Brothers at Bat
written by Audrey Vernick; illustrated by Steven Salerno
2012 (Clarion Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library
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I'm guessing nobody messed with the Acerra brothers when they were kids. There were 12 baseball loving brothers in the family. Once they came home from school, the door would slam as the boys would race outside to play baseball. The high school in Long Branch, New Jersey had a member of the Acerra family on the baseball team for twenty-two years in a row. The nine oldest brothers, from ages 13 to 32, formed a semi-pro team in 1938 and were coached by their father. Despite the pressure of playing together, the Acerra brothers were not high maintenance. The older brothers gave playing time to younger Acerras so they could improve. As Freddie said, "We stuck together." A test of this brotherhood came when Alfred attempted to bunt in a game. The ball came off his bat and plunked him in the eye. He was taken to the doctor and lost an eye. For a lot of people, that would have been the end of their playing days as a catcher, but the Acerra brothers worked with Alfred and he came back to playing the game they loved. The book takes an even more touching turn when talking about the service of six of the brothers in World War II. After the war, the Acerras continued to play until 1952. The family was honored in 1997 by the Baseball Hall of Fame for their unique devotion to the game.
Brothers at Bat is a book that would be great to read to your class at the beginning of the year. It promotes teamwork and family. I like the history involved in the book as well. If you study World War II, you can use this book to talk about the sacrifices endured by families of the greatest generation. Of course when spring rolls around, baseball books are always in style. You will easily round the bases with the winning Brothers at Bat.
Check out the discussion guide and classroom activity PDF on Audrey Vernick's website. Good stuff!
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