Monthly Archives: January 2018

A Words Look: KEEPING SCORE by Linda Sue Park


Last September, I was lucky enough to host a special Twitter chat on #mglitchat about the three middle reader books selected for the 2017 Global Read Aloud program. The three books are spectacular and I highly recommend all of them. The books were FENWAY AND HATTIE by Victoria Coe, THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown, and A LONG WALK TO WATER by Linda Sue Park. We were fortunate to also have Jim Averbeck, who did the original illustrations for A LONG WALK TO WATER, join us.The chat was so much fun and could have easily gone twice the allotted time of one hour. These creators, besides being immensely talented, are just great human beings. It was a highlight of my 2017, that is for sure.

About a week after the chat, a package arrived in the mail from New York. It was from Linda Sue Park. I anxiously ripped open the package and found a copy of her book, KEEPING SCORE! I was cartwheeling-across-the-dining-room floor happy. I knew Linda Sue was a baseball fan from our interactions on Twitter and in correspondences prior to the chat. In particular, I knew she was a New York Mets fan (a team which, I may remind everyone, was nobly defeated in the 2015 World Series by my team, the Kansas City Royals!).

I finally had an opening in research reading to squeeze in KEEPING SCORE over the holiday. It’s a great baseball book for young readers! Set in 1950’s New York City, she weaves a great story from the threads of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the rabid local fandoms for “Dem Bums”, the Giants, and the Yankees, scoring a baseball game, and the Korean War. If you have a young baseball fan in your life, you might set this title in front of them, or try one from this list I compiled at From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors blog.

Below is one of my favorite excerpts from the book. It’s when the Maggie, the young Dodgers fan, is learning to score a baseball game from the new guy—and Giants fan—Jim, down at the local firehouse.

From KEEPING SCORE by Linda Sue Park, 2008, Clarion Books.

          By the end of the game, Maggie knew how the defense was numbered. Not their uniform numbers, but their position numbers. Jim tore a sheet out of the back of the notebook so she could write it down to study at home.

3-first base
4-second base
5-third base
7-left field
8-center field
9-right field

          Jim also showed her what the numbers in the little squares meant. They told what each batter had done. “4-3” written in the square opposite the batter’s name meant that a ground ball had been hit to the second baseman (4) who had thrown it to the first baseman (3) for the out.          

          Jim could look at his score sheet and see exactly what had happened in any inning. Which was way better than just keeping it in your head, because when you were trying to remember what happened in a game, only the big exciting plays came to mind. But Maggie knew that baseball was often a game of little things—the pitcher falling behind in the count, the good throw to keep a runner from advancing, the slide to break up a double play—and those were hard to keep track of. Jim’s score sheet didn’t have every single thing written down, but the things that were there could really help you remember.

Great stuff, hey? With baseball season just around the corner, how about filling the dark days of winter with baseball reads?


A Words Look: Intro to Baba O’Riley

I was just fiddle-farting around at work on a Friday morning a few months ago, listening to John in the Morning on the KEXP stream and organizing the experiments for the day. John Richards played Baba O’Riley from The Who mixed in with the usual eclectic music KEXP is famous for. At KEXP, they run a real-time playlist on the web feed that has a section for DJ notes about the song playing. Most of the time, these notes are information about shows the currently played band is playing in the Pacific Northwest or links to their archived KEXP In-Studio performances. There’s often also an odd song fact or two the DJ gleans from the internet about the song or artists.

KEXP DJ Notes on Baba O’Riley by The Who, John Richards Friday, October 13, 2017:

“Good morning and a very happy Friday. When The Who perform this live, the processed organ is played from a recording, since it would be nearly impossible to replicate on an instrument. The guitar doesn’t come in until 1:40, giving Pete Townshend some time to reflect on his work. “There is this moment of standing there just listening to this music and looking out to the audience and just thinking, ‘I f–king did that. I wrote that,” he told Rolling Stone. “I just hope that on my deathbed I don’t embarrass myself by asking someone, ‘Can you pass me my guitar? And will you run the backing tape of ‘Baba O’Riley’? I just want to do it one more time.”

As a writer, this particular quote from Pete Townshend hits home.

“I f–ing did that. I wrote that.”

By Impm at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are many times when artists of all ways, shapes, and forms need “I f–ing did that.” as much as they need food or water. It is something creative people need to carry around with them as their weapon of defense when hit by self-doubt and creative panic. We need to step back, take a few deep breaths, and observe what we have created. Look or listen to what we’ve created and take a few moments to appreciate our own work. As creators, we occasionally need to be inspired by the fact we’ve created something wonderful before and use that to gather the artistic confidence to produce a new and wonderful work.

Here is a relatively recent live video of The Who performing Baba O’Riley. I chose this particular video over the dozens of other live performances of this classic song not because it’s any better than the other versions but because it shows the band’s age. It shows that old guys can still rock and roll.

Never stop creating. Step back every once in a while and appreciate what you’ve done. Take this moment to tell yourself, “I f–ing did that.” And then go out and create some more. Believe me, the world needs your work.