Readers of the print editions of Kirkus have become accustomed to seeing thematic picture-book roundups at the ends of the children’s and teen section in the first issue of most months. These roundups gather together the predictable clusters of books published each year to recognize holidays and observances: Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Passover, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, etc. This year, for the first year since we started publishing these roundups, we will not be rounding up baseball books.
Baseball books have never made for particularly gigantic roundups—they are dwarfed by the Halloween and Christmas juggernauts, of course—but there has always been a sizable enough cluster that rounding them up in time for Opening Day has made sense. Until this year. Back in late October or early November, I unpacked Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet, by Jonah Winter and illustrated by C.F. Payne, and Waiting for Pumpsie, by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by London Ladd. And then I waited for the rest.
But the rest never came. I recall that in at least one year I had to scramble hard in order to review all the baseball books, as they kept coming until the last possible minute,so it didn’t occur to me that this year’s crop would begin and end with two. And you can’t really have a credible roundup of just two books.
Mind you, they are two good books. Winter, who has something of a subspecialty of baseball picture books, makes a solid hit with his picture-book biography of the Yankee great. And Wittenstein hits it out of the park with Waiting for Pumpsie, recounting how the Boston Red Sox finally integrated—the last team in the majors to do so, a shameful statistic—through the eyes of one young African-American fan. They aren’t rounded up, but their reviews are online; check them out.
As for the future of the baseball roundup? Wait’ll next year. I hope.
Vicky Smith is children’s & teen editor.