Book Review: The Great Ball Game

Rating: ★★★★☆

Joseph Bruchac has written a number of award-winning picture books, many of them biographies or traditional stories originating from various Native American tribes.  This Muscogee (Creek) story tells of a conflict between the animals and birds.  They cannot decide which group is best, so they decide to resolve the question in a traditional manner, through a sports competition.  But when the sides line up to play the small bat, equipped with both wings and teeth, has to plead for the right to join either side.  Bear takes pity on him and finally allows him to join the Animals.  At nightfall, when the game begins to go badly for them, the Bat swoops in to snatch the ball and score a winning goal, showing that “sometimes even the small ones can help.”   Bat decides that the Birds’ penalty for losing shall be their annual migration south, thus vacating the land for the Animals to use.

This story has much in its favor.  In spare, clear text Bruchac conveys the practice of sport as a substitute for war, builds a fine drama within the context of the game, includes a little scientific observation and mixes in a little humor.  Roth’s torn-collage illustrations are fairly abstract, and may not appeal to all readers, but I believe she captures the right mood for this kind of mythological story.  Because this kind of story is meant to be shared, it may make a better read-aloud than read-alone.  It’s well suited for a preschool or elementary audience.

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Publication Information: Bruchac, Joseph. Great Ball Game, The: A Muskogee Story. Roth, Susan L. (Illustrator). Dial. 1994. ISBN: 0803715390.
Categories: 4 Stars, Age 04-08
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Posted on August 2, 2011

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