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Friday, June 17, 2011

Casey Back At Bat, written by Dan Gutman with paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. Harper, 2007. $7.50 ages 4 and up

"The pitcher hurled his fastball
- a perfect strike, and then
a fan yelled out, "Hey Casey!
Are you gonna whiff again?"
The runners took their places.
Once more the pitcher threw.
He nipped the outside corner.
The ump cried out, "Strike two!""

Well, I have finally ended the hockey one night and basketball the next dance I've been doing. Now, I can concentrate on baseball and is summer, right? As a kid, I loved hearing Casey at the Bat and then I loved reading it to my classrooms to get us in the mood for the 'summer pastime'. Poor matter how many times you read about hm, you can't help but sympathize with his K.

In this retelling of the classic, Dan Gutman offers up a Casey who doesn't whiff on every pitch! Instead he hits a fly ball to end all fly balls. It soars out of the park and keeps right on going. Where it goes provides the fun!

"It soared by hills and valleys, ever higher in the sky,
past houses, farms, and villages, so swiftly did it fly.
It crossed the great Atlantic, where it almost struck a bird,
but Casey didn't have a clue, for he was roundin' third."

Visiting the the Tower of Pisa (not an auspicious event) and bouncing off the Sphinx, it continues its journey through time, passing dinosaurs and astronauts on its trajectory.  Kids will love the ride! Casey is smug as he speaks with reporters about the hit, telling reporters 'it's all in the wrists'. Smug that is, until the ball returns to earth and straight into the glove of an unsuspecting and defensive shortstop. Poor ol' Casey!

The renewed text is a tribute to the classic poem. Dan Gutman creates the feel, the tension, the comedy of poor Casey's repeated attempt to bring his team the championship. His rhyme is perfect and most entertaining to share alongside that original.  The paintings that accompany this readaloud wonder offer a nostalgic look at teams of old, out of respect for the late nineteenth century classic. The colors are subdued, the papers textured and newsprint is the material that creates the team uniforms....brilliant!

There is a great deal of fun to be had, and a bit of dejection:

'Oh, somewhere in this crazy world, some kids are having fun.
Some are telling knock knock jokes. Some skateboard in the sun.
And somewhere kids eat hot dogs piled up high with sauerkraut,
but there's still no joy in Mudville - hard-luck Casey has....flied OUT."

Add this to your list of baseball books to be read for the season opener and again as the teams advance toward the All Star Break,  and then the World Series. Go, Jays, go!

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