Hey Batta Batta Swing!: The Wild Old Days of Baseball
by Sally Cook & James Charlton and illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Margaret K. McElderry Books

With baseball books, it’s easy to take the subject too seriously: It’s a metaphor for life! For America! For innocence (or the loss thereof)! Ancient stats and facts get a lot of play because they all mean something.

There’s a lot of history and a lot of lore in this new collaboration by Cook, Charlton and MacDonald, but most importantly there’s a lot of fun. Packed with old-time lingo and comically over-the-top art, Hey Batta Batta Swing! makes for a great leadoff book in this month’s U.S. history reading for 8-year-old S and 3-year-old F.

The other titles in this month’s lineup (which overlaps a little with the list offered recently by The Miss Rumphius Effect) include:

  • Ballpark: The Story of America’s Baseball Fields by Lynn Curlee
  • Take Me Out to the Ball Game by Jim Burke, with lyrics by Jack Norworth
  • Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth by Robert Burleigh and Mike Wimmer
  • Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
  • Teammates by Peter Golenbock and illustrated by Paul Bacon
  • Say Hey!: A Song of Willie Mays by Peter Mandel and illustrated by Don Tate
  • Free Baseball by Sue Corbett (Yes, it’s contemporary rather than history. Yes, it’s fiction rather than nonfiction. Still, the ump says it’s safe.)

There are lots of recurring themes among these titles — two have a character named “Katie Casey,” there are multiple (and conflicting) explanations of how Ruth came to be known as “Babe,” we get recurring descriptions of the long-gone practice of “soaking” (getting a runner out by hitting him with the ball), and so on. It’s discovering these sorts of connections that make reading history with my sons such a pleasure.

Say, maybe these connections all mean something. Maybe baseball is really a metaphor for children’s literature