Sunday, January 27, 2013


Written by Dave Hammer

Illustrated by Alex M. Clark

Boys, dads and baseball. There’s a reason this is a common combination in children’s stories. So many boys have strong, positive memories of breaking in a baseball glove, playing catch with dad in the backyard. The associations continue at the baseball diamond.

In many ways, Your Time Will Come follows the typical baseball story structure:  a boy isn’t “good enough” and becomes a benchwarmer until the final inning of the final game of the season, score tied, two outs. Suddenly, all eyes are on the one boy who has been chronically overlooked. As familiar as the setup is, I still found myself routing for Chad at bat. The drama is always there.

The focus of this story is not Chad’s interactions with the coach or his teammates. Instead, author Dave Hammer sticks to the father-son relationship and their connection to baseball which begins to grow while Chad is still in the crib. All along, Chad’s desire to play baseball is palpable. It’s the execution that needs to be nurtured. For every setback Chad experiences, his father is there to offer encouragement:  “Your time will come.”

Hammer adds a clever backup supporter to echo and illuminate the father’s words. Indeed, this is the first book I’ve read in which the “@” key on a computer becomes a character. While boys will appreciate the technological tie-in, fathers will more fully understand the computer key’s own story.

The illustrations of Alex Clark are a true highlight of Your Time Will Come. They have a nostalgic feel, in part based on the style of the uniforms. As one views the illustrations, one thinks of a simpler time which still bore the pressures and yearnings to belong and to succeed. Moreover, parents will identify with the expressive, irrepressible look on the father’s face as he stands over infant Chad’s crib and dreams of his son’s future.

Your Time Will Come is as much a book for boys as it is a thank you gift to fathers from grown sons who look back fondly on precious moments spent with dad. Hallmark might not like the suggestion, but this book would be far more meaningful and memorable than a greeting card. Father’s Day is less than five months away.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Written by Kelly Bennett
Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

(Candlewick Press, 2005)

What do you do when your pet isn’t fun enough, cuddly enough or adorable enough? What’s the point?

That’s how the boy in this story feels. Norman, his pet goldfish, is just not enough. How can a goldfish compare to a puppy, a kitten, a gerbil or a lizard? The boy decides there is no comparison. He’s trading in Norman for a real pet.

If you are an animal lover, the premise will keep you invested throughout the story. Will the boy really give up the goldfish? And why is the fish all alone in a tiny fishbowl?

Poor Norman!

Other pets in the story get more attention. Austin has a dog with lick-everything puppies. And Emily has a snake that get’s EVERYONE’S attention. Norman? He just glug-glugs water and stares blankly from his bowl. Why would anyone notice him?

Thankfully, the boy does begin to notice little things, endearing things. Nonetheless, the boy doesn’t back down from taking the goldfish to the pet store. Oh, my! Surrounded by cats and birds and hamsters, how does Norman stand a chance?

The illustrations are digitally created and have the same strengths and weaknesses I see in so much digital art. While the main images are appealing—I particularly like the silhouette images of the other musicians during band practice—the backgrounds often seem like nondescript afterthoughts, reminding me of the old “Flintstones” cartoons as Fred and Barney would run on and on through a never-ending interior with the same plant and painting in the background. The lack of interest affects the overall impression of the illustrations. I am curious if other picture book fans have also noticed this as a trend. I encourage you to add your thoughts in the Comments section after the post.

This is a story that had me wholly invested from the start. Having volunteered at the SPCA, I was horrified by the concept, yet too aware of how realistic it is. People abandon their pets too easily. The pets get too big, too chewy, too whiny, too piddle-prone. It is all too easy. Drop off and drive away.

Not Norman should trigger a great deal of discussion about pet ownership and pet care.