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Rebecca Sheir - The Great Ball Game

Rