Know any kids who are reluctant readers who are also baseball fans? Look no further than the Baseball Card Adventure Series by Dan Gutman. I just read Willie and Me: A Baseball Card Adventure, (2015, 153 pages). This is the twelfth and final book in the series which started in 1997 with Honus and Me. (See my review)
My only disappointment with this book is that Willie Mays makes just a brief appearance. Readers hoping to learn what made Willie Mays “tick”, or perhaps something about the racism he must have encountered will not be satisfied. Much more time is spent on an incident between two players named Branca and Thomson. (I imagine the title Branca and Thomson and Me wouldn’t sell as many books.)
Summary from Goodreads:
Stosh thought he was finished traveling back in time. But then Ralph Branca shows up in his room one night, begging for Stosh’s help. In 1951, Branca pitched a ball to Bobby Thomson that would become the “Shot Heard Round the World,” a home run that won the National League pennant for the New York Giants and changed the lives of Branca and Thomson forever. Branca says the Giants were cheating, and he needs Stosh to use his power with baseball cards to go back in time and set things right.
Stosh is determined to help, but he quickly learns that you can’t change just one little thing in history. If he erases the “Shot Heard Round the World,” he may forever alter the life of a young rookie named Willie Mays. With wisdom from all the players he has helped before—plus the surprise return of some familiar faces—Stosh uses his power to travel in time using baseball cards one last time in a fabulous finale to the adventure of a lifetime.
On Dan Gutman’s exploding-with-fun website he says, “I want reading my books to feel effortless.” I think he largely succeeds with this book and the others in the series. Protagonist Stosh is very likable, and there’s plenty of action and dialogue, but not at the expense of character development. The sentence construction is straightforward, and there are many black-and-white photos to make the book interesting. In addition to photos of people and places mentioned in the book, there are photos of other memorabilia, such as the “box score” for the big game. I am not a big baseball fan, so I skimmed over the baseball-y stuff. I can only guess that a true fan would love the baseball details!
Despite the relative brevity of the book, I was impressed that Gutman found space to explain how the concept of the”Butterfly Effect” relates to time travel. Stosh changes something in the past, only to realize he has created other problems. He grapples with what actions he should take to make things right. There is plenty to discuss here for young readers. At the end of the book, Stosh revisits some of his other baseball card adventures in a scene that fun and moving.
I recommend this book highly, but you should read at least one of Gutman’s other Baseball Card Adventures first.
I appreciate that bestselling author Gutman is only asking $5.99 for a paperback of Willie and Me.
For more middle-grade book reviews, follow the MMGM links on Shannon Messenger’s blog.