swept up into the drama of the final game. The winner would go on to the World Series. The tension all over Brooklyn rises until the last half of the ninth inning, when Bobby Thomson’s home run wins the game and the pennant for the Giants, and we are as let down as all of Brooklyn. Payne’s single and double-page mixed media scenes are almost photographic in their effort to accurately recreate that fateful year. He designs each to provide some information about clothing, or street scenes, or even the Coney Island Cyclone ride. But each goes well beyond what a snapshot might offer in its use of color plus the artistry to depict gestures as well as settings. For example, the scene of the end of Thomson’s ultimate swing, repeated on the jacket, is shown from a low angle against black background to emphasize the peak of the drama. Note the cover picture of Ebbets field on the cover, and actual photos from the game on the back of the jacket. 2005, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, $16.95. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780689862731Turkey BowlPhil BildnerIllustrated by C.F. Payne Thanksgiving and football go together like turkey and stuffing. For as long as Ethan can remember his whole family has assembled for the annual Turkey Bowl. The weather has never been too cold, too foggy, or too muddy for the aunts, uncles and cousins to join in the fun. This year, Ethan and his buddies are old enough to play in the game. On Thanksgiving morning, he bounds down the stairs in full football gear ready to move from the sidelines to the field. The kitchen is devoid of the usual Thanksgiving morning hubbub, and his mother explains that an early snowstorm may keep the family from making the game and dinner. A dejected Ethan heads out to gather his friends. While they are sitting dejectedly on the bleachers, he is struck by a brilliant idea. The game will go on–with Ethan and his friends. What a game it is! Ethan enjoys plowing through the snow, getting the first interception, diving for passes, and lunging for tackles. But the best part is scoring the game-winning touchdown, with the family arriving in time to see his stellar performance. Sport aficionado Bildner has created a likeable hero and put him in a story that is full of energy and excitement. The book has been carefully designed, with various colors and designs of the pages chosen to complement the action in the illustrations. Payne’s mixed media paintings have a photographic quality to them, and his faces reflect a wide range of emotions, from concern and resignation to determination and all-out euphoria. There is a nostalgic 1940’s look to the neighborhood and Ethan’s uniform but this in no way detracts from the universality of the story. The cover, with its textured football look, is a nice touch. This is a pleasant diversion from typical Thanksgiving stories. 2008, Simon & Schuster, $15.99. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780689878961Twenty-one ElephantsPhil BildnerIllustrated by LeUyen Pham In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was opened to the public thereby connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan Island. Little Hannah has been mesmerized by its construction as she watched it grow up out of the water from her Brooklyn home. When it is completed, she cannot wait to walk across the magnificent bridge. Her father, like many people at the time, is not convinced that the bridge will not fall down. After all, it was one of the first suspension bridges and appears to defy gravity. Hannah steadfastly defends the bridge and longs to prove to her father and all the other skeptics that the marvelous bridge is sound. Fate takes a hand when P.T. Barnum, always the showman, leads his twenty-one elephants across the bridge. This captivating piece of historical fiction features an assertive young girl whose obsession with the bridge is based completely on the facts she has learned. Her determination is rewarded when she finally walks hand in hand with her father across “her” bridge. Pham’s illustrations evoke the time period beautifully and her renderings of Hannah are animated and full of life. 2004, Simon & Schuster, $16.95. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Joan Kindig, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9780689870118Water, Water EverywhereLoren Long and Phil Bildner The Travelin’ Nine baseball team needs a new pitcher and these former Rough Riders are stymied as to where to find one. Ruby has an idea and runs off to talk with Preacher Wil to see if he will come to Minneapolis, their next barnstorming stop, to be the hurler for the team. When waves of water appear on the base paths, Griffith, Ruby and Graham determine the “ballists” must “ride the waves” and “Go with the flow!” However, a bit of magic from the special baseball and solid teamwork cannot overcome the Chancellor’s umpire bribe. Fans of the previous books will relish the play-by-play action and the baseball lingo. The story moves along with Graham wishing to see his lost father and the announcement that there is a “mole on the team.” Who can it be? Why was the Chancellor so intent on the Travelin’ Nine losing this game? Did Graham really see his father? Readers will be anxious to read the next book in the series to find out what will happen to the Payne children and these 1899 barnstormers. This is Number 4 in the “Sluggers” series, which was previously called “Barnstormers.” The packaging and cover design are also new. The book now comes with a jacket and a new size of 8 inches high by 6 inches wide. I am sorry to report that the map of the United States that shows the route of the barnstormers no longer appears on the inside covers. It was a nice subtle touch to familiarize middle readers with some U.S. geography and hopefully we will see a return in, at least, the hardcover titles. The story, written as a serial, has lost none of its charm, mystery or fun, however. At the beginning of each book is a “Pregame Recap” of the previous title so readers can read each independently. Still, with the open ending of each book readers will want to read the series in order. There will be a total of six books in the series. 2009, Simon & Schuster, $14.99. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
ISBN: 9781416918660Updated 11/1/12To stay up to date on new books by this author, consider subscribing to The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database. For your free trial, click here.If you’re interested in reviewing children’s and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org.Back to Top