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Christmas gift ideas for bookworms

Darth Vader reads to Luke Skywalker

I’m glad I can read. So many books published over the years have made an impact on me, both as a child and as an adult, it would be impossible to list them all. I recommend starting a library, however small, of books that you love and add to it at least once a year (more if possible). If you have small children, start a library for them with Dr. Suess and Curious George and Little Golden Books. If you have grade school kids, grab some Harry Potter or Percy Jackson books. For high schoolers…well, good luck. I’m blessed with children who love to read, but I know others really struggle getting teens to sit down with a book.

Take a look at the list below. Some of these suggestions are for younger readers, while others are intended for more mature minds. What is missing from your library? What books would you add to the list?

Books

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Willie & Me by Dan Gutman (2015)

willieandme

Willie & Me
by Dan Gutman
HarperCollins, 2015
176 pages

Most baseball fans are familiar with “the shot heard ’round the world.” Bobby Thomson launched a Ralph Branca pitch for a home run in 1951 to win the pennant for the New York Giants, while rookie Willie Mays watched from the on-deck circle. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Thomson walked, and Mays came to bat? Dan Gutman explores that possibility in his latest “Baseball Card Adventure” book, featuring time-traveling fourteen-year old Joe Stoshack.

Those familiar with Gutman’s previous “Baseball Card Adventure” books know that Stosh always has the best intentions when he travels to the past, looking to right some wrong or prevent some tragedy. He has visited Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ray Chapman, Roberto Clemente, and Jackie Robinson, among other legendary characters in the story of baseball’s history. Willie & Me is the twelfth and (unfortunately) finally installment in the series, and for the first time a living player is the titular character. However, Mays does not play a major role in this book himself, unlike former “Baseball Card Adventures.” He is featured very briefly, but because of Stosh’s interference with the game in 1951, history changes when Stosh returns home. Distraught by the changes, he decides he must change history again, returning to 1951 a second time.

The series is written for a younger audience, primarily boys aged 8-12, but adult baseball fans who enjoy time travel fantasy will get a kick out of these books as well. Gutman does an excellent job in describing the era to which his young character travels, and is faithful (for the most part) to baseball history in his stories. I am sad to see this series end, but have truly enjoyed traveling through time with Joe Stoshack on his adventures.

Learn more about HarperCollins.

Learn more about Dan Gutman.

Purchase Willie & Me by Dan Gutman.

Dan Gutman book signing

Today, I took my youngest son to the Blue Manatee Bookstore in Cincinnati to meet one of his favorite authors, Dan Gutman. Gutman has written hundreds of books, and is currently on tour to promote Genius Files 4: From Texas With Love (which will be available everywhere tomorrow). The books that first got Derek (and myself) interested in Gutman come from the Baseball Card Adventures Series, and feature players such as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams. In the photo below, you can see Gutman signing Ted & Me for Derek.

Dan Gutman signing Ted and Me

So far, there are eleven books in the Baseball Card Adventures series. Unfortunately, there will be only one more. Gutman is currently researching and writing Willie & Me, a book set in 1951. Baseball fans will remember that is the year of “The Shot Hear ‘Round The World,” the famous home run hit by Bobby Thomson to clinch the NL Pennant for the New York Giants. “Willie” in the book’s title refers to Willie Mays. This will be the first time Gutman has used a living ballplayer as a title character in the series.

Derek got two books signed; his copy of Ted & Me and the new Genius Files book, which was made available a day early to those in attendance. Gutman is a very personable guy, and a great writer. If you have elementary school children, or you enjoy good fictional books about baseball, grab a Dan Gutman book from your local library.

Derek and Dan Gutman

Visit Dan Gutman’s official website.

Purchase Dan Gutman books.

Ted & Me by Dan Gutman (2012)

Ted and Me by Dan Gutman

Ted & Me
by Dan Gutman
HarperCollins, 2012
208 pages

Imagine how awesome it would be to transport yourself to any year using nothing but a baseball card. No need for a fancy time machine like a DeLorean or the TARDIS, just a baseball card from the year to which you wanted to travel. That is the premise behind Dan Gutman’s excellent “Baseball Card Adventure” series of books.

Joe Stoshack is a young boy from Louisville, Kentucky, with a special power. When he holds a baseball card in his hand, he disappears from the present time and reappears in the year the card was manufactured. In previous books, Joe has met the likes of Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, and even Ray Chapman. In the latest installment, Ted & Me, Joe travels back to 1941 to meet Ted Williams. It was not entirely Joe’s choice this time, though, as the FBI had discovered his talent and recruited him for this special mission. He was to enlist Williams’ help in warning the President of the United States of America about the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor. Joe arrives in Philadelphia in time to see the Hall of Famer play in the last game of the season and secure a .406 batting average.

Gutman does a great job of engaging the reader in the story and keeping it interesting. He keeps you guessing up until the last page whether Joe will be able to accomplish his mission. I won’t spoil it for you here, but I will recommend that you read a few of Gutman’s other “Baseball Card Adventure” books before tackling Ted & Me. The first book in the series is Honus & Me, featuring the famous T-206 Honus Wagner baseball card. These are light and enjoyable reads, perfect for baseball fans young and old.

Learn more about HarperCollins.

Purchase Ted & Me by Dan Gutman.

Jackie & Me by Dan Gutman (1999)

Jackie & Me
by Dan Gutman
HarperCollins, 1999
160 pages

I love baseball cards, and I love stories about time travel. Write a book about a kid who can travel through time using baseball cards, and you’ve got me hooked.

Joe Stoshack is a mostly regular kid living in modern-day Louisville, Kentucky, but when he touches a baseball card he can travel through time to the year the card was made. Dan Gutman has written about several of Joe’s adventures, including meetings with Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, and Babe Ruth. In this book, Gutman’s second in the “Baseball Card Adventures” series, Joe travels back to 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

Not only that, Joe often changes his appearance in his travels. In this particular instance, he wakes up to find that he has transformed into a black kid in 1947! Gutman tinkers with a few historical facts and changes the order of some events to fit the story. For instance, he describes Dixie Walker passing around a petition on the first day of the season to be traded if Robinson is allowed to play for the Dodgers. That actually happened, but not on opening day; Walker circulated his petition in spring training.

Joe learns a valuable lesson, not only about the racism that Robinson faced, but about Robinson’s character in his response to that hatred. Of course, he applies that lesson in his own life when he returns to Louisville.

While written for children (recommended for ten years and older), these are entertaining books even for adult baseball fans. They are light reads and shouldn’t take more than a few sittings to finish–if you can even put it down.

Click here to learn about the play adaptation by Steve Dietz.

Click here to learn more about Dan Gutman.

Purchase Jackie & Me by Dan Gutman.

“Roberto & Me” by Dan Gutman

This is the tenth book in the “Baseball Card Adventure” series by Dan Gutman, but the first one I have read. They are written for younger readers, maybe 3rd or 4th grade, but I really enjoyed it.

The books are about a boy who is able to travel in time using baseball cards, and he sets out in this book to save Roberto Clemente‘s life by convincing him not to get on the airplane in 1972. The only Clemente card he could find, however, was from 1969, so he had to take a detour through Woodstock before finding Clemente.

It’s an entertaining read, and fairly quick (I was able to get through it in a few hours during downtime at work). After reading a more historical account of Clemente, I intend to seek out other Dan Gutman “Baseball Card Adventure” books, and hope they are just as fun.

The players he has featured so far are Abner Doubleday, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Jim Thorpe, and Ray Chapman.

Check out Dan Gutman’s website here.

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