Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunshine State Book Reviews 2014-2015: King of the Mound

It's another year and another set of Sunshine State books!  I'm actually pretty excited about this year's line-up.  There seem to be a good mix of genres and I think my kids will really enjoy them.


I've joined up with a couple other teacher's from my county and we're meeting weekly for a Sunshine State Book Club to discuss the different books and ways to incorporate them into our classroom.  The first book I read was King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige by Wes Tooke.

Description from Amazon:

When Nick is released from the hospital after suffering from polio, he is sure that his father will never look at him in the same way again. Once the best pitcher in youth league, Nick now walks with a limp and is dependent on a heavy leg brace. He isn’t sure he will ever return to the mound, never mind be the star he once was.

When Nick starts working for Mr. Churchill, the owner of the semiprofessional team Nick’s dad plays for, he meets Satchel Paige, arguably the best pitcher in the world. Not allowed in the major leagues because of his skin color, Satchel teaches Nick that some things can be overcome with hard work and dedication, and that just because you’re down, you are most certainly not out.

As Satchel and his unique teammates barnstorm toward a national baseball tournament, Nick wonders if he can really overcome what seems like the impossible and pitch again.

I really liked this book!  It showed what life was like during this time period, not only the injustice against African Americans in the United States and baseball, but also how the American people were effected by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  It doesn't come right out and mention these historical moments, so they are something you will probably want to discuss with your class.  I also love that the chapter titles are innings, a wonderful metaphor for Nick's life: top of the eighth, bottom of the ninth, etc.

I would recommend this book for 4th and 5th graders for multiple reasons!  I will read it to my 4th graders aloud because there is just SO much to discuss but your fifth graders can probably understand most of it on their own.  There is tons of fabulous vocabulary, both robust and historical.  There is also an ABUNDANCE of figurative language!  That Satchel Paige is just full of colorful similes and metaphors!  This would be an excellent read aloud during Black History month as well :o)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Grades: 4th - 5th
Lexile: 900
Length: 155 pgs.
Food: Ice Cream, Coke (glass bottle), Sunflower Seeds, Baseball foods (although none of these were actually ever mentioned in the book)

You might or might not remember, but we usually do a Sunshine State Feast at the end of the year for our kids who read all 15 of the books.  Included in the feast are games, scavenger hunts, and a food item from every book.  Hence the food choices above (just in case you want to do the same)!

Supplemental Resources:

This is a short (four minute) video about Satchel Paige and his baseball career.  I love that this video talks about his "mysterious age" and you will hear Satch himself say some of his famous quotes that your kids will find in the book as well!

A great companion picture book is Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead.  They mention this moment, when Satch plays against Joe, a couple of times in King of the Mound but this picture book tells the actual story of what happened at that fateful meeting.
My kids always love the little side stories and want to know more!  This would be a perfect book to introduce the Great Depression, Segregation, and the Dust Bowl.  Again, the author never comes out and mentions these events by name (except for segregation) but the things that are happening to the main and secondary characters are because of these events.  Here are a few resources if your kids would like to know more about them.

BrainPop Great Depression - The Great Depression was a tough time for everyone. Find out just how tough in this BrainPOP movie, as Tim and Moby introduce you to life during the Great Depression! You’ll learn exactly how many Americans were out of work, as well as some of the ways that people tried to make money and survive. You’ll also find out why the Depression was actually good for unions — and why it was especially bad for farmers in the Great Plains. Plus, you’ll see how people tried to keep up hope, and why things eventually started to get a little better. Even the worst of times pass on eventually!

PBS Interactive Dust Bowl - Students will be able to make their own choices one whether they want to stay and risk it all or move away.  They will experience the ups and downs of farming in the 1930's and how the market was at this time.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do and stay tuned for the next Sunshine State Book... 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel / 1 Dog = CHAOS by Steve Bjorkman.


  1. WOW~ Thank you for the great information and I love the video!!!!!

  2. You MUST, MUST get Elvis and the Underdogs. I read it to my kids after reading Wonder and they would NOT let me put it down. It is hilarious! My boys really like Stranded. I haven't read any of the other books, but I need to get on that before the end of summer!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. Awesome! Randomly came across this post and it is so detailed. Thank you for sharing the Sunshine State Books because I am looking for some awesome new books for my classroom library this year... Keep us posted on which ones you really like!