Spitball - the Literary Baseball Magazine

Looking for a new way to promote a book title?
Find out how they do it in France. Visit

June 18, 2018
Heard the news? Split Rock Books
is now open in Cold Spring, NY.
Meet the owners at

June 16, 2018
Take a peek at the 15th annual
FDR Reading Festival, held today
in Hyde Park. Please click:

June 12, 2018 
Purses That Look Like Vintage Books?
Learn more at

June 2, 2018 
and meet a group of boys who read for fun.

May 24, 2018 

Richard W. Peck (4/5/1934 - 5/23/2018)

During his long and productive life, 
Richard Peck won just about every 
award given for middle grade and 
YA fiction. He was the first children's
author to win a National 
Humanities Medal.

Despite his success, Richard made time 
to help aspiring writers. The picture 
above was taken at a Library Association 
of Rockland County luncheon in 2005. 
He graciously accepted a copy of my 
Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me,
but only if I signed it for him.

When the sequel was being released, 
I wrote him a letter, asking for a blurb. 
He phoned a few days later. Describing 
Chief as "a worthy book", he offered to 
read the new one in galleys. I had to 
mail it the next morning, however, 
since he would soon be leaving the 
countryRichard promised to have 
a blurb ready before the book went 
to the printer.

Here are the words that graced the cover:
"You can smell the locker room and see Bill 
Pennant's wildcat 1920s from here in Timothy 
Tocher's Bill Pennant, Babe Ruth, and Me.
This is heart-speeding history at its best, 
moving at the pace of a Locomobile."

I will miss Richard's crisp, humorous writing, 
but I will miss his kindness even more.

May 20, 2018

Rain Fails to Dampen Spirits
at Millbrook Literary Festival

Despite less than ideal conditions,
the 10th annual Millbrook Literary 
Festival drew record crowds. 

Part of the throng gathered to hear 
honorary chair person and keynote speaker
Michael Korda talk about his amazing 48 year
career in publishing. 

Smiles abound among the winners of the 
Young Writers Showcase competition. 
From left to right: the 3 winners in the 8 - 13 
age group, Dutchess County Laureate 
Poet GoldTimothy Tocher, and the three 
teen winners. The aspiring poets received 
gift cards to the Merritt Bookstore. All
entrants had their work published in a
booklet designed and produced by 
Fountain Press.

Actor, storyteller, and author David Neilsen 
(Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom
shares a spooky story with his fans.

Gifted illustrator Steven James Petruccio 
conducts a workshop for future illustrators. 
Below is an image of The Fabled Forest
a 30' X 7' mural Steven created for the 
Orange Regional Medical Center in 
Middletown, NY. It helped the institution 
win recognition as "the most beautiful 
hospital in the U. S." in 2017.

This is just a sample of the programs at 
yesterday's festival. Watch this space for the 
date of next year's FREE and family friendly

April 27, 2018

Millbrook Literary Festival Preview

Thanks to Lonna Kelly for inviting me to be
interviewed on Hudson Valley Art Speak. 
To learn more about the tenth annual
Millbrook Literary Festival on May 19th,
watch the program here.

April 2018         Save the Date - 
10th Annual Millbrook Literary Festival 
      Last Call for Contest Entries
Live in New York's Harlem or Hudson
Valleys? Then awaken your inner 
poet and submit your work for the
Scott Meyer Award or the 
Young Writers Showcase.
Deadline April 15th - Visit 
for details. 

March 1, 2018 Don't Miss the March issue of 
                                Cricket Magazine.

If you do, you won't get to meet the
"Hello Girls", courageous women
who worked near the front lines in
France during the decisive battles
of World War 1.

General Pershing refused to launch an
offensive until a state of the art 
telephone system was in place. Men
lacked the experience and dexterity
to complete calls quickly. Even though 
women were not allowed to enlist,
AT&T was asked to provide their top 
female personnel to serve alongside 
the doughboys.

The women had to be bilingual since
some callers would speak French. From 
more than 1,700 volunteers, 223 were 
chosen. Learn more about their 
adventures in my article, "Number, Please".

This pipe belonged to my grandfather. Notice 
the optimistic phrase "World's War", hinting 
that man would never be foolish enough to 
engage in a second global conflict.

