Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com
Here's the beginning of great new series for kids. BARNSTORMERS: THE TALES OF THE TRAVELIN' NINE is written by Phil Bildner and illustrated by Loren Long.
Set in 1899, BARNSTORMERS brings historic baseball to life for readers. The story centers around three siblings, Griffith, Ruby, and Graham. Still recovering from the death of their father, the three children are traveling with the colorful ball team, the Travelin' Nine. Their exhibition games are meant to earn money to pay the debts left behind after the death of their father.
Adding excitement to the story is a mysterious baseball given to the children by their father's brother, Uncle Owen. The baseball has seen better days, but its torn stitching and acorn-sized hole seem to promise miraculous things if the siblings keep it close during these trying times. Could it be the baseball that causes the crazy visions the team sees on the field as they play ball?
Bildner creates a wonderful picture of the past as he takes readers through the team's first game against Cincinnati. With historical baseball terminology explained in the margins, kids of today are treated to a magical glimpse into the history of early baseball. The lyrical text does not talk down to younger readers, but instead challenges them to read and appreciate Bildner's engaging style. Add in the mystical illustrations of Loren Long, and I can't wait to see the story continue.