cover image Zachary's Ball

Zachary's Ball

Matt Tavares. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0730-2

Magic, nostalgia and the power of a child's imagination come into play with winning results in the pencil illustrations of Tavares's debut children's book. Told in flashback, the tale opens with a wide-angle view of Fenway Park and the boy's awestruck comment, ""I had never been inside a ballpark until that day."" A remarkable drawing of one of Zachary's Red Sox heroes evokes a camera close-up of the hitter with the crowd's faces slightly out of focus. Zachary's father catches the resulting pop fly and hands it to his son, who, in a Field of Dreams-style suspension of disbelief, is immediately transported to the pitcher's mound. Wearing a Red Sox uniform, the boy throws a third strike to win the game, then finds himself back in the stands with his father. Back home, Zachary sleeps with the ball each night and dreams that he is on the field, performing more crowd-pleasing feats. Though the narrative's transitions (from the main action into the dreams, and between past and present) are a bit choppy, it ends on an upbeat note: years later, the narrator catches a home-run ball outside the park and gives the ball to a girl walking by with her father. The timeless quality of Tavares's black-and-white pencil illustrations is in perfect pitch with the story's setting and theme. Close-up images of Zachary convincingly convey the boy's elation in his moments of ball-playing triumph--a feeling with which young baseball fans will surely identify. Ages 7-12. (Mar.)