Nick’s Very First Day of Baseball, a Hometown All Stars book, is a charming book for ages 3-7 about a baseball-obsessed boy’s first day at baseball practice. Leading up to the big day, Nick learns the basic about baseball, and sees baseballs wherever he goes. At practice he gets a jersey, picks a number, and learns some basic calisthenics. In this way Nick’s Very First Day of Baseball is a very thorough look at practicing a sport. It’s an important lesson in fitness as well as a book about baseball.
The illustrations are warm and spirited, and highly optimistic, with smiles on every page. The funnest moment comes midway through when readers are asked to find all the baseballs hidden in the picture of Nick’s bedroom (I admit it, I did it, I love those things). Kids will absolutely love this little sojourn. At the end there’s a fun quiz about things covered in the book, so the book is like practice for going to practice!
One problem with the book is its age range. Though the book says it’s for children 3-7, but this is a huge age range for reading. The book starts like a typical board book with a sentence per page, which will be appealing to younger readers, but then has longer paragraphs when it describes the fitness workouts. The complexity of these descriptions is too much for a three-year-old, and earlier descriptions are too simplistic for someone who’s six or seven, who has already learned to read.
Likewise the tenor of the story will not necessarily appeal to such a wide age range. Though it’s refreshing that the book covers the fitness end of baseball practice, most seven-year-olds may be disappointed that all they did in the first baseball practice was learn how to do jumping jacks. After the book sets up Nick’s excitement about playing baseball – even playing catch with the dog – it would not be surprising if he was hoping for a little bit more on his first day. I remember a friend’s little brother who came home crying because his guitar teacher wouldn’t teach him the “Beat It” guitar solo in his very first guitar lesson. Kids can be very impatient.
This again speaks to the problems with age range: Nick’s good-naturedness is appropriate for a book for young children, but older readers would be able to understand and empathize with a little bit more emotional complexity. That said, all of these elements could spur discussion between parents and children, and prepare children for what it’s really like to go to baseball practice. It really is a good lesson in all the things that go into practicing a sport, or really anything. Everyone needs to practice their scales, or do warm-ups. That in itself is the lesson of the book without Nick having to react negatively.
Overall, this is a good and fun introduction to baseball. Just be a bit aware that it’s probably best suited for a five-year-old. As this is one of a series about baseball, other facets of the sport will be touched on as well, making this a well-rounded and lively series for the baseball fan in your life.