February 12, 2018  ALA Youth Media Awards - Worth the Wait

At 8 AM Mountain Time, the ALA announced 
its Youth Media Awards winners for 2018. 
Usually given in January, followers of children's 
and YA literature had an extra month to make 
their predictions. (In my case it didn't help.) 
Use these great selections to help pass the 
winter days.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding
contribution to children's literature

Click Have You Read? at the top of this
page for a review.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most
distinguished picture book for children
Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in 
literature written for young adults

New York's Hudson Valley (my home team)
is well represented by James Ransome, who 
won Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honors for 
a book written by his wife, Lesa Cline-Ransome.

For a full list of winners, visit the ALA website:

January 4, 2018
Thanks to Two Lions for including 
Odd Ball: Hilarious, Unusual, and 
Bizarre Baseball Moments in the 
free e-books offered by Worldreader
to children in India and many 
Sub-Saharan countries.

Students in these underserved schools use 
Kindles to explore books from around the 
globe. Worldreader's motto is:

Visit www.worldreader.org to learn more.

December 28, 2017   Respectfully Submitted

        Sue Grafton 4/24/1940 - 12/28/2017

There's sorrow in Santa Teresa.
Rosie's is draped in black.
A tear rolls down old Henry's cheek -
dear Kinsey will not be back.

Bread and butter pickles,
a crunchy peanut spread,
an inexpensive bottle of wine,
a loaf of whole grain bread.
These are the forlorn items
that sum up Kinsey's taste.
Slather mayo on your eggs -
let nothing go to waste.

Please lift a glass to Kinsey,
our unassuming hero.
As of December of seventeen,
Z will stand for Zero.

December 19, 2017   

Shopping for children's books as holiday 
gifts left me reflecting on some of the titles 
I enjoyedback in the 1950s. I seem to have 
been drawn to books that could be 
manipulated in some way. 

This version of
Pinocchio by Marion Merrill
(The Citadel Press, 1945) featured pull tabs to 
"animate" the illustrations. 

The Jolly Jump-Ups See the Circus
(McLoughlin Bros., 1944)
does not credit its author. 

The generic story line is more than 
compensated for by the colorful 
pop-ups that greet the reader 
with each page turn.

Sometimes only the cover featured motion 
as in The Merry Train designed by Vic Havel
(James & Jonathan Company, 1949).

This 1950 pop-up version of Rudolph
the red-nosed reindeer by Robert L. May
(Maxton Publishers, Inc.) is especially worn.
Rudy took a beating with the excitement of
the holiday season leading to many an 
over enthusiastic page turn.

While the craftsmanship can't compare to 
the creations of Robert Sabuda, these 
vintage books provided hours of fun.

November 15, 2017

National Book Award Winners Announced

(From left to right)
Young People's Literature
Robin Benway   Far From the Tree
Masha Gessen  The Future is History
Jesmyn Ward   Sing, Unburied, Sing 
Frank Bidart   Half-Light: Collected Poems                   

New York City's Cipriani was the venue for this year's 
National Book Awards ceremony. Fifteen of the twenty
finalists were women, and the ratio held true when the 
winners were announced. Click on Have You Read at the
top of this page for a review of Far From the Tree. 
Jesmyn Ward is now a two time winner. Her harrowing
Sing, Unburied, Sing will stay with you long after you 
close the book.

October 24, 2017  Before There Were Rings

In the early days of the World Series, 
members of the winning team were
given pins. Seen above is the one
awarded to the 1919 Cincinnati Reds.
One of these recently sold at auction 
for $85,000.

The Boston Red Sox won the 1918 
World Series. Their pins were 
manufactured, but never distributed
to the players. At that time, the players'
share of the Fall Classic money was 
based on attendance for the first 4 
games. Poor weather and other 
factors resulted in small crowds.

The stands were packed for game
5 at Fenway Park in Boston. Babe Ruth
and his Bosox teammates were 
angry that not a dime of the proceeds
would come their way. They 
threatened to strike unless American 
League Commissioner Ban Johnson 
gave them a piece of the pie.

The game started an hour late after
Johnson ordered the Boston nine to 
take the field or risk banishment. He 
promised there would be no 
repercussions. When the Series 
ended, he refused to award the pins.

