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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poem Runs, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian. Harcourt Children's Books, Thomas Allen & Son. 2012. $18.99 ages 6 and up

I can catch curve balls.
I can catch heat.
I can catch sliders
With glove or with feet.

I block with my belly.
I nab with my knees.
Throw me jars of jelly.
I'll catch them with ease."

We have closed the gate on another hockey season, and I can turn my attention to the Blue Jays and their baseball prowess. I have always loved baseball and while I admit that the games can sometimes even stretch the limits of my endurance, there is much to enjoy about them for me.

I have a growing collection of books about baseball and am delighted to add Douglas Florian's newest to it. He does a great job of touring us through the players who make up the roster, as well as the guy who guides the game, the umpire. There are poems about the season's start and its coming to an end as summer gives way to fall. But, we know very well that those who love the game will be back next year, decked out and ready to take to the field.

The artwork is classic Florian, a mixed media melange of gouache watercolors, oil pastels, colored pencils and appropriately enough, pine tar. All are designed on primed paper bags and give the rustic feeling of the ball field at its best. He allows his players to reach beyond the confines of one page, stretching to warm up, to pitch and to field. He even offers up an occasional surprise:

"Our slugger is strong.
Our slugger is mean,
With arms very long
And eyesight quite keen.
Our slugger can zing
Each pitch you may hurl.
And one other thing:
Our slugger's a girl."

With its focus on all aspects of the game, this is sure to be a favorite with aspiring players. The poems are meant to be read aloud, and it is then that the full strength of the rhythms find clear voice. Of course, his word choice is sure to entertain and to release our imaginations. I am always enamored of his ability to play with words to give clear meaning to his poems and will be sure to share this with parents, teachers and children who love the game!

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