A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
FEBRUARY 24:

  • Happy birthday Uri Orlev (Run, Boy, Run) and Matthew Holm (Babymouse series).
  • Today is the birth date of Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder. Read Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak: Geek Heroes Who Put the Personal in Computers by Mike Venezia and Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat.
  • It’s the birth date of Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Mary Ellen Chase (1887–1973) Silas Crockett.
  • It’s the self-explanatory Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Read Engineering the City by Matthys Levy and Richard Panchyk.

On February 24, 1874, Honus Wagner was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Called “The Flying Dutchman,” because of his great speed and his German heritage, Wagner played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, won eight batting titles, and became one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Because Wagner disliked smoking, when a tobacco company manufactured baseball cards with his picture on them, he demanded that the cards to be recalled. Only about forty survived, making them one of the most valued collectors’ items in the world. In February of 2007, a Honus Wagner baseball card sold for $2.35 million.

In Honus & Me, the first book of the Baseball Card Adventures series, Dan Gutman creates a portrait of Wagner, explains a lot of baseball history, and throws in a bit of fantasy. Young Joe Stoshack is an uninspired baseball player. But he has a gift. When Joe touches a baseball card, it takes him back to the time period of the person on the card. When he finds a valuable Honus Wagner 1909 baseball card in a neighbor’s attic (who has asked him to throw everything away), he finds himself in a moral dilemma. Should he return it to his elderly neighbor, or use the money it would bring to help his cash-strapped family.

This dilemma gets pushed to the back of his mind, when suddenly Honus Wagner is sitting in Joe’s bedroom, and they travel back to 1909. Joe gets to watch the 1909 Tigers/Pirates World Series from a box seat, and he actually plays in the game to pitch hit for Wagner. In short, the books draw on several fantasies of almost every baseball devotee—seeing the great players in their times, actually getting to talk to them and play with them, and finding an invaluable baseball card.

Gutman has continued his winning fantasy/reality combination in a series of books—all of them absolutely perfect for eight- to twelve-year-old readers. He has become a hero for those hunting for well-written sports books for this crowd. So, Honus (rhymes with honest), happy birthday. I hope many baseball fans read Honus & Me today in your honor. It will truly make you, and the sport you loved, come alive for them.

Here’s a passage from Honus & Me:

I thought about what Honus had told me. The way to be a great player is to pretend you already are one. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I had hit a home run in my last at-bat, and I was the league’s Most Valuable Player. Nobody could throw a pitch by me.

I got back in the box and gave the pitcher my meanest glare.

 

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Originally posted February 24, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Baseball, History, Sports
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Honus & Me
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COMMENTS

  1. Barbara Lalicki says:

    Love what you say about Dan being a hero to those tryiing to get boys to read. The letters he gets from parents are so heart-felt and the kids are crazy about him.

  2. Dan Gutman says:

    Thanks for choosing my book, Anita!
    Dan Gutman
    http://www.dangutman.com

  3. Anita says:

    Thank you for writing these books — not only from me but from your legion of fans.

  4. Cathy Ogren says:

    This is a wonderful book writen by a wonderful author. When I chose to booktalk this with my fifth-grade library students, it hit a home run!

  5. Jory says:

    I have loved hand-selling these books — the kids always come right back to ask for more recommendations. This series has been practically fool-proof, and has significantly raised my book-selling cachĂ© a number of times! (Plus, I’ve really enjoyed reading them, too.)

  6. Esther says:

    Happy Birthday, Honus. Will there every be a Ted and Me?

  7. Colleen says:

    Hi Esther! TED & ME will be out on 3/20/12!

  8. Cathy Ogren says:

    I enjoyed reading this book as much as the fourth and fifth grade boys who checked it out from the school library. It was a hit!

  9. G. Perry says:

    I just got hands on this book for a few moments this morning, but only got a few pages in before I had to move on to tasks of the day. However, I can’t wait to get back to it to find out what Joe does with that card.

  10. Anita says:

    Gordon: The book is a real page turner and a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the new Ted and Me.

  11. Diane V says:

    These books were my go to books for customers with boys who were looking for a sports related book. fantastic series.

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