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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bats at the Ballgame, written and illustrated by Brian Lies. Houghton, Thomas Allen, 2010. $21.50 ages 5 and up

" A flying wonder flutters near.
"Mothdogs! Get yer mothdogs here!"
 Raise a wing and catch a snack:
"Perhaps you'd like some Cricket Jack?"

 We show our tickets, find our places,
 watch the grounds crew lay the bases."

Ah, the World Series starts tomorrow and I am ready for it! Sorry that the Blue Jays didn't make the playoffs, but they had a great season...tough to beat the teams in our division. So, now I will have to find a new favorite team to root for....I wonder if there will be bats watching?

If you look carefully at the cover page above, you can see them rooting from the stands and the roof. Ah, the benefits of being a bat. Of course it's a night game. The setup is a circus tent, with fans and food galore.  The flag is flown in, the umpires stand ready, the anthem is sung while the band plays and it is game on! The action is intense, the cheering wild and the seventh-inning stretch brings a measure of calm.  The rest of the game is filled with thrills and great excitement. So much to see and Grandbat is willing to share stories of old as the game comes down to the wire. It is the rising sun that sends them scurrying home, to sleep and safety; always attuned to the next  'play ball'!

The rhyming text offers up as many bat and baseball puns as you can imagine. Even the title will have readers smiling! There are bats at bat, a blind as a bat ump, the familiar bat-ball song in the seventh (Oh...hang me up in the rafters! Hang me up by the toes! Buy me some beenuts and Cricket Jack -), a significant win and a return to the home attic, caught ball in wing and big, satisfied smile on sleepy face.

 Brian Lies has a penchant for bats, it's clear; and for the Boston Red Sox, I think. If you know baseball, you will pick up on the red hats, the manual scoreboard, the Green Monster and even the 'pesky pole'. Each of his acrylic illustrations holds wonder for readers and listeners. The changing perspectives give a clear look at all of the elements of the game. From the bat's-eye view on the title page to the archival appearance of the bat fans on the dedication page, we know we have a treat in store. He does not disappoint. Each piece of art invites close observation and provides details that are heartwarming, often humorous and always a 'hit'. I laughed out loud at the doctored food banner, offering up garlic flies (not fries) and gnatwurst (not bratwurst).

His use of light imbues each page with the secrecy and delight of night. The powdered sugar base lines, the forks used to smooth the infield, the rows of bats hanging upside-down from the tent ceiling, and the constant action will have new fans poring over every single illustration. It is a stunning book! 

I will leave the last words to the author:

"But in the east, the sky's aflame.
We feel ejected from the game!
Still astonished that we won,
we speed to beat the rising sun."


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