cover image Fall Ball

Fall Ball

Peter McCarty. Holt, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9253-0

Autumn beckons in this nostalgic ode to football season, which features an after-school scrimmage among nine grade-school children. In all, seven boys and two girls bounce home on their school bus, disembarking in a safe, tree-lined neighborhood. “Football in the park in ten minutes!” Bobby tells his friends, before calling to his mother, “I’ll be back when it’s dark!” Except for Jimmy, who dutifully rakes leaves, the children initiate a game that is disrupted by Sparky, a mischievous golden retriever resembling Hondo, of McCarty’s Hondo and Fabian. McCarty insiders will notice many such cozy details from past books, from chicken- and rabbit-themed decorations to fond football references. In his familiar pen-and-ink and watercolors, McCarty pictures squat, doll-faced children bundled in woolly sweaters. These same-age, same-size, moderately diverse kids play outside until snowflakes fall and a blue haze announces twilight. As in Night Driving and Moon Plane, McCarty salutes an idealized middle-class Americana, down to the clunky TV on which a cohesive nuclear family watches an evening football game. Grandparents will be charmed—actual children, perhaps less so. Ages 4–8. Agent: Gotham Group. (Sept.)