Homers, life lessons and history await in baseball books

Young baseball fans can hang on every pitch, learn some tough life lessons and travel back in time to soak up the sport's history with several new children's books this season:

"Barnstormers, Game 3" (Simon & Schuster, $10.99, ages 7-10) by Phil Bildner and illustrated by Loren Long.

The third in the popular serial has the barnstorming Travelin' Nine and their young benefactors, Griffith, Ruby and Graham Payne, training it to Chicago with evil henchmen on their trail as the team crisscrosses 1890s America. With Long's dreamlike pen-and-ink illustrations and Bildner's generous use of period baseball lingo, the Paynes must keep their magic ball safe as they continue their quest to pay off their family's whopping debt.

"Six Innings" (Feiwel and Friends, $16.95, ages 9-14) by James Preller.

It's Earl Grubb's Pool Supplies vs. Northeast Gas & Electric for the big championship Little League matchup that offers young baseball fans lots of play-by-play action and a poignant test of friendship between two boys — one healthy, one battling cancer. The book was inspired by Preller's own experiences as a Little League coach and player, and his son's battle with leukemia.

"Swinging for the Fences: Hank Aaron and Me" (Chronicle Books, $15.99, ages 7-12) by Mike Leonetti and illustrated by David Kim.

Inspired by Hammerin' Hank Aaron, the former home run king, Mark defies his coach's command to go for a base hit and reaches for a homer with disastrous results for the Tigers. Mark's dad takes him to a Braves game and the boy gets to meet his hero. Aaron has some sound advice on teamwork for the homer-happy Mark.

"Smithsonian Baseball Treasures" (Collins, $16.99, ages 4-8) by Stephen Wong and illustrated by Susan Einstein.

Wong is a baseball collector and historian extraordinaire known for his top-selling adult book, "Smithsonian Baseball: Inside the World's Finest Private Collections." This time around, he takes young fans on a tour of the sport's rarest finds with the help of Einstein's archival eye for photographs and other artifacts. There's a kid-friendly explanation of the rarest baseball card, World Series memorabilia dating to the first fall classic, in 1903, a look at jerseys worn by Jackie Robinson and Joe DiMaggio, and bats used by Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

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