Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge is my favorite reading challenge of 2014. Visit Alyson’s blog to see what terrific nonfiction picture books others are reading and sharing this week.
Our choice for family movie night this week was A League of One’s Own, which sparked an interest in women’s baseball. Luckily, I happened to have an excellent picture book written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Terry Widener on hand to teach us more. Note: Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings is historical fiction rather than nonfiction, so I’m stretching the definition of my favorite reading challenge a bit.
Hopkinson shares the story of Alta Weiss, the first female baseball player to pitch for a men’s semi-pro team–in 1907! Weiss loved playing ball from an early age. A coach may have given her a chance to play semi-pro ball as a way to spark interest in the team and sell tickets, but she proved that she deserved a spot on the roster. Weiss did not play for long. After breaking barriers as an athlete, she went to medical school to become a doctor. She was the only woman in her class. What a fascinating person!
Hopkinson borrows the nine innings of baseball for the story’s clever structure of nine different free verse vignettes of Weiss’s life as a player. I loved the early “innings” focusing on Weiss’s childhood and her commitment to practice. Her first fans are the cows who watch her practice pitching in their barn.
There is a very brief Author’s Note at the beginning that gives an overview of Weiss’s life and suggests some bibliographic resources. There is also a timeline of “Highlights of Women in Baseball” at the end. Be sure to look at the beautiful photo of Weiss on the back cover before you start reading!