by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
Everyone I know was once—or still is—a kid.
My favorite writers and illustrators. Politicians I vote for and celebrities I read about. Moms and dads and grandparents and teachers I meet every day. All my wonderful colleagues who work at Scholastic Book Clubs. Even me. We all started out as kids.
And since it’s baseball season (at last!), I have been thinking about baseball players I’ve met and the role baseball played in their lives as kids.
I’ve known many, many baseball players in my day: most of them from Little League, high school, or college baseball teams my son, John, played on or competed against. I am pretty sure that all those innings played in chilly early spring on baseball fields in Montclair, New Jersey, or in broiling-hot weather at Cooperstown Dreams Park are etched into their now-young-adult memories.
While some of the players went on to the major leagues (John fouled one pitch off Rick Porcello), most of these former Bulldogs and Cougars and Brewers have gone on to do amazing work in other fields: education, medicine, law, firefighting, global storytelling, engineering, travel, and entertainment.
But I’ll bet that while they aren’t on the baseball field every day like when they were kids, they have taken what they loved (and didn’t like so much) about their childhood baseball careers and applied it to their current lives. For example, if any of them were now children’s book creators, they could have written chapter books about their baseball lives. I would have read them—and shared them—with great enthusiasm.
Alas, as of now, not one of the baseball players on our local teams is writing children’s books. But fortunately, Ryan Howard—another baseball player I know—and his wife, Krystle, are doing just that.
Ryan—who was also once a kid—became a first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies and record holder for the fastest player in history to reach 100 and 200 home runs. His wife, Krystle Howard, herself a former child who became a second grade teacher, decided to co-author a book series based on Ryan’s childhood playing baseball and Krystle’s experience with what kids love to read.
The result of their teamwork is the Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week, Little Rhino: My New Team (the first book in the Little Rhino series).
“Rhino is an endearing little boy who is eager to learn and improve and cheer on his friends’ accomplishments. Written by major league baseball player Howard and his wife, this is a detailed, insider’s account of baseball action.” —Kirkus Reviews
Ryan “Rhino” is a third grader who dreams of being a Major League Baseball player. One day, he comes home from school and learns that his grandfather has signed him up for his first-ever baseball team. At first he’s ecstatic! But then he learns that his bully, Dylan, is going to be one of his teammates.
Over the course of the story, Rhino grapples with what it means to be a good teammate and how to stand up to bullies when they’re on your own team.
Any reader of Little Rhino: My New Team can tell that it was written by someone with an intimate knowledge of baseball. It’s an excellent book to hook true sports fans and capture the attention of athletics-loving reluctant readers. Plus, with co-author Krystle Howard’s firsthand teacher’s knowledge of what hooks kid readers—from confident readers to reluctant ones who need a little more help—Little Rhino: My New Team teems with compelling characters and engrossing, realistic story lines. My New Team (and the other five books in the Little Rhino series) all add up to high-interest reading that will capture the attention and inspire the interest of so many chapter book readers.
David Vozar was also a child back in the day, and after reading Little Rhino: My New Team, he remembers vividly why he preferred playing the outfield:
We want all teachers, kids, and families to get the most out of Little Rhino: My New Team, so we pulled together our own team to share different aspects of this popular and versatile chapter book.
• Meet Ryan and Krystle Howard in an exclusive Behind the Scenes interview. Watch the video and hear them discuss their writing process, Ryan’s childhood and baseball life lessons, and how important books and reading are to them.
• Play ball with the Book Boys to see what about Little Rhino: My New Team inspires them.
• In Book Talks, Jenise R. Collins, an early childhood educator from Brooklyn, New York, shares many creative ways to use Little Rhino: My New Team in the classroom, including for guided reading and connecting the story to a unit on dinosaurs!
• Download a discussion guide chock-full of questions (but, alas, no peanuts and Cracker Jack) along with a writing activity in Cooked Up from a Book.
I hope that you and your students enjoy Little Rhino: My New Team and take advantage of this opportunity to get copies for one dollar. Then encourage students to explore the rest of the books in the Little Rhino series.
And if you ever want to trade baseball cards or stories about people you know who were once kids, please feel free to contact me: email@example.com
In the meantime, batter up! Happy reading!