No one knows what happened to the
pins. Imagine the value if one of 
these rarities turned up today.
That is the premise for my latest
short story, "The Ultimate Collectible."
Check out the Fall 2017 issue of Spitball, 
the Literary Baseball Magazine for a 
fictional look at the volatile 
memorabilia marketplace.

October 14, 2017 Fifth Annual Chappaqua Children's
                                Book Festival

Inside one of the three main tents with 
Jennifer Berne, Gary Golio, Susanna 
Reich and many other authors.

Thanks to all who stopped at my table -
great conversations with avid readers
and their families. The grounds of Bell 
Middle School were packed for the entire
day. Costumed characters, arts and crafts,
live music, delicious food, and DJ led 
dancing added to the fun. 

Inflatable miniature golf - Who knew?

October 9, 2017      National Book Award Finalists

Pictured above are the 20 finalists for the 
2017 National Book Awards - 5 books in 
each of 4 categories: Fiction, Nonfiction,
Poetry, and Young People's Literature.
For the 7th straight year, I will review 
the 5 finalists in Young People's 
Literature and predict a winner.
(I apologize in advance to the author
of the book I select, since I have been
wrong each time.) Click on the 
Have You Read? link above to read 
the reviews. Winners will be 
announced on November 15th.

October 2017

Chappaqua Children's Book Festival -
Saturday, October 14th

More than 90 authors and illustrators 
running the gamut from board books
to cutting edge YA will be on the 
grounds of Bell Middle School.
Throw live music, games, readings,
and the Great American Bake Sale
into the mix and the result is an event
not to be missed. For more information,

September 14  2017 Magazine Merit Award for Fiction

The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
(SCBWI) announced today that my story, 
"The Return of Sal Caputo", published in the 
May/June 2016 issue of Cricket Magazine was
awarded their top prize. It is an honor to be 
recognized a second time (April 2002 -
"Sgt. Monday and the Enchanted Kingdom Police)
by my fellow writers.

September 2017
Who Makes the Rules???

Check out the September issue of ASK 
(Arts and Sciences for Kids) from the 
Cricket Magazine Group and find out.

My latest publication is an article
on basketball great George Mikan, 
the first "big man" to become a 
star. George's success motivated 
the NCAA and the NBA to change 
the rules of the game. He still led
DePaul to a national championship
and won 6 titles in 9 years as a pro.

August  2017   Books Are .....

New Yorker cartoonist and 
best selling author Roz Chast 
created the poster for the 17th
annual National Book Festival
scheduled for Saturday, 

Click on the image below and see if Roz
thought of all the things "Books Are ...".
Learn more about the event and view the 
16 previous posters at

Can't make it to D. C.? Tune to Book TV
on CSPAN 2 for a full day of coverage.

July 29, 2017 
United States Senator Al Franken Visits New Jersey

Senator Franken was at Books & Greetings
in Northvale, New Jersey, to sign copies
of Al Franken - Giant of the Senate. This 
NY Times bestseller tells the story of how 
he transitioned from a comedy writer
to a legislator without losing his sense 
of humor. Great visit!

July 2017  The Seashore Book is back in print

                the new edition

                                     the original 

With the steady stream of quality new books 
that flood each publishing season, it is easy 
to forget the classics. Congratulations to
Charlesbridge for bringing back this 
high water mark in summer books
on the 25th anniversary of its original

The late Charlotte Zolotow captures every
nuance of a windswept ocean front with 
her lyrical prose. Illustrator Wendell Minor
brings her descriptions to life in vivid 

WARNING! Reading this picture book
may cause an overwhelming compulsion
to jump into the car and drive to the 
nearest shore point.

June 28, 2017 Wharton on Wednesday
                           returns to The Mount

If you find yourself in the Berkshires on a 
Wednesday in July or August, plan a late 
afternoon stop at Edith Wharton's home, 
The Mount, in Lenox, MA. Relax on the 
2nd floor terrace while an actress 
reads one of Wharton's delightfully 
satiric short stories. The fun
begins at 5:00. For details, visit:

Actress Shea Kelly led off the season 
by reading "April Showers" as well 
as selected letters from Wharton 
to a favorite aunt.

June 22, 2017                
George Grant Mason School Writing Contest

Congratulations to all who entered the 15th annual writing
contest at the George Grant Mason school in Tuxedo, NY. 
Your poems, stories, and essays were great fun to read. 
Pictured above are the 10 lucky winners who earned 
gift cards to Barnes & Noble. A special thank you to
teacher Nancy Donnelly for arranging my visit and to
the PTA for providing the awards.

