Baseball is a game of fine points and grand gestures, small blunders and bold accomplishments--the hook slide into second, the humble bunt, the unexpected wild pitch, the bases-loaded home run. Poet and baseball fan Marjorie Maddox pays tribute to these and other details that make the national pastime an enduring and engaging sport for players and fans alike. Surprising wordplay and striking images offer a unique perspective of this classic American game.
"[T]his is indeed a rare treat. ... Sandford’s charcoal pencil drawings...impart a classy timelessness to the book that’s a nice match to its subject. For the right reader, this could be an eye-opening glimpse of poetry doing what prose cannot." —Booklist
"[Maddox’s] carefully constructed word pictures offer dramatic snapshots of infield flies and collisions between fielders, sacrifice bunts, balks and pitch-outs, stolen bases, and grand slams. ... Compact yet full of meaning, these selections offer glimpses of the game's pleasures and poignant moments. Sandford's black-and-white pencil drawings add to the drama, focusing viewers' attention on the gangly pitcher's calculating gaze or the single-minded pursuit of the pony-tailed infielder. Maddox's whimsical wordplay will be savored by casual sports fans and hardcore baseball addicts alike."
—School Library Journal
The overlap between poetry readers and baseball fans at this age range may be small, but for those in the middle of that particular Venn diagram, this is indeed a rare treat. Which isn't to say others won't gain something from this book. Sports fans will find themselves nodding in recognition of Maddox's sophisticated grasp of the game's intricacies, while language mavens will appreciate her joyous wordplay and dead-eye command of poetic devices, even if they don't quite catch all of the allusions. A knuckleball becomes "that pigeon / flapping awkwardly / out the barn door of a hand" and a line drive "a sharp swing of invisible string on which the ball careens." Some of the best lines are the simplest: a sacrifice bunt "kills it with a tap. Sandford's charcoal pencil drawings, backed by sepia-toned pages, may not exactly grab readers' eyes, but they impart a classy timelessness to the book that's a nice match to its subject. For the right reader, this could be an eye-opening glimpse of poetry doing what prose cannot.
- Ian Chipman, Booklist
Clever, non-rhyming verse fills Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems, by Marjorie Maddox and illustrated in gray-toned pencil drawings by John Sandford (Wordsong; 32 pages; $16.95; ages 11-14). Maddox, who is the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the man who broke the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, deconstructs the game and writes short poems about each element, including "The Pitch," "The Strike Zone," "The Sweet Spot," "Balk," "Walk," "Relief Pitcher," "Grounder," "Grand Slam," etc. Elliptical and spare, her poems probe the essence of a move and describes it, as in "The Sacrifice Bunt": "Here humility makes the hero,/ squaring off to fail his own trail to the base./ He entices the ball with his bat,/ kills it with a tap,/ shoves the coveted corpse to the dirt." —Regan McMahon, San Francisco Chronicle