Title: Fuzzy Baseball
Author & Illustrator: John Steven Gurney
"Gr 1-3 Gurney, a lifelong baseball enthusiast and the author and illustrator of the storytime favorite Dinosaur Train, serves up his first graphic novel. The Fernwood Valley Fuzzies are taking on their rivals, the Rocky Ridge Red Claws, in this action-packed tale that delivers all the play-by-play of a live game in a classic underdog story. The Fernwood Valley Fuzzies' biggest fan, Blossom Honey Possum, is new to the team this season, and her fresh eyes and keen insight help the Fuzzies develop a strategy for winning the game. The characterization and format are very well done. Early on, the author offers readers clues about whom to root for and who the "bad guys" are on the Red Claws team, and uses the graphic format to help kids better understand baseball. Panels illustrate where players are as they steal bases and the action speeds up. The overall effect is a very clear picture of the game; kids will enjoy the rising action and cheer the underdogs to victory without getting lost in any complicated details. VERDICT For larger collections in need of a title that will appeal to sports and nonsports fans alike."
"Though their roster is full of animals, the Fernwood Valley Fuzzies are a classic underdog team: despite a lot of talent, they have never beaten the Rocky Ridge Red Claws. One fan Honey Blossom Possum is so determined to see her team win that she trains and eventually makes the team. She might be the tiniest team member, but her inimitable spirit is just what the Fuzzies need. Along with the slick play-by-play narrative of the game. Gurney slips in plenty of entertaining extras, such as baseball cards and team photos. Meanwhile, the players' names are all baseball and animal puns, and there's a spread detailing each team's sponsored products Hammy Sosa (a pig) owns a clothing boutique, while Snaps Tortelli (snapping turtle and Red Claws catcher) has a barbed wire company. The scenes are densely packed with detail, and the players rendered in a slightly cartoonish but naturalistic style are richly expressive at every turn. Baseball-loving kids will get a kick out of the action on the field, while burgeoning graphic-novel readers will appreciate the snappy visual storytelling."
"Ages 6-10 Gurney (the A to Z Mysteries series), in his first graphic novel, offers an entertaining play-by-play account of a baseball game between two rival teams, the Fernwood Valley Fuzzies ('These are the good guys!' he notes) and the Rocky Ridge Red Claws. The co-ed teams, whose uniforms echo those of the Dodgers and White Sox in years past, consist of various animals, often with punny names like Hammy Sosa and Sandy Kofox. With the addition of fan turned rookie Blossom Honey Possum, the Fuzzies hope to finally beat the Red Claws. 'What a beautiful day for baseball!' shouts the lizard announcer, only to wail 'What a horrible day for baseball!' a few pages later as Gurney zips to the ninth inning, with the Fuzzies down by three. Gurney's love of the game is apparent, and he fills the pages with visual jokes and other references for fellow fans. It's hard not to see a little Babe Ruth in the Fuzzies' hulking bear of a first baseman/manager, and when the game gets good, fans follow along via radio, television, and even newspaper, which must be doing some very fast reprinting."