June 6, 2017      John Grisham - On the Road Again

For the first time in 25 years, John Grisham is 
on a book tour. His first stop was the Paramus,
NJ, Barnes and Noble to mark the publication
of his latest novel, Camino Island.

After signing books, Grisham engaged in a panel discussion 
with best selling New Jersey authors Harlan Coben (Home)
and Christina Baker Kline (The Orphan Train). A Q&A session
capped an enjoyable evening.

Don't Miss Books NJ 2017
Please stop at my table for a free poem and good conversation. 

Robin Cook - author of 34 NY Times bestsellers
Chris Grabenstein - children's favorite and 
co-author of James Paterson,
plus 80 more authors and illustrators
Scenes from the 9th annual
Millbrook Literary Festival

Best selling author Min Jin Lee (Pachinko)
Pachinko is  a finalist for the 2017
National Book Award for Fiction.

YA panelists (l. to rt.) Tara Altebrando,
Maria Andreu, and Meg Kearney

Picture book reading station

Scott Meyer Award essay contest finalists:
(l. to rt.) presenter Karen Orloff
winner Leanne Sowul
runners up Joe Stefani and Eric Trump

This is just a small sample of the day's activities. Watch
this space for news about next year's event.

May 2017 Meet Cutting Edge YA Authors at the 
Millbrook Literary Festival - Sat. May 20th

Tara Altebrando is the author of several YA and middle
grade novels. The Leaving extends the headlines as a 
mysterious group experiments with a highly unusual
method for lessening the trauma of a school shooting.
Find a review by clicking Have You Read? above.

Award winning poet Meg Kearney has crafted a YA trilogy of novels in verse, tracing the adolescence of Liz McLane, an adoptee plagued by questions about her unknown birth mother. For a review of When You Never Said Goodbye, click Have You Read? at the upper left of this page. 

Maria Andreu earned U. S. citizenship thanks to 
legislation passed in the 1980s. M. T., the teen
protagonist of The Secret Side of Empty, has no
legal recourse in her quest. Popular, attractive,
and a gifted student, how can M. T. work or 
attend college without drawing attention to her
undocumented status? A review is posted at 
Have You Read?.

A panel discussion with these three intriguing
authors is just one of the many exciting events 
at the 9th annual Millbrook Literary Festival.
If you will be in New York's Hudson River
Valley on Saturday, May 20th, don't miss 
this all-day, free event. For details and a 
full schedule click:

May 2017    Traces of "Genius" in Princeton

The National Geographic Channel is airing a ten
part drama series entitled "Genius" with a new
episode every Tuesday night at 9. Based on the 
award winning book Einstein: His Life and Universe
by Walter Isaacson and directed by Ron Howard,
this excellent program reveals the man as well as
the scientist.

Einstein was a Princeton professor from 1933 
until his death in 1955. It is easy to sense his 
presence there even today. Pictured below is
the house on Mercer Street where he lived. 
It is a private residence, but the view from the 
street is free. 

On nearby Nassau Street, a corner of the Landau 
woolens store displays photographs and letters.
The knowledgable staff is eager to share information
about the eminent professor.

Once your appetite is whetted, you will want to learn more.
Labyrinth Books offers many books on Einstein - a small part
of their great collection of new and used volumes in all genres.

All these sites and more are within easy walking
distance of the Princeton University campus.

April 30, 2017  Warwick Literary Festival

Thanks to everyone who stopped at my table.
It was great fun to end poetry month by 
sharing my poems with enthusiastic readers. 
The staff at the Albert Wisner Public Library 
(#1 small library in the U. S. A.!)
made the day run smoothly. 

April 14, 2017           Found Poetry

A fun way to observe Poetry Month is to use 
your book shelves to create "found poetry".
I took titles from my baseball library to
create the poem seen above. Ignore the 
authors and publishers, read the spines 
from top to bottom, and you have a verse 
about the early days of the sport.

    The summer of beer and whiskey
    at the old ballgame:
    line drives,
    painting the corners,
    stealing games -
    a game of brawl.

