It’s Monday What Are You Reading?/Nonfiction Monday: Baseball and Charles Dickens

It’s Monday What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys

Nonfiction Monday is hosted by The Nonfiction Detectives

Baseball season is in full swing, and my beloved Boston Red Sox are finally back to themselves, and playing well again.  Spring would not be Spring without the opening of the new season, and the delicious (yes, also frustrating and panic inducing) thrill of a whole new season of baseball to look forward to.  So, with baseball on my mind, I was so pleased to discover Douglas Florian’s book of poetry dedicated to the sport I love: Poem Runs: Baseball Paintings and Poems.

From the first poem, “Warm Up,” to the last, “The Season is Over” – Florian’s book is a trek around the baseball diamond, with stops along the way to pay homage to each position.  Florian’s witty paintings fairly leap off the page, their exaggerations calling attention to the physicality of baseball.  One of my favorite poems from this collection is “Pitcher”, which begins:

I’m the curve-ball creator,
The man on the mound.
The great devastator,
where fastballs are found.

The energetic pace of each poem, and the specificity of verbs (something I’ve been spending all year emphasizing with my sixth graders) makes each poem so much fun to read.  I think my kid will enjoy this book as much as I did!

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Charles Dickens, who was born on the 7th. of February, 1812.  While I was in London over Spring Break, I noticed exhibitions all over the place; I had planned to – visit the Dickens Museum , thinking that it would have some fabulous exhibition, but discovered that it was CLOSED until December of this year….which seemed to me to be rather bad timing in this anniversary year.
However, I just discovered a new picture book about Charles Dickens (published last year, I believe), which would be great fun for my students to read, Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom’s Charles Dickens: Scenes From an Extraordinary Life

There is a wonderful YouTube video tour through this richly illustrated book, which captures the interesting format: pastel illustrations, paintings, and graphic novel-like panels along with snippets from Dickens’ own letters, journals, conversations and quotes to set each phase of his early life and then each of his novels in historical context.  Here, for instance, is Dickens describing the experience of creating a character in what was to be Oliver Twist :

I wrote busily and rapidly at my desk, suddenly jumping up from my chair and rushing to a mirror in which I could see the reflection of some extraordinary facial contortions I was making.  I then returned to my desk, wrote furiously for a few moments…and then my facial pantomime was resumed.  I also began talking rapidly in a low voice.  I threw myself completely into the character I was creating; I had not only lost sight of my surroundings, but had actually become in action, as in imagination, the creature of my pen.

And voila! the coming into being of that dastardly villain – Bill Sikes, himself.  There is so much to appreciate in this book – we learn about Dickens, his times, his London, his books.  I love the comic-book panels which summarize just enough of each book – each of which ends with a version of: if you want to know what happens next in this exciting story, read the book!

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18 thoughts on “It’s Monday What Are You Reading?/Nonfiction Monday: Baseball and Charles Dickens

  1. Wow, Tara, two great picture books! I love baseball too & imagine those poems in Poem Runs are great, like the example. And the paintings look good too. And then the Dickens book. Can you imagine what it might feel like as Dickens says to be "the creature in my pen"? Thanks for sharing this. Sorry you didn't get to the museum. How odd to be closed this year.

  2. Hi Tara! These are wonderful picture books! My little cousins play baseball, and the family just had a football/softball bbq over the weekend. Poem Runs is a great book that I can share with them. I also have a Charles Dickens picture book which I bought for a bargain price. It features a comic strip version of 5 of his amazing works. I love the illustration on your Dickens book. I'll be on the lookout for this! Thank you for sharing these lovely books! 🙂

  3. Poem Runs WAS a fun read. I liked the shapes of the poems and even the words integrated into the illustrations. A very well done book, those poems really made the words come to life!

  4. I love your Nonfiction Mondays- it always introduces me to some great books I didn't know about. I cannot way to read Poem Runs. Happy reading this week!

  5. I recently heard about Poem Runs, thanks for the reminder. I have a baseball loving student who is really into writing poetry right now and this is just what he needs!

  6. Great review of the Charles Dickens book! I too plan to review it, and was also intrigued by the combined style of graphic novel, text and Dickens quotes. But I hadn't heard about the video so I'm off to watch that.

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