From School Library Journal
Grade 2–5—It is 1899, and Griffith, Ruby, and Graham Payne have just buried their father. Now they and their mother are hitting the road with the Travelin' Nine, a barnstorming team of baseball players made up of veterans from the Spanish-American War's "Rough Riders" with whom their father used to play. Their Uncle Owen has entrusted them with a baseball that their dad owned. They know only that it has some kind of power when all three of the children touch it. In this first book in the series, the Travelin' Nine has arrived in Cincinnati to challenge the local team. During the game, strange things happen, and the children are at a loss to understand why. Nothing is explained, and the story ends with the siblings and the team preparing to board a steamboat that will take them to Louisville for the next matchup. There is no question that both Long and Bildner love baseball (the pictures of both author and illustrator in the back of the book in vintage uniforms leave little doubt). The level of historical detail is admirable, and Long's dreamy, black-and-white illustrations are breathtaking. Unfortunately, history and distinguished art cannot make up for the lack of an engaging story line: two-dimensional characters and a weak plot make this chapter book fall flat. If the subsequent "Games" can pick up the pace and flesh out the characters more fully, the series has potential to appeal to fans of Mary Pope Osborne's "Magic Tree House" series (Random) and other historical fantasy.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
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It's 1899, and the Travelin' Nine go to Cincinnati to play ball, hoping to raise some money. Young siblings Griffith, Ruby, and Graham treasure a tattered baseball with a mysterious hole in it. There are lots of mysteries: why Uncle Owen is in a wheelchair; why their mother is called "Guy" and pins up her hair when she plays catcher, their dad's old position; why trains and fog appear on the field, visible to the barnstormers but invisible to the other team. Old-timey baseball lore and phrases fill the margins, the prose is atmospheric, and Long's soft-edged, period illustrations fit the misty mood. Any true resolution or clarity, however, must await Game 2. GraceAnne DeCandido
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