Skip to main content

Barnstormers: Tales of the Travelin' Nine - Game 1


Barnstormers: Tales of the Travelin' Nine - Game 1

Loren Long, New York Times bestselling illustrator (for The Little Engine that Could), and Phil Bildner, Texas Bluebonnet Award-winning author (for Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy), have teamed up to produce the visually stunning BARNSTORMERS: TALES OF THE TRAVELIN’ NINE - Game 1.

Written for children ages 7-10, BARNSTORMERS is a supernatural mystery set in the Midwest in 1899, and includes reader-friendly touches of American history and baseball trivia.

Each chapter begins with Long’s clever illustrations of baseball players forming the first letter of each first word. In the margins of selected pages, Bildner includes easy-to-understand historic definitions of baseball terms that have changed over time. Early on, Bildner provides the meaning of the word barnstormers as “a team that tours an area playing exhibition games for moneymaking entertainment.”

Game 1 introduces the Payne children --- Griffith, Ruby and Graham --- and the magic baseball left to them by their father, who died in the Spanish-American War. Griffith, the oldest, looks out for his brother and sister while safeguarding the baseball, which was given to him by his Uncle Owen at his dad’s funeral. Auburn-haired Ruby, the middle child, is sensitive and observant and determined to find out the secret Uncle Owen told Griffith. Graham, the youngest, is fearless and refuses to back down from bullies, no matter how big they are. The children’s mother, Elizabeth, has “the darkest brown eyes on either side of the Mississippi or Mason-Dixon” and takes over after their father’s death --- in more ways than one.

After their father’s funeral, the Payne family accompanies the Travelin’ Nine --- who call themselves Roosevelt's Rough Riders --- as they barnstorm across the United States. All the players, except for the replacement catcher Guy, are soldiers who served with the children's father during the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt's Rough Riders are barnstorming, not only for pride and for love of the game, but also to help pay off the Payne family’s staggering debt.

Game 1 takes place on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, the “Queen City of the West.” To the locals, Ohio is called “Porkopolis” because it’s the “pork-packing capital of the world.” In Game 1, Roosevelt's Rough Riders challenge the Queen City’s finest --- the Cincinnati Swine. The stakes of the game are high, as the winning team receives all the money from ticket sales while the losing squad goes home empty-handed.

Shortly after Roosevelt’s Rough Riders “ballists” take the field, mysterious things start happening. A presence has arrived, and Griffith remembers what Uncle Owen told him about the “great danger” they will face. Powerless to stop the menacing presence, Griffith and Ruby do their best to understand it. But whatever danger awaits them, Griffith, Ruby and Graham vow to be together --- always.

Like a rain-delayed ballgame, the conclusion of Game 1 left me wanting more. The schedule at the end of Game 1 promises that Game 2 will continue on to Louisville, Kentucky. I certainly hope that’s true because I’d like to learn more about the Travelin’ Nine, the mysterious baseball, and the dangers Griffith, Ruby and Graham must overcome.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on February 24, 2009

Barnstormers: Tales of the Travelin' Nine - Game 1
by Loren Long and Phil Bildner

  • Publication Date: February 24, 2009
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1416918841
  • ISBN-13: 9781416918844