CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004
In the late 1980's and early 90's, Maryann Kovalski wrote three picture books which were based on familiar songs and which featured two sisters and their adventurous grandmother. She has now completely revamped the one based on "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Along with new illustrations, she has developed a different storyline. In the earlier book, sisters Joanna and Jenny were so baseball crazy that, when Grandma sought suggestions for a summer outing, they immediately began singing the famous baseball song. The remaining text consisted of lyrics while the story was told in pictures. It ended with Grandma who, in attempting to catch an errant balloon, ventured onto the playing field and caught the final strike ball, thereby saving the game for the home team. In this new version, the story takes place when the sisters are already going to school rather than in summer. Grandma initiates the trip to the stadium, clearing it first with parents and principal but not letting the girls in on the secret. When Yankee Stadium is visible from the subway, Grandma breaks into song, and the lyrics carry the text until the final scene when the girls agree that "baseball is more important than school." As well, the home team wins without any help from Grandma, who stays in the stands, rooting along with other fans.
Both versions have strengths. The earlier one, with its minimal text, made a smoother transition from story to song, and the illustrations carried the narrative forward in unexpected ways. Grandma was an intrepid character, and there was intrinsic humour in the preposterous plot. The recent one has a more realistic storyline, with Grandma simply playing the role of an indulgent adult who transforms an ordinary school day into a special treat. That the sisters love baseball is implicit only by the presence of the baseball and bat on their bedroom floor. The setting is decidedly American with Yankee Stadium and US flags evident. The design is improved with colourful endpapers and the (slightly different) lyrics portrayed in a larger, bolder font, with musical notes. In both versions, a musical score of the chorus is provided. Both sets of illustrations are composed of energetic watercolours that convey the enthusiasm of the exuberant song; although the earlier ones have more vibrant colour. For collections owning the 1992 book in good condition, I would not recommend adding this later version. For schools and libraries without the first edition, or who have one that needs replacing, this would be a worthy addition to the picture book shelves.
Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Library in the Faculty of Education, Memorial University, in St. John's, NL.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.