If any of the titles interest you, 
books by (from top to bottom)
Edward Achorn, Jeff Silverman,
Brooke Horvath and Tom Wiles, 
Bob Weintraub, Maury Klein, and 
Bill Felber are reviewed here -
on the Talking Baseball page.

March 25, 2017 Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett

Triangle - the first book in a trilogy by award winning author
Mac Barnett and Caldecott winning author/illustrator
Jon Klassen

An enthusiastic crowd of children and adults
gather at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY.

Jon Klassen shares their co-creation, Caldecott honor book,
Extra Yarn.

Mac Barnett offers a dramatic reading of 
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

Mac serves as a living easel while Jon 
infuses a dog with personality.

This was one of the most entertaining book presentations
I have ever attended. Jon and Mac are born comedians
who know how to relate to kids. 

March 11, 2017     TAKING A STAND IN HISTORY - 
                               National History Day 2017

Students, parents, teachers, and judges were on the campus 
of St. Thomas Aquinas College on Saturday morning for the 
Hudson Valley regional Natural History Day competition

This fantastic model of President Lincoln's box 
at Fords Theater was part of an exhibit on
John Wilkes Booth. 

A middle grade artist's imaginative display on Jackson Pollack
showed the creative flair of the master himself. Notice the 
genuine paint gallons. They are covered by a q & a between 
Pollack and a critic. 

The photos are from the "Junior Individual Exhibits" 
competition for which I served as one of the judges.
Other divisions include: Senior Exhibits (both team 
and individual), Web sites, Documentaries, Historical
Papers, and Performances.

Creators of the most highly rated projects advance to 
the NY State finals in Cooperstown on April 24th. Winners
there travel to College Park, Maryland for the National Finals
in mid June.

February 22, 2017

Issue #79 of Spitball Magazine featuring original
stories, poems, book reviews, and a great
Mike Piazza cover has just been released. It
includes a poem I wrote the morning after
game 7 of the World Series. Go Cubs!


One hundred eight stitches on a baseball -
One for each year since the Cubs last won the title.
Each season a wound,
Each stitch a suture.
Victory at last!
The gash heals without a scar.
One hundred eight days till pitchers and catchers.


February 3, 2017             From the Family Archives

Arthur Tocher, the boy standing at left in the photograph, 
loved machines. In 1932, at age 12, he wrote the book 
review seen below. The review and photograph appeared 
in the February 1933 issue of Young Wings magazine, 
a publication of the Junior Literary Guild, designed to 
encourage children to read and write. 

His review is for Behemoth: The Story of Power by Eric Hodgins
 and F. Alexander Magoun, published by the Junior Literary Guild 
in 1932 and, through the magic of the internet, still available today. 

My sister, Bonnie Tocher Clause, author of 
Edward Hopper in Vermont 
(University Press of New England, 2012), 
discovered the photograph and 
review and tracked down the book on line.
Thanks, Bonnie for providing such a warm 
reminder of our dad.

Kudos to the people who provide outlets 
for young writers, to persistent researchers 
like Bonnie, and to the wonderful souls 
who preserve old books.

January 23, 2017   Congratulations to the 2017 Newbery 
                             and Caldecott Award Winners!

Kelly Barnhill captures the Newbery for The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Javaka Steptoe is awarded the Caldecott Medal for
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michael Basquiat.

For a complete list of all the Youth Media Awards visit 

January 13, 2017                                 Help Wanted Revisited

Many thanks to Allie Esiri, England's "Poetry Powerhouse", 
for including "Help Wantedin her latest collection from 
Macmillan Children's Books, A Poem for Every Night of the Year
This great collection features Wordsworth, Longfellow, Shakespeare, 
A. A. Milne, Yeats, Frost, and dozens of other iconic poets.


Students at Veterans Memorial Elementary School
in CT posted a video of the most popular of my 
Christmas poems, HELP WANTED. Click the link to
enjoy their creativity:

Books for Breakfast - What a great idea!

This contented group of authors has just 
enjoyed a pancake breakfast and book
signing at the Clear Run Elementary Center
in Tobyhanna, PA.

Award winning picture book and YA author
Alison Ashley Fermento talks with enthusiastic

Thanks to principal Heidi Donahue and the 
many volunteers who made this wonderful
event possible.

Subpages (2): Have You Read? summer 2018