Homonym pairs describe the action as an array of unlikely animals play sports with varying degrees of success and hilarity.
The titular BAT wields his BAT for a home run, causing the president to announce a new law declaring that all animals have the RIGHT to play sports. “That’s RIGHT!” he says. Double-page spreads depict a variety of animals taking part in all kinds of sporting events, employing one or more sets of true homonyms, which stand out in bold uppercase letters. (A note to readers orients them on the nuanced differences among homonyms, homophones, and homographs.) Some examples involve pairings with straightforward meanings that are easily understood by young readers. Rabbits TRAIN for races by racing a TRAIN. In other examples, details in the illustrations highlight possibly unfamiliar meanings. The dolphin can STAND on a wave as it faces the judges’ STAND, where there is a sign over a diverse group of people in a structure helpfully labeled “Judges.” Barretta is a master of wordplay (Dear Deer, 2007; Zoola Palooza, 2011), and his hugely expressive, brightly hued watercolor cartoons certainly depict both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, all with endless humor and charm. That poor water buffalo is totally embarrassed when his horn is caught in the basketball net, and the monkey looks absolutely gleeful when he deliberately throws the football in the wrong direction.
Youngsters will laugh out loud while they are unconsciously, painlessly learning. (Picture book. 6-9)