Baseball Books & a Birthday

Happy Birthday wishes are in order today for my son, Dan!!! He’s shown at the left with his father on his wedding day, two and a half years ago. From the very first, he loved sports–baseball, basketball, soccer…

So as a salute to Dan (who played a valiant Little League catcher) and in the spirit of the summer season, I’ll highlight a few baseball books today.

The Littlest Leaguer by Syd Hoff. Harper Collins, 2008.
An EZ reader in which the main character shows that determination overcomes obstacles.

Hello, Fredbird! by Ozzie Smith. Mascot Books, 2006. (I put this one in for Dan.)
St. Louis Cardinals’ mascot, Fredbird, shares his fun at the ballgame.

Swindle by Gordon Korman. Scholastic, 2008. When a boy is cheated out of a rare Babe Ruth baseball card, he leads an unlikely team of friends to right his wrong.

The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles. Harcourt, 2007. When 12-year-old House (a pitcher with a broken elbow) somehow manages to overcome his animosity toward pesky visitor, Frances, he helps combine forces for both an exciting baseball game and a winning performance for Aurora County’s 200th Anniversary pageant.

Edward’s Eyes by Patricia MacLachlin. Atheneum, 2007. A bittersweet story of a family’s loss and legacy woven around the game of baseball.

Summerland by Michael Chabon. Hyperion, 2002. In this first novel for younger readers by the Pultizer Prize winning author, Mr. Chabon offers a rich fantasy story for older readers which weaves mythological elements into the ultimate contest of baseball.

I just had to include SUMMERLAND because I read it shortly after I’d finished the first draft of my fantasy baseball novel for middle grade readers (THE SLIGHTLY TANGLED TALES OF JIM-BO BAXTER.) I couldn’t believe that someone else had thought of combining the two worlds (although Mr. Chabon’s fantasy world is on a much more elevated level than mine.) Still I felt honored that I’d shared a bit of writing inspiration with such a great writer–and I recently had the opportunity to met Mr. Chabon and listen to his thoughts on writing. What a wonderful experience! And while my TALES has earned a regional award from SCBWI, it has yet to find a publishing home.

So hats off to my amazing son, Dan, on his birthday! And may his favorite baseball team, the CARDINALS, have another World Series winning season.

And three cheers for great summer reads!

Interview with JODY FELDMAN

Author of The Gollywhopper Games, HarperCollins, 2008.
ISBN: 0061214507
320 pages
Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to catch a quick lunch with author Jody Feldman, whose new book—THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES—has just been nominated for the American Library Association’s 2009 Best Books for Young Adults.

Jody was on her way to a school visit and feeling in a bit of a whirl from her busy personal life and recent book promotion events which have offered numerous travel opportunities.

As we munched on our Asian-flavored entrees, I asked if she knew that THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES was being considered for the YALSA list.

“I had no idea,” she said. “The book is listed by my publisher for ages 10-14. I guess that makes it borderline young adult.” She explained that she’d been in total shock for at least 10 minutes when she first heard the news.

“How has your life changed since your book has come out?” I asked.

“I’ve not been able to write,” she said immediately. “I’ve been spending more time on publicity, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to writing.” She told me of her new plan to write every morning and leave her afternoons open for publicity work.

When I asked her what had been the most fun and exciting part of her book’s release, Jody said, “Being here and seeing it all happen—the whole bundle of going through what a regular author does. Holding the book in my hand. Getting that connection with the kids. The sense of fulfillment.”

Jody has waited a long time for her well-deserved fulfillment. The idea for THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES first entered her mind nearly 20 years ago as she overheard an unhappy child in the school library trying to find another book with the same feel as Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. She became determined to create a book for adventure-minded young readers. Readers who like puzzles and games and quick-witted contests.

THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES’ journey to print was itself a great adventure—not for the weak of heart. Jody wrote and rewrote the story; she submitted it and received rejection after rejection. She put the story away for a long time, until finally she joined an online writers’ group and began revamping the story yet again. When she finally found an interested agent, Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary, Jody still had to wait another three years before an editor, Virginia Duncan, at HarperCollins’ Greenwillow imprint ultimately perceived THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES’ great potential and helped Jody shape it into the amazing story it is today.

Currently, Jody is working on a new middle grade/young adult book with another seventh-grade boy main character. The book will border on the fantastical—“like you might experience in dreams,” she said.

As we wrapped up our lunch, I asked, ”What advice do you have for writers?”

“If you don’t really, really want to do it (write), don’t do it! Find something else.” She explained how determined writers have to be. “Willing to get down on their knees and scrub the floor sometimes”—knowing that there will be lots of hard work involved in the publishing process. It’s not the glamorous lifestyle so often portrayed in the media.

“And a writer needs to be open to knowledge from wherever you can get it,” Jody said. She likes to listen to kids and adults, to those who like and don’t like her stories. She explained that using all this information can help her write a better story.

I said my goodbyes to Jody as she refilled her to-go cup, fueling up for her school visit in just 15 minutes. She seemed a bit harried but quite happy with her new role as successful children’s author.