My son fell in love with baseball at the age of 20 months. Since then I’ve read over 100 baseball books for bedtime reading and attended over 150 youth baseball games.
For those with similarly baseball-obsessed kids, I’ve put together a guide to describe our favorite baseball books, ordered by age range.
Rather than just list books, I explain what my son finds appealing about each book or series. I include and emphasize only books he liked, even if I personally found them boring after a few readings. In some cases I also describe how I felt about a book.
In my mind, there are two types of age ranges: child reading (reader), and parent reading (listener). Most of these were bedtime reading so I’ll indicate for each book both the reading level, and the listening level.
Baseball A B C, Dorling Kindersley (publisher)
- listener: 1-4
This book is simply baseball-related images with one word each, yet my son never tired of having this book read to him at the age of 2. As with many A-B-C books, it makes for dull reading for the parent. And some of the letters seem overly clever, (i.e. “X is for Cuban X-Giants”). But my son loved it.
My Baseball Book, Gail Gibbons (author, illustrator)
- listener: 1-5
- reader: 5-7
My son had me read this to him many times. The writing style and vocabulary are appropriate for a toddler—simple and clear. My son often asked detailed questions about the baseball diamond diagram and the rules of the game.
I found the first half to be dry, factual, and a little dull. The first line, “Baseball is fun, whether you are playing yourself or rooting for your favorite team,” gives you a sense of what this book is like. The first half goes on to describe the positions and rules, while the second half of the book describes a sample game.
This book sustained my son’s interest through many readings and achieved its goal of introducing the game of baseball, both to him and occasionally to a baseball-ignorant adult as well. It’s very interesting and exciting for a baseball-loving toddler. People were often surprised at my son’s ability to converse at a high level about baseball by the age of 3. This book played a part in making that happen.
Hit the Ball Duck, Jez Alborough (author, illustrator)
- listener: 2-5
- reader: 5-7
I read this picture book to my son at least 50 times, starting when he was 21 months old. The artwork is wonderfully evocative of duck’s enthusiasm for baseball, the rhyming really clicks, and the goofy story always brings smiles. Unlike the prior two books, I never got tired of reading this book.
What I remember most fondly is what happened after about a dozen or so readings. It was before my son could really talk—he knew around 50 words as he was not yet 2. He got disturbed when I read the book, and then downright angry the next time I read it. He was not successful at communicating why he was so upset so I had to ask him many yes/no questions to find out what the issue was.
It turns out there was an internal inconsistency where the duck says something factually incorrect, based on a picture that happened a number of pages earlier in the book. It made him angry that the duck was saying something wrong . . . his view of how the world works was turned on its head. Once I figured this out, we talked it through and he was okay with it. It had never occurred to him that a book could be wrong.
I think the mistake was quite charming and I leave it as an exercise to the reader and listener to discover it. Actually there are multiple mistakes but one mistake is central to the plot.
Why recommend a book with a mistake? Because my son cared, and it’s a great book. To be able to have such an intense emotional connection with such a small book—that’s saying something.
Coming Home: A True Story of Josh Gibson, Baseball’s Greatest Home Run Hitter, Nanette Mellage (author), Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (illustrators)
- listener: 4-9
- reader: 8+
Josh Gibson was one of the greatest baseball players not to make the major leagues. This was a touching picture book about being a fan, the father and son relationship, and a little peek at Josh Gibson’s world from the point of view of a fan. It’s also about a very big home run.
The book had just the right amount of drama, suspense, and emotional connection to keep my son enjoying this after 30 readings. It’s also a gentle and age-appropriate introduction to baseball’s history of racial segregation, making appropriate bedtime reading for a pre-schooler.
Old Turtle’s Baseball Stories, Leonard Kessler (author and illustrator)
- listener: 3-7
- reader: 6-7
Old Turtle tells baseball stories to his friends around the fireplace on a cold winter day. These stories are hilarious, with wacky animal baseball heroes, unexpected twists, and a cartoonish style of illustration that perfectly matches the silly stories. After 20 reads it was all quite expected, but it was still funny. One repeated line, “It was a big game,” has become part of our everyday language as we lighten the mood when talking about a tense youth baseball game.
This book has been out of print for a while, but it’s well worth picking up a used copy.
Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia, Peggy Parish (author), Wallace Tripp (Illustrator)
- listener: 4-7
- reader: 6-8
Amelia Bedelia takes everything literally. This is the only book in the Amelia Bedelia series that has anything to do with baseball. Amelia subs for a sick player but doesn’t yet know how to play. Her confusion as she learns is hilarious. For example, Amelia tags a runner by attaching a tag to his clothes.
Young baseball fans who already know the game can’t help but laugh as Amelia misinterprets basic terms like tags, stealing, stepping into the ball, etc. The book ends in spectacular fashion as Amelia steals all the bases and “runs home.”
- listener: 6-9
- reader: 7-9
Matt Christopher has written over 100 books about sports that target kids and is arguably the most famous American juvenile sports writer. Most of his books (and the ones written in the last decade by ghost authors) target ages 10-15.
The nine-book Peach Street Mudder series targets a younger age. I read several of them to my son for bedtime reading, and he has enjoyed them all, though some more than others. While these all involve baseball, the stories always have emotional intensity and characters who grow, as they experience difficult situations.
His favorite two books from the Peach Street Mudder series are Centerfield Ballhawk and The Hit-Away Kid. I also read to my son some of Matt Christopher’s other baseball books targeted at older kids. He liked some of them, such as Stealing Home (my personal favorite), but he didn’t enjoy some of the books at first as the themes were intended for an older audience. He is liking some of those other books better as he gets older. The Peach Street Mudder books, however, were perfect when he was 6-9 years old.
The Toilet Paper Tigers, by Gordon Korman (author)
- listener: 5-10
- reader: 8-10
This is currently my son’s favorite book. We didn’t come across this book until my son was 9 but I’m sure he would have loved it not long after he had a thorough understanding of baseball.
What happens if a girl with a “New York City attitude” takes charge of a small town Texas Little League team that happens to be the worst in the league? Well, for one thing, she won’t take no for an answer. And she certainly won’t accept a winless season.
Behind this completely ridiculous, hilarious story, there’s a life lesson about finding ways for an individual to contribute to their team—even if that individual starts out performing very poorly. A great boss can bring out the best in each of us.
Be prepared for a gentle introduction to particle physics. After the second time through my son was asking me detailed questions about leptons and other subatomic particles. To be honest, I didn’t know all the answers. If you happen to be a physicist with a child who loves baseball, this is an absolutely perfect book for your family . . . but your kid will love it even if you don’t know anything about particle physics, or even baseball.
Diamond Life: Baseball Sights, Sounds, and Swings, Charles R. Smith (author)
- listener: 5+
- reader: 8+
This poetic approach to baseball manages to evoke the game in ways that I’ve never seen with mere prose. If you’re reading it to your kid, it helps to read it with the expression implied by the poetry. For example, “B-I-N-G-O” is a poem that mimics excessive coach chatter, so I put on an exaggerated coach game chatter voice, speaking very fast and very loud. “To The Moon” has a bunch of different baseball players bragging about how far they hit the ball, so I use a different voice for each one, ending with a deep, booming voice.
My son doesn’t like all poems equally, as there are 2-3 poems my son usually wants me to skip. But it ends on a favorite, with “Excuses, Excuses.” The words in this last poem convey information by the way they are printed.
The wide range of poetic styles, the beautiful pictures, and the deep passion for baseball these poems evoke all combine into a book that any baseball-loving kid will enjoy.
- listener 8+
- reader 9+
Dan Gutman is the only author to appear twice on this list. This entry is for his Baseball Card Adventure stories, which begin with Honus and Me, then follows up with Jackie and Me. The second book is my son’s favorite book about Jackie Robinson. You feel as if you’re really there and really experiencing the discrimination, as opposed to talking about it abstractly like many books do. The same could be said of any of the other books but it was particularly effective with Jackie and Me and Satch and Me.
The books get gradually more intense, with more exposure to explicit violence and heavy themes, so we skipped Abner and Me and then stopped at Satch and Me. Abner and Me goes into gory detail in a civil war battle, so we’ll wait on that one. As I already said, the books make you feel as if you’re really there.
