HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-8Sluggers: Loren Long & Phil Bildner

Sluggers: Loren Long & Phil Bildner

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: July 1, 2009

http://www.philbildner.com/sluggerslogo2.jpgAdventure, mystery, magic, camaraderie, and a serious dose of baseball is what you’ll get from the Sluggers series. It holds all the right ingredients to satisfy even the biggest baseball fans, including collectible baseball cards. With a whip of the willow (a swing of the bat) Loren Long and Phil Bildner have combined their talents of illustrations and writing to create a “screamer” of a series. A fantastic family read — a definite four-bagger!

Magic in the Outfield

by Loren Long (Author & Illustrator), Phil Bildner (Author)

Reading level:
Ages 8-12

Paperback: 160 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (February 24, 2009)

In book 1, or game 1 as it may be, readers receive a nice introduction to the well developed characters. The scene is set clearly, and the tale begins to unravel slowly in a well formulated manner that is carried through all of the books. Long’s superb charcoal rendered illustrations are masterfully placed, and the useful annotations that explain 1800’s baseball terminology are worth their weight in gold. The series is also based around family strength and the power of faith, which is delivered in many ways — I treasure the wonderful words of wisdom that are shared.

“Daddy used to say that in life we often can’t control what happens to us, but what we can control is–“
“–how we deal with it.” The three Paynes finished the sentence.
Publisher’s synopsis: Griffith, Graham, and Ruby’s father passed away in the war. And now they must join their mother and their father’s wartime traveling baseball team, The Travelin’ Nine, on a tour of America to raise money. No one will tell the kids why the team needs money so badly. Their only clue is a baseball with a hole the size of an acorn in it that their Uncle Owen gave to them the night of their father’s funeral. They know very little about its significance except that their father made it with his own two hands and carried it with him throughout the war. And when all three kids hold the ball, strange things begin to happen…
Add this book to your collection: Magic in the Outfield

Horsin’ Around

by Loren Long (Author & Illustrator), Phil Bildner (Author)

Reading level:
Ages 8-12

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (February 24, 2009)

In book 2, game 2, the adventure continues with perfect continuity. A new addition to the easy to follow format is the useful scoreboard which is illustrated at the end of each chapter. It enables you to truly lose yourself to the strengthening mystery and increasing magic. “Huzzah” to Long and Bildner.

“Huzzah!”: common cheer to show appreciation for a team’s efforts.

Publisher’s synopsis: As the team heads into the River City, Griffith is beginning to realize that there’s more at risk than meets the eye, something beyond the need to raise money — something involving the ball that could put his entire family in danger.

Ruby is eager to help solve the mystery of the ball and plans on keeping her eyes and ears wide open and writing everything down. She knows the answer is out there. All she has to do is see the things that others don’t. And figure out what those things mean.

Then there’s Graham, who usually only thinks about how to get more time on the baseball field. Even he’s beginning to notice that there are strange and shady characters at just about every turn.

Finally there’s the Chancellor, one of the wealthiest and greediest businessmen in the entire world. And it looks like he’s got his eye on the ball!

Add this book to your collection: Horsin’ Around

Great Balls Of Fire

by Loren Long (Author & Illustrator), Phil Bildner (Author)

Reading level:
Ages 8-12

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (April 14, 2009)

In book 3, game 3, the mystery and adventure are building with strong momentum. Drama and danger are added– enough to compel readers forward, but never too much to scare them away. The ending is thrilling and leaves readers urgent for book 4.

Publisher’s synopsis: Pulling into Chicago, Griffith has a run-in with an enormous thug and is more convinced than ever that the nefarious robber baron called “The Chancellor” knows about their magic baseball.

Ruby also has an encounter with a mysterious stranger, and even though she doesn’t know why, she knows that he will change the Travelin’ Nine.

And Graham launches a towering shot out of the park when he thinks no one is looking. Unfortunately, the wrong eyes may have seen what the youngest Payne can do with a baseball.

Chicago is a hot town, so the Paynes better keep their cool. The Travelin’ Nine still have more money to make!

Add this book to your collection: Great Balls Of Fire

Water, Water Everywhere

by Loren Long (Author & Illustrator), Phil Bildner (Author)

Reading level:
Ages 8-12

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; 1 edition (April 14, 2009)

In book 4, game 4, the stage is set effectively with a climactic carry on from game 3. Long and Bildner’s talents shine even more brightly in Water, Water Everywhere when they manage to maintain their uncanny way of delivering their mysterious and magical story, while gallantly adding new elements like discrimination. This fabulous pair are in scoring position for the last two books in the series.

“What’s wrong with the color of Preacher Will’s skin?” asked Graham, hopping off the table and entering the circle. “My daddy always used to tell us there was only one race: the human race.”

Publisher’s synopsis: Griffith has a run-in with the Chancellor and learns that the baseball isn’t the only item the infamous industrialist is after. Even more mysteriously, the Chancellor claims to have something that the Paynes want.

And Ruby. Where in the world has she vanished to? Does her disappearance have anything to do with the Chancellor’s threats? Or is there some other plan in play?

And finally, Graham makes a heartfelt birthday wish and somehow gets exactly what he asks for. But questions still remain: Was it real? Can it possibly be true? Or is it all just a dream?

If they don’t watch out, Griffith, Ruby, Graham, and the Travelin’ Nine may find themselves in deep water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes!

Add this book to your collection: Water, Water Everywhere

To read more about the series, check out our interview with Loren Long or visit: http://www.philbildner.com/ and http://www.lorenlong.com/

Younger readers may enjoy: Casey Back at Bat by Dan Gutman

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The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literacy. We publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. We also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to grow readers. This article was written and provided by one of TCBR's regular contributors.

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