cover image A Game of Catch

A Game of Catch

Richard Wilbur. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $15.95 (29pp) ISBN 978-0-15-230563-5

Three boys, two gloves and one bad attitude add up to a zero-fun afternoon of baseball. More an illustrated short story than a traditional picture book (the text originally ran in the New Yorker in 1953), this odd tale of manners showcases former U.S. poet laureate Wilbur's fluency in the compact, colorful language of sport: ``Then he would burn the ball straight toward Monk, and it would spank into the round mitt and sit, like a still-life apple on a plate, until Monk flipped it over into his right hand and, with a negligent flick of his hanging arm, gave Glennie a fast grounder.'' The natural, informal fluidity of the boys' game is ruined by the arrival of Glennie's sullen, gloveless friend Scho. Unable to join in the camaraderie, Scho, desperate for any kind of attention, resorts to annoying Monk and Glennie. Unfortunately, the expanded format makes the characters' relationships seem both forced and unresolved; the story's subtleties loom large in this presentation. Moser's characteristic watercolor portraits feature various baseball poses set against a grassy backdrop; while technically elegant, these scenes are so similar as to seem monotonous, and don't enhance the value of the narrative. All ages. (Mar.)