Betsy’s Day at the Game by Greg Bancroft; illustrated by Katherine Blackmore. Scarletta Kids, now Mighty Media Press, 2013; Fiction for ages 6-10 (Baseball, baseball scoring, grandparents, intergenerational)
It’s spring! It’s baseball season! “What do you like the most—smelling the grass, reading the scoreboard, or watching the people?”
In the picture book Betsy’s Day at the Game, Betsy and her grandpa put it all together, and come to the conclusion, “it doesn’t get much better.” Both the joys and intricacies of baseball are celebrated. From my perspective the only thing missing is the peanuts, but it’s surely positive that the focus is not on food.
A grand slam home run may be less rare than a picture book portrayal of a warm intergenerational relationship paired with a dynamic illustration of healthy aging. And the ketchup on the hotdog? A young girl enjoying baseball!
Betsy’s grandpa treats her to a day at the ball park (outdoors of course) where he reinforces his previous lessons as she tracks runs, strikes, foul balls, home runs, and favorite players in her special score book. A child learns new skills from an older adult and verbalizes her appreciation for Grandpa’s “smarts.”
The plot of intergenerational books frequently revolve around a child helping an older adult in some way. I would never advocate that we not teach kids to empathize or help others. But far too often the messages equate growing older with growing dependent, grumpy, or forgetful—which does not do justice to our Third Age!
Grandpa and Betsy’s affection radiates from the pages as they relish their time at the field. Author Greg Bancroft even shows us a soft-hearted grandpa “blinking hard” singing the National Anthem, and after Betsy compliments his knowledge of baseball scoring. We learn that Grandpa has been keeping score since he was Betsy’s age.
This book actually teaches kids the scoring “codes” and use of a score card in step by step fashion. We know children love secret codes—learning baseball’s codes is sure to create a sense of accomplishment.
I was a bit intimidated knowing I was going to finally learn what all the letters and numbers mean (because, confession time—I’m generally people watching and fetching the Frosty Malts). My dad grew up playing cricket and rugby, so sadly baseball was just not a part of my upbringing. But it’s integrated so well into the story and illustrations by Katherine Blackmore are perfect for the job–it was painless!
The story is jazzed up by events like a high pitch hit by The Crusher that heads straight for Betsy! Grabbing her glove she catches it to the cheers of the crowd. I also love the fact that their favorite player, “Happy” Rodriquez, is touted not only for his skill, but for his terrific attitude.
Betsy turns her cap inside out and backward for luck, but their team is losing and it’s the 9th inning with just one more chance to score. “But it’s not over until it’s over,” says Grandpa, and sure enough, before long bases are loaded and Happy Rodriguez hits a grand slam home run to win the game.
Tired but happy they head home to Mom who shows Betsy “a very worn and yellowed score book” given to her by her dad at the same age. Just like Betsy she had kept score, scribbled notes about her week in the margins, AND caught a ball at the game!
Both the author and Mighty Media Press reside in Minneapolis, and the outdoor ball park illustrated reminds me of the Twin Cities’ Target Field.
When our son was young the Twin Cities had controversial indoor baseball at “the Dome”—which would spit you out the door in the whirlwind of pressure required to keep the enormous roof up. Keep in mind this was Minnesota and snow collapsed that dome at least once!
On my husband’s side, baseball is HUGE. His mom Kay rarely missed a Minnesota Twins game—listening to most on the radio like many of her generation. She and her twin sister Marg even played soft ball in an early women’s league—and her twin ended up marrying the coach!
Two of Kay’s grandkids got their gloves at age two and reveled in three generations sharing memories, skills, and their love of baseball. How they would have loved this special book. Here’s to baseball—bringing the generations together! Pass the peanuts!
There is an extensive Educator’s Activity Guide for this book from Mighty Media.
Read about the vital roles of grandparents in modern society in this article by Olivia Gentile.
In the picture book Take Me Out to the Ball Game by Maryann Kovalski a grandmother takes her granddaughters to a game.
Check out Perfect Picture Book Fridays at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site for more wonderful picture books!
I received a review copy from the publisher. All images used with permission of Mighty Media Press. Thanks to Gail in St. Paul for the tip off to this lovely book.
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