cover image The Jungle Baseball Game

The Jungle Baseball Game

Tom Paxton. Morrow Junior Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13979-7

This adaptation of a Paxton song is a solid base hit. The childlike plot revolves around two rival teams, the cocky and confident monkeys, and the initially clumsy and lumbering hippos. Things look bleak for the hippos throughout most of the innings--""Missing pitches, dropping fly balls,/ Tripping over feet,/ Nervously they thought about/ The team they could not beat""--and the monkeys don't help matters by jeering at them. But the champs have to eat their taunting refrain (""Whacka, whacka, hoo boy,/ Tie 'em with a rope./ Poor old hippos/ Haven't got a hope!"") when the hippos bounce back and trounce them in the final inning. Schmidt's (Going to the Zoo) chipper watercolor and gouache illustrations keep good time with Paxton's mildly peppery light verse. Brightly bordered pages embellished with jungle and baseball motifs (hotdogs, popcorn, leafy vines) alternate with borderless vistas, enlivening the visual flow, and the chubby hippos, suited up in pink shirts and palm-tree patterned shorts, are particularly fetching. All in all, a sporting good day at the ball park. Ages 3-up. (Mar.)