For love of the game: Read all about it By Fred Koch

Tis the season when parents give a sigh of relief. Spring sports are just about finished—unless you are the parent of a player lucky enough to have made it into the playoffs or all--star game. Whether it be girls or boys soccer, T--ball, baseball or softball, what fun it is to watch the young athletes grow from one season to the next. This month, I spotlight a few sports books.

FOR THE LOVE OF THE CUBS: AN A--TO--Z PRIMER FOR CUBS FANS OF ALL AGES, by Frederick C. Klein, illustrated by Mark Anderson, Triumph Books, $16.95; ages 8--12.

I grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago, therefore I'm a Cub fan. My girlfriends and I went to Wrigley Field (built in 1914) every summer on Ladies Day (free for women) to watch the Cubs. They weren't winning any pennants then either, but we had great fun at the ol' ballpark.

In this book, each letter of the alphabet offers a short rhyme and a caricature of a famous Cub. "S" is for Santo, Sandberg and Sosa (the only current Cub player included in the book).

Sosa is expected to surpass Ernie Banks as the team's all--time home--run leader. Banks, who hit 512 of them, is the "B" as well as co--author of the book's forward. Throughout the pages are bits of Cubs history and highlights of the careers of famous former Cubs. What fun to sit down with dad, grandpa or even great--grandpa and reminisce about the players they remember from each generation. KIRBY PUCKETT'S BASEBALL GAMES, by Kirby Puckett and Andrew Gutelle, illustrated by Paul Meisel, Workman Publishing, $13.95; ages 5--10.

Are you looking for ways to improve your baseball skills and have fun at the same time? Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, former Minnesota Twins player, offers young players a book full of tips for improving play. Along with the suggestions, this book has 34 games to help improve the four basic baseball skills: hitting, running, catching and throwing. The book comes with a baseball autographed by Puckett and marked to show the proper finger placement for right-- and left--handed pitchers. IT TAKES A TEAM, by Mike Cameron with Greg Brown, Triumph Books, $15.95; ages 8--11.

Mike Cameron is the center fielder with the Seattle Mariners team that won the American League West title in 2001. The team didn't get to the World Series because it lost to the New York Yankees in the championship series, but what a remarkable year the Mariners had. They won 116 regular--season games, tying a record set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs.

In 2002, it was Cameron himself who had the remarkable year. On May 2, 2002, playing in Chicago against the White Sox, Cameron became the 13th player in Major League Baseball history to hit four home runs in one game. Coming into that game, he had been in a batting slump. No player has ever hit five homers in one game.

It took Cameron a long time to come into his own as a ballplayer. He played six seasons on six different teams in the minor leagues—including a stint with the White Sox, where he played with baseball wannabes Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson. His first job in the big leagues came with Cincinnati before he finally settled in Seattle.

Cameron emphasizes throughout the book the importance of teamwork and working together. He shares many words of wisdom and advice that he has learned over the years.

FOR THE LOVE OF BASEBALL, by Rennay Craats, Weigl Publishers, $6.95; ages 5--8.

Children know very little about the game when they head onto the field for their first T--ball game. When the coach tells them to go to left field, he often gets a blank look. This book, as well as others in the sport series published by Weigl Publishers, is a good one for beginners.

The book begins at the beginning, with background information about the sport, then proceeds to explain what equipment is needed to play, and a diagram of the field—important information for kids who wouldn't otherwise know about left field.

The book offers a list of Web sites where answers to more questions can be found.

PRINCESS FIDGETY FEET, by Pat Posner, illustrated by Philip Norman, McGraw Hill, $15.95; ages 4--8.

Princess Bridget wants to play soccer more than anything else. Her fidgety feet are always ready to play. But that simply isn't something a royal princess should think about doing.

So Princess Bridget only goes to the castle tower to watch other children play the game. The newspaper boy sometimes comes to the tower to report on his team, and he and Princess Bridget sneak in a little soccer game. The king is aware of his daughter's desire and hires Miss Posy to turn her into a princess. Unfortunately, Princess Bridget has no idea how parading around with books on her head can be of any benefit when all she wants to do is play soccer. Turns out Miss Posy has a secret of her own that she shares with Bridget.

Find out how discipline and control help Princess Bridget get to play soccer and who her coach will be.

WILLY THE WIZARD, by Anthony Browne, Candlewick Press, $5.99; ages 4--8.

I like Willy the little chimpanzee and you will, too. He has a hard time competing in a world of big gorillas. In this story, he wants to play soccer but doesn't have cleats and can't afford to buy any. Every week he watches practice, but nobody passes the ball to him and he never gets picked to play. One night Willy meets a stranger who gives him a pair of magic cleats.

With these cleats on his feet, Willy can really play and is picked for the team. Is it those special shoes, or Willy's hard work and dedication that get him the chance to play? Browne has written several other books where Willy's determination and hard work have led to his successes.




Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K--6 in the school where she taught.



Copyright 2017 Wednesday Journal Inc. All rights reserved. Chicago web development by liQuidprint