Friday, September 19, 2014

Beautiful Book #15

Casey at the Bat by Earnest L. Thayer, illustrated by Christopher Bing. Handprint Books, 2000. Caldecott Honor Book, 2001.

As a book and baseball lover, I am wholly enamoured with this picture book. Bing imagines Thayer's well-known poem as a newspaper scrapbook, which is in keeping with the history of the poem; it was first published in the San Francisco Examiner in June of 1888. Bing's pen and ink illustrations in the style of aged newspaper engravings are gorgeous and visually balanced, but it's the scrapbook ephemera--vintage baseball cards, ticket stubs, newspaper clippings and the like--that create perfection and that also demand a nod to book designer, Todd Sutherland. A reader can spend hours mulling over the ephemera, learning no end of interesting bits and bobs about the history of baseball and the history of newspaper engraving art. As a bonus, readers can spot noted historian Henry Louis Gates' cameo as catcher and track down the names of Bing's friends and mentors who are listed as the engravers for each illustration. The book is a testament to what picture books can be and once you've spent an hour with it, you'll want another hit of its brand of sophistication.

Here's an interesting Publisher's Weekly article about the book and about Bing from the year it was published.

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