Monday, May 12, 2014

Brothers At Bat by Audrey Vernick

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brothers Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno

Rating: 5 stars

I love this book.  Love it!

Meet the Acerras: The best way to meet them, methinks, is to go back in time and stand outside their house on a nice Spring day like today (here in Northern Virginia) and count how many boys run out.  Count how many gloves and bats fly out the door with those boys.  Count how many times the back door slaps against the frame as they come out, running, to the ball field.

It'll slap twelve times.  Twelve.  Twelve!  There were twelve baseball-playing brothers.  (And four sisters, too.  They didn't play ball because "back then, most people thought sports were just for boys.")

Their uniforms all said the same thing: Acerras.
Their story is fun and sweet and full of SO many little and big opportunities to compare and contrast today's childhood and yesteryear's childhood. The Acerras' house was crowded, and they entertained themselves, mostly with outdoor sports.  (Those two things are certainly related!)  Smaller house equals more outside play time.  In 1938, the brothers ranged in age from seven to thirty-two.  Their was an Acerra on the high school baseball team for twenty-two years in a row.  The facts are mind-boggling, and smile-inducing.

There were so many brothers that they formed their own semi-pro team and competed against other New Jersey teams.  Their coach?  Dad.  Each brother had their own nickname that matched his own personality. There was no rivalry or fighting--"we stick together," Freddie said.  And when that same guy, Freddie, suffered an accident and lost an eye, his brothers helped him through it and helped him get back on the field.

This is a feel-good book of all feel-good books.  The tight-knit, huge family; the all-American game of baseball; the nostalgic illustrations by Steven Salerno; the gut-wrenching moments when they all went off to war (and came back--each and every one--I have to spill the beans so you don't worry)…  All of this makes for a great read and a huge appreciation for the type of childhood that built characters I know and love.  Characters like my two grandfathers, my dad, my uncles.

The all-brother team always drew big crowds.
I kinda want to buy Brothers At Bat for those characters.  For my Grandpa K, whose excellent playing put him in the Pennsylvania Baseball Hall of Fame (but he went to serve his country rather than join the major leagues).  Or maybe for my other Grandpa, who coached--baseball on the field and life lessons off the field--his three boys and  all the neighborhood boys.  Or maybe for those three boys, who are now my dad and my two uncles.  Or…

Or maybe I'll just read it to Ben, who leapt off the sofa just a dozen minutes ago, where he was comfortably watching an afternoon cartoon, because the neighborhood brothers (all three of them) plus their cousin (all one of him) invited him to play baseball.  And he's out there now on this warm Spring afternoon, throwing and catching and hitting like so many boys before him.

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