The book: “The Baseball Fanbook: Everything You Need to Know to Become a Hardball Know-It-All/Sports Illustrated for Kids”
The author: Gary Gramling
How to find it: Sports Illustrated for Kids/Liberty Street/Time Inc., 192 pages, $19.99, released April 3
The links: At Amazon.com.
A review in 90 feet or less: The second part of a “what’s best for the kids” selection has to start with dubious journey Sports Illustrated seems to be on these days.
Its parent company is trying to sell off this asset at a time when the weekly publication cut back to biweekly distribution.
If this is the future of the iconic brand, why bother cultivating the younger demographic? Because, for now, it’s worth the effort. At least in the book department.
The Sports Illustrated Kids, producing a monthly print and digital magazine aimed at the 8-to-14 reader as well as a website, since its launch in 1989, has a supposed circulation of seven million for its magazine, recognized by Parent’s Choice and the Educational Press for its content.
So with that branding, it has produced excellent 101-type books for Little League-aged kids and beyond – in 2017, it had “Big Book of WHO in Baseball” (kindergarten and up).
In 2016, it had “My First Book of Baseball” (preschool to first grade) and “Baseball Then to WOW!” (grades one to three).
Back in 2013, it had a best-selling children’s baseball book with “Goodnight Baseball” (kindergarten to second grade).
This time around, SI isn’t interested so much in comic-book format and focuses on what it does best with photos and graphics, while not talking down to kids in a breezy, classy format as it makes its pitch for all-encompassing coverage.
Starting with the faux-dog-eared page template that most kids wouldn’t bother even noticing – this one is listed as something for grades third and above – it starts with a nod to the adult magazine with the first two pages, touting its 2014 cover of the Houston Astros and predicting they would win the 2017 World Series.
Gramling, a senior editor at TheMMQB.com who also wrote the “Football Fanbook” that came out in August, 2017 and “All Access: Your Behind-The-Scenes Pass to Sports Stars, Locker Room and More!” in 2010, follows the form again in knocking out seven diverse chapters that cover important stats in the game’s history, obscure facts you would be cool to know, an instructional section on playing different positions, delivering pitches, how to keep score and what to put on a hot dog, a breakdown on how a baseball team is assembled, “He Reminds Me Of …” two-page look comparing a current star to one from the past (think Mike Trout vs. Mickey Mantle, and Clayton Kershaw vs. Sandy Koufax), a 30-team rundown, and a glossary of terms and the best ways to fit them into a conversation.
Of all the chapters, tacking the process of how to build a big-league team seems the most challenging to pull off, but in using the World Champion Astros as an example, it lays out the basics in a way even adult new-to-the-game consumers can understand without feeling lost by the lingo.
How it goes down in the scorebook: “We considered simply cutting out any mention of a player who had been linked to performance-enhanced drugs,” Gramling writes in the intro, “In the end, we decided not. There were players linked to steroids who were not likable people (such as Barry Bonds). There were some who were linked to PEDs, but got more of a pass because they were so popular (such as David Ortiz). And there are surely dozens who simply didn’t get caught.” As a result, some of the Amazon.com reviews from readers make interesting points. The tone from Gramling can sometimes make this “age-confused” because it comes off “quite cynical” for something targeting 8 year olds. It’s also fair to say this is very boy-centric — the only real reference to a girl is showing one on page 74 on the page about how to chew sunflower seeds.
Also in the kids’ book category:
“There’s No Base Like Home,” by ESPN MLB analyst Jessica Mendoza and her sister, Alana Mendoza Dusan, illustrated by McNally Barshaw, due out June 19.
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