Thursday, May 15, 2014
The Lucky Baseball Bat by Matt Christopher
Rating: 5 stars
Written fifty years ago, this book is hardly cutting-edge. But it is sweet and classic and wholesome in a "swell" sort of way. This is the first book by the prolific sports author Matt Christopher--who has a whole shelf of books at our local library.
Marvin is the new kid in town, and he wants to play baseball but doesn't have a glove or bat. And…Marv is the opposite of talented. He seems destined for only strike outs. He misses most balls that come his way. Then, a nice, older kid down the street gives him the bat and glove that he recently outgrew, and Marvin starts to hit. He gets really good. He credits his bat for his good fortune--it's easier to explain good luck than improved skill in Marvin's head.
The inevitable happens (and it's really clear that this is going to happen in this very beginning chapter book): the bat breaks, and Marvin loses his confidence. Despite feeling low, he rescues a toddler from being hit by a car. This might seem like a happening from left field, but it is tied in nicely with the story and is actually pretty realistic. I love how Marvin doesn't just watch an accident happen--he jumps in and tries to help.
While Marvin shrugs off the parents' insistence that they help him in some way, the father of the little boy makes a bat. He says it's Marvin's lucky bat, just put back together again, all Humpty-Dumpty like. Marvin believes him and helps his team win the last game of the season--the game that wins all the boys on his team a trip to one game of the World Series. Only then does the father of the little boy break the news to him: It was a new bat, not his lucky bat.
Marvin realizes that it was his skill and confidence in himself--not luck--that won the game, and he is even more proud of himself.
A simple story, right? Ben was on the edge of his seat. "One more chapter, Mommy!" and "Can we read another?" We finished it yesterday morning after breakfast while his brother was sleeping off a sleepless night (no comment on the sad fact that I did not get to do the same!).
The nostalgic glimpses made me chuckle: When Marvin is at the height of his hitting with doubles and tripes flying off his bat, a local TV reporter invites him to be on the news. Marvin's little sister Jeannie gasps in delight and says, "I'm going to tell my two friends! They even have television sets!" It was a wonderful opportunity to a) shake my head at the changing times and b) explain to Ben that the then and now realities are very, very different. Marvin is a good guy--earnest, honest, and takes the high road every chance he gets. It's great to have a character in a book be this kind and uncomplicated.
This is a great read-aloud book for young kids, especially sports-crazy Ben.