My favorite thing about sports is the stories. Not the scores or the rankings or the championships. Truthfully, I can’t name the two years (in this century) that the Red Sox won the World Series without looking it up, but there are so many great stories – and this is one of the best. The Acerra family, who lived in New Jersey during the 1930s, had sixteen children – twelve boys and four girls. It’s kind of hard to get your head wrapped around meal time and the laundry, isn’t it?
But anyway…the Acerra boys played baseball, all of them. They had an entire team – with backups! Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team is the story of the Acerra family. The most striking (get it?) thing to me about their story is how incredibly supportive the boys were of one another. Their father was their coach and as Vernick writes, he “never missed a game.” This is a sports story, but more importantly, a warm family story.
Steven Salerno’s illustrations fit the feel of the book perfectly. They look like the 1930s and complement the text in every way. Later in the story, you see one of the boys returning home from World War II. It shows just the back of one of the Acerra brothers returning home (six of them served) and their mother standing at the front door. It’s a beautiful picture – evocative of a different era.
Speaking of baseball in the 1930s, my biography of Hank Greenberg was selected as one of the Best Children’s Books of the Year by Bank Street College of Education. I’ve appreciated and relied on Bank Street’s recommendations for many years so I’m grateful to be included on their list. One last thing…I just looked this up. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and in 2007.