More than a year after reading these books, we still talk about the Jackie, Honus, and Satch books but none of the others. My son has not shown any interest in reading the remainder of the series, now that he’s older. I heartily recommend these particular 3 books, but you will have to consider for yourself whether you think some of the others are age-appropriate for your kid.
Sports Illustrated Kids Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball,The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids (authors)
- listener: 6-10
- reader: 9+
My son loves to know who the best baseball players are in every category. We’ve read many books and articles and seen many videos showing greatest this or that. This was one of the best.
As you’d expect from Sports Illustrated, the photography was amazing. It had many of the lists you’d expect such as sluggers, closers, speedsters, and hardest throwers. But this book goes above and beyond the expected with unusual categories such as hit robbers and lineups, as well as entertaining categories such as mascots, facial hair, and ugliest uniforms.
While on the topic of Sports Illustrated, I have to mention their magazine, Sports Illustrated KIDS. My son loves getting mail and he eagerly reads his Sports Illustrated Kids within hours of each issue’s arrival. We also tried the regular Sports Illustrated but he found that boring. Sports Illustrated knows how to tailor content for kids, both with their magazine and their books.
Baseball Now!, Dan Bortolotti (author)
- listener: 5+
- reader: 10+
We own the first edition of Baseball Now, a jumbo-sized paperback book which consists of 2-page profiles of stars from 2005-2008. I was surprised how much my son loved this book as it appears to be aimed at teenagers and up. He went through a phase of wanting to know about all the great players in the major leagues. Even though this is aimed at an older audience, he loved when I would read 3-5 profiles out of the book as part of our bedtime reading when he was 5-7 years old.
Many players profiled in the first edition of this book have retired or are nearing retirement. The second edition, which came out in 2011, is updated to cover players and events through 2010. Be sure to get the second edition so that your kid recognizes more of the players. I have not been able to find any books profiling current players published after this one. We’ll buy the next update of this book if one comes out in the next year or two.
The Young Pitcher, Zane Grey (author)
- listener: 8+
- reader: 12+
Zane Grey was an American author best known for shaping the Western genre. He also wrote some great baseball stories, most of which were targeted for young teens. Some of Grey’s baseball stories were not appealing to my son when I read them to him at the age of 7, as they were clearly intended for an older audience. But he did like a couple of the short stories, and he especially liked The Young Pitcher, a short novel.
I did have to stop and explain a few parts of the plot that were too far out of a 7-year olds’ experience, so perhaps he was a bit too young for The Young Pitcher. After all, the main character, Ken Ward, is a college freshman. However, there was much to like even for a 7 year-old. The potato throwing scene, the rough and tumble action, the baseball games, and the spring training were all very intense and gripping. He was even inspired by this book to start observing hitters and develop pitching plans, given how successfully this was done in the book.
If you own a Kindle, you can download many Zane Grey works for free (such as the link above to The Young Pitcher), though I chose to pay $1.99 for a compilation of all of Zane Grey’s baseball works. My son liked Ken Ward so much that he asked me to read additional books from the Ken Ward series, even though they have nothing to do with baseball. He was therefore introduced to the Western genre with The Young Forester and The Young Lion Hunter.
- listener: 6+
- reader: 10+
Dan Gutman loves baseball as is obvious to anyone who has read any of the Baseball Card Adventure books discussed above. In addition to that series, he wrote the following 3 nonfiction books:
- Baseball’s Greatest Games
- World Series Classics
- Baseball’s Biggest Bloopers: The Games That Got Away
I’ve read the first and second book multiple times to my son for bedtime reading. I placed these three books last on the list as they are as enjoyable for adults as they are for kids.
Author Dan Gutman has a real gift for evoking the excitement of baseball. My son can’t believe that I forget the names of various players from these books, such as Harvey Haddix of the 1959 Pittsburgh Pirates, who threw 12 perfect innings and managed to lose in the thirteenth inning. Or when I forget the name of the guy who hit the “shot heard round the world.”
As I explained last year in a parting speech to the youth baseball team I managed, “what makes baseball so appealing is the stories and special moments. Whether it’s a game ending throw to second, a blast over the fence, a tricky pitch that fools a top hitter, or a dramatic team effort to come back from behind and win—it is these special moments that we remember.” This applies to big league games just as much as little league games, and Dan Gutman does a great job of bringing these moments to life and making them memorable.