cover image Nick Plays Baseball

Nick Plays Baseball

Rachel Isadora. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23231-2

HIsadora (Sophie Skates) heads for the baseball diamond in her latest exploration of sports. Neatly sandwiching nonfiction nuggets into a story about a boy named Nick, his teammates on the Rockets (girls as well as boys) and a championship game, Isadora serves up a lively and informative pastiche. While Nick and his friend Ben warm up for the big game, for instance, captioned spot art shows and identifies the various components of their uniforms; on the facing page, a host of other equipment, from batting helmet to catcher's gear, comes in for the same treatment. As she chronicles the championship game and its triumphant conclusion for the Rockets, Isadora scrutinizes everything from skills and drills to scoring, practice techniques, ""Rules to Abide By"" (""Never argue with the umpire""), the various positions and ""Coach Brian's Tips"" (when you slide, ""try to keep your foot up to avoid injury""). For all the ground the author covers, her presentation is simple and carefully pared down, keenly attuned to a picture book audience. Watercolor illustrations are precise in their portrayal of the game and its players as they stretch, run, swing, throw and catch, capturing both Nick and his teammates' enthusiasm as well as their athleticism. Just the ticket for aspiring sluggers. Ages 5-up. (Mar.)