Clarens Publishing, 2017
Baseball has long been the national past-time. Although other sports have gained traction and popularity, athletics for fans is not a zero-sum game. Quite simply, we have love enough for all.
This attitude is reflected in Kevin Christofora’s The Hometown All-Stars series of children’s books. In the fourth book of the series, Amira Can Catch, we meet our title character, a Syrian refugee girl making a home for herself in the United States. What better way for Amira to become Syrian-American than by embracing baseball? Invited by a peer, the narrator Nick, to baseball practice, Amira quickly learns the game and by proxy the values of her new country–teamwork, hard work–while her teammates and readers learn what true unity and empathy means.
But Amira Can Catch isn’t just about a Syrian refugee (although this is a vital aspect of the book giving adults another tool to help children be inclusive and welcoming); it’s about the team. Christofora has written a book that is just as fun and useful to adults as it is for kids. Throughout the Hometown All-Stars team learns the basics of baseball–easy ways to practice catch at home (ball up some socks), positioning, and how to catch fly balls without fear, and other techniques. Each of the basics is presented in a natural, easy to understand manner that any kid will be able to understand and enjoy. Likewise, Christofora’s shows adults just how to be a patient and engaging coach making the sport one that kids will want to keep coming back to rather than one that’s a chore.
Perhaps best for kids between 3-7 years old, this is a great installment in a series that works as both an instructional book and entertainment. Reading this with kids is an active enterprise as Christofora has inserted seek-and-find games into pages as well as vocabulary building and an end of the book Q & A that will build memory and reading comprehension. Amira Can Catch like the rest of the Hometown All-Stars series (Nick’s Very First Day of Baseball, Magic Bat Day, TGIT, and the forthcoming Pizza Pie Day) is not just useful but colorful and fun.
Teaching children and adults the basics of baseball while also encouraging them to be inclusive and empathetic is the ideal of sport. Amira Can Catch manages to show us the best side of the American past-time which is the best side of us.
Kevin Christofora, a father and certified coach, hopes his book series, The Hometown All Stars, will inspire children to play outside more often. He teaches young people about baseball and the habits of a healthy lifestyle in the form of a fun and educational bedtime story. He gives regular commentary on ESPN and also interviews around the country with stations such as NPR, 660 News, 89.7 fm. WGLS Rowan Radio, 101.5 fm KVSF fm. The Voice of SanteFe, MIX97.7 fm New York with Mark Bolger and other US radio stations. He also writes about strengthening family time with activities through his personal blog, and in publications across the country including; Fit Pro, Westchester Family, KidzEdge, Boston Parenting, Mom Blog Society, Green Baby Guide, CaliDiet Healthy Living Magazine and several other publications.
Dale Tangeman began a career in advertising in 1968. Since his retirement, Dale has been active in the Woodstock art community, donating graphic art services to the little league, buying and selling vintage movie posters, playing his guitar in a local group, and, last but not least, working with Kevin Christofora as illustrator and partner on his series of baseball books for children, The Hometown All-Stars.
♦◊◊◊◊–1 Star: Poorly conceived and written, not worth anyone’s time
♦♦◊◊◊–2 Stars: Limited audience, mediocre writing
♦♦♦◊◊–3 Stars: Solid writing, decent ideas and execution, genre appropriate
♦♦♦♦◊–4 Stars: Good writing, engaging ideas and execution
♦♦♦♦♦–5 Stars: Superb writing, excellent ideas and execution, appealing to all audiences