It’s baseball season 1948 when The Bat Boy and His Violin opens. Reginald’s papa is the manager of the Dukes, the worst team in the Negro Leagues. His best players have all followed Jackie Robinson to play for white teams. In 1948, the Dukes have done nothing but lose.

So Reginald’s papa is unhappy and irritable. And it really irritates him that Reginald would rather be inside playing the fiddle than outside playing baseball. It doesn’t help that Reginald insists on calling it a violin.

So Reginald’s papa decides to make Reginald the bat boy for the Dukes. Reginald protests. He has a recital coming up. He’ll be playing his violin in the church basement for anyone who will come listen. His papa brushes him off. And Reginald joins the Dukes on the road.

Reginald tries to please his papa. Oh, how he tries! But the skills required of a bat boy, simple as they are, seem to escape Reginald.

Finally, his papa, in frustration, tells him to play a bit, mostly just to get him out of the way. So Reginald plays. And things begin to turn around for the Dukes.

History and Artistry

The Bat Boy and His Violin is a beautiful story. It’s about the love between a father and son. About the expectations they put on each other, and on themselves. It’s about winning and losing – in baseball, and in relationships. It’s about accepting and loving people just as they are.

The story’s beauty comes with a measure of historical reality that tempers its sweetness. For example, when the Dukes come to town for their final game, they have to camp around their battered team bus, cooking their supper over a fire and sleeping on the ground. No hotel in town will let them stay. And when they’re sent away, they have to leave with a smile and a kind word. That’s what the world was like in 1948.

Author Gavin Curtis is a wonderful storyteller, and The Bat Boy and His Violin is a wonderful story. Rich and deep, like the sounds Reginald pulls from his violin. If you read it out loud, you’ll hear the music. It’s not told in rhyme. But the sounds, the rhythms, the rise and fall of intensity, the images conjured by the words, all make the story sing.

The music and the words float over the magical watercolor illustrations by E.B. Lewis. If you see a book with Lewis’s name on it, you know it’s going to be gorgeous. I’m afraid I don’t have the vocabulary to do Lewis’s work justice. The illustrations are warm. Every detail is telling, from the graduation pictures on the piano in Reginald’s living room to Reginald’s consistently crooked bow tie.

The Bat Boy and His Violin is a Coretta Scott King honor book.

Read More

17 essential picture books for Orthodox Christian kids: If you’re looking for picture books that include stories about Orthodox Christian people and traditions, you’ll find them on this list.

Dad, Jackie, and Me: More than a baseball story: This is a story about a boy and his dad, who is deaf. It’s also a story about Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. And the story is true.

The William Hoy Story: A baseball biography: William Hoy was a deaf baseball player. He may have been the reason that hand signals became part of the game.

Buy the Books!

Catherine's Pascha and The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
These delightful books will diversify your bookshelves with disability representation. Elizabeth, one of the main characters, is an ambulatory wheelchair user.

Catherine’s Pascha

Catherine doesn’t like vegetables. She doesn’t like naps. She doesn’t like it when her mom combs her hair. She loves hot dogs, chocolate cake, and her best friend, Elizabeth. Most of all, she loves Pascha! Pascha, the Orthodox Christian Easter, is celebrated in the middle of the night, with processions and candles and bells and singing. And Catherine insists that she’s not a bit sleepy.

Celebrate the joy of Pascha through the magic of a book: Catherine’s Pascha. Available on Amazon,, and my webstore.

The Saint Nicholas Day Snow

Shoes or stockings? Horse or sleigh? Does St. Nicholas visit on December 6 or on Christmas Eve? Will a little girl’s prayer be answered? When Elizabeth has to stay at Catherine’s house, she’s worried about her grandmother, and worried that St. Nicholas won’t find her. The grownups, though, are worried about snow.

Celebrate the wonder of St. Nicholas Day through the magic of a book: The Saint Nicholas Day Snow. Available on Amazon,, or my webstore.

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