Tag Archive for Best Baseball Books for Little Leaguers

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #246: Baseball, Mostly, and the Undead



Let’s do this people. Here’s Nate from Haverford:


Scan 2

I replied:

Dear Nate,

Thank you for your letter all the way from Haverford, PA. It’s an honor to be thought of as your favorite author.

Am I good at baseball? Ha, well, not particularly. But I do love the game, and I still love playing it. I now play in a ridiculous 55-up men’s hardball league. Imagine very old guys who can barely move attempting to play baseball — like trying to walk through a room full of Jell-O — and that’s us. But there we are under the sun, playing in the green fields of the mind, as if we were boys again. I can still steal a base, I can still break off a pretty good curveball (okay, it rolls in like a tumbleweed), I can still hit.

paperback-cover-six-inningsThe other part I love is the competition. As a hitter, to come up in that big spot and try my absolute best to beat the other guy. And that feeling when the ball jumps off the sweet spot of the bat into the left-center gap? I love that. I’ll play for as long as I’m able. Why not?

Have you read my book Six Innings? I poured all my love for baseball into that book.

As the youngest in a large family, I always sought those quiet places, tucked out of the way. I did a lot of jigsaw puzzles (thus: “Jigsaw Jones”), invented games with dice, drew pictures, and read (a little bit). Reading didn’t come on strong until later. Making comics just happened naturally. I think creative people are like that. We can’t help but make things, throw ideas up into the sky just to see what falls.

IMG_2295This October I have a new book coming out, Better Off Undead, that’s set in the not-too-distant future. It might be right for a reader like you. To sum it up in one sentence: After becoming undead, Adrian Lazarus has to survive middle school. The book is also concerned with bees and bullies and spy drones and climate change, and there are “thriller/detective” elements and evil billionaires too. I’m excited about it. The book’s not scary, but I do hope it’s smart, timely, and wildly entertaining.

My best,

James Preller

P.S. Thank you for the SASE, very considerate & much appreciated!

Gavin, Baseball, Six Innings, Championship Games, etc.

RE-POST: This was originally posted back in August, 2010, and I’m sharing it again because winter is on the wane. My thoughts turn to baseball. Maybe yours do, too. I wanted to tell this little behind-the-scenes story to my baseball book, an ALA Notable, Six Innings. You might even want to buy a copy (who am I kidding?).


I don’t like to brag, but.

Look at this kid, will ya.

That’s Gavin, right around his 11th birthday, back in June/July. We endured a heartbreaking All-Star experience and I had to let time pass before revisiting it.

This year, along with my friend Andy, I coached a team of ten-year-olds in the District 13 All-Star Tournament. We played five games and found ourselves in the Championship Game — a scenario not much different than what I wrote about in the book, Six Innings (now in paperback).

As it turns out, that was the problem. Six innings. Would it were five.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Gavin really shined in this tournament, played the best baseball of his life. Pitched a shutout, fielded great, hit a ton. He was focused and he cared and somehow it all came together for him.

As a parent, you love ’em whether they strike out or hit a double. And let me tell you — it’s easier when they hit the double.

So there he was on the mound to start the Championship Game against our talented arch-rivals. It was a tense game, all the boys felt it, and nerves got the best of many of them. Both sides made errors. By the top of the 6th, we were on top, 10-6. Gavin had pitched with poise and determination, but after throwing five full innings and 75 pitches, the Little League maximum for boys his age, it was time to turn the ball over to someone else.

We had a four run lead. We needed three more outs.

paperback-cover-six-inningsNever happened. Our rivals exploded for 11 runs (!) in the 6th — it was the longest, most brutal inning of my coaching career — and we fell, 17-10, with an ignoble thud. Gavin was seriously bummed. For my part, I slept less than two hours that night. Just tossed and turned and replayed it all in my head, over and over. It was a week before I could walk without a limp.

When you write a book, you can get that last out, the boy can kiss the girl, you can pick any ending you want. Real life, that’s a tougher thing.

So let’s look at that scene from Six Innings one more time . . .

Max takes the sign, nods, understands. He wants me to climb the ladder.

One last time, Max Young is alone in his daydreams, throwing against an imaginary hitter in a game of his own invention. He is the author and the instrument, the pitcher and the ball, the beginning and the end.

Max rocks back into his windup, he drives forward, the ball leaves his fingertips, comes in high and hard and true.

Angel Tatis hits nothing but air. Swing and a miss.

That’s it. Game over.

Max drops to his knees, flings his glove high into the sky. All the boys rush the mound, shouting, screaming, piling on . . . .


Happy Nappy Bloggy Baseball: Around the Horn with Doret

My friend, Doret Canton, of The Happy Nappy Bookseller blog, goes around the horn with nine authors of children’s baseball books. It’s a pretty cool lineup with some heavy hitters, sure to score runs in bunches.

Doret’s come up with a fun, inventive way of sharing her passion for baseball and baseball books, with each author answering interview questions over a series of days.

Here’s the lineup:

1. Gene Fehler, Change-up: Baseball Poems
2. Linda Sue Park, Keeping Score
3. Kurtis Scaletta, Mudville
4. Alan Gratz, Brooklyn Nine
5. Julianna Baggott, The Prince of Fenway Park
6. James Preller, Six Innings
7. Jennifer E. Smith, The Comeback Season
8. Carl Deuker, Painting the Black
9. Mick Cochrane, The Girl Who Threw Butterflies

Alongside this company, I’m like that kid at second base, murmuring to himself, “Don’t screw it up, don’t screw it up, please God don’t let me screw it up.”

Here’s Round One, questions 1-3.

Here’s Round Two, questions 4-6.

Stop on over and check it out.

By the way, I interviewed Doret back about a year ago. She’s a passionate, voracious reader and I love her attitude. You wanna get real? Go talk to Doret. But don’t believe my word for it, decide for yourself.

After spending time with Doret, you’ll definitely want to put on a squeeze play.

Fan Mail Wednesday #82-83

I’m running a day late again, and falling behind on everything. So let’s hop to it!

Letter #82:

I replied:


Thanks for the letter and the book report. I’m glad you connected with Six Innings. I’m a big reader of baseball books myself; I’ve actually built up a pretty good collection over the years. It means a lot to me that I now have a book to place on the same shelf alongside some of my all-time favorites.

Where I live, in upstate New York, we’ve finally broken winter’s back. I’m now coaching two baseball teams. One is regular Little League, boys 10-11, and the other is a 10-Under Travel Team. By the time All-Stars is finished in July, I expect I’ll spend about 70-80 days running practices and filling out lineups for games. I love it — and have always, always loved it, for as long as I can remember — so it was natural for me to finally get around to writing a baseball book. It’s a world and a game I know inside out and from a variety of perspectives.

Whenever I think of that book, I’m grateful to Jean Feiwel and Liz Szabla, my editors in New York City, for giving me the opportunity to write it. (By the way, Jean is going to be very angry when she sees that you misspelled her name — it’s the kind of thing that freaks her out completely; my advice, find a safe house somewhere, stay out of the city for a while, lay low.) You know, it  means everything in the world when there’s someone behind you, believing in you, setting you up to succeed. That’s my coaching philosophy in a nutshell: I try to be the guy on the side clapping my hands, saying, Come on, you can do it.

Isn’t that what everybody needs?

Oh yeah, thanks a lot for the self-addressed, return envelope. Very thoughtful and much appreciated.


* * * * *

Letter #83:

I wanted to tell you that my son (6 years old) and I have greatly enjoyed your Jigsaw Jones series.  I picked your series because they were chapter books, but mainly because they were upbeat and friendly.  I was a bit dismayed by the dark  themes that some of the other series contained and was happy to find yours.  Many thanks for all the writing you have done!

As an aside, in one of the books I read “FLY 92” and my curiosity was suddenly piqued!  I was tickled when I realized you are currently in the Capital District.  I grew up in Greenville, NY which is southwest of Delmar.

Blessings to you and your family.  We look forward to reading more of your books (not just Jigsaw!) in the future!

– Rachel

I replied:


I am always so grateful when I receive notes like yours. It means a lot that you, a parent, took the time to say those kind words. I’m touched. And yes, sure, I’m glad somebody noticed! I’ve kept Jigsaw squeaky clean because I’m writing for very young readers. It’s easy to lose track of how little these kids are. I just have a clear sense of where I will and won’t go with that series. I don’t see the need for words like “fat” or “stupid” or mean-spirited behavior, much less what we commonly hear in popular children’s movies today. In fact, I feel a strong need to avoid that language.

Quick story: Yesterday we had a hard moment with my daughter Maggie, who’s in 3rd grade, when someone called her fat (she isn’t, but that’s beside the point). At the same time, I’ve been reading Queen Bees and Wannabes, constantly reminded of the importance of language and the labels we use to hurt or limit others. There she was, crying. And it wasn’t the crying that worried me, but the self-image issues that can make being a girl so difficult in today’s world. Maggie’s mother is 6’1″ — strong and powerful and gorgeous. For Maggie there’s no hope that she’ll be the idealized petite blond in skinny jeans.

I guess we’re growing up.

In fact, I blogged about this same issue — in a totally different context — earlier this week. Words have a power over us.

Thanks for writing. When you are ready to take the next step beyond Jigsaw, you might like Along Came Spider, which is just right for 3rd grade and up. Mighty Casey is a baseball-themed picture book your son might enjoy. Sorry, didn’t want to sound like a commercial there at the end.

Greenville forever!