cover image The Bat Boy and His Violin

The Bat Boy and His Violin

Gavin Curtis. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80099-3

Though the themes of baseball and classical music initially may seem a jarring juxtaposition, here the duet makes for lovely harmony. Lewis's (Fire on the Mountain) realistic, emotion-charged watercolor paintings evoke a pivotal period in baseball history. It is 1948 and, as Jackie Robinson did the prior year, many top African American ball players in the Negro Leagues are defecting to join ""white teams."" Curtis's (Grandma's Baseball) plot centers on Reginald, a young violin player whose father manages the Negro National League's worst team, which has lost its best players. Hoping to tear him away from his beloved instrument, Papa drafts Reginald as the Dukes' bat boy, but soon discovers that his son is as clumsy with the bats as he is graceful with his bow. Yet when the boy plays his violin in the dugout, his music inspires the batters, and the Dukes miraculously make it to the playoffs. As Curtis shapes a heartwarming relationship between father and son, his portrayal doesn't neglect the era's bitter facts: though previously all-white leagues were accepting African American ball players, many other whites were not. The Dukes may not go home with the pennant, but this imposing book will score high marks with youngsters, whether their tastes run to sports or to Mozart. Ages 4-10. (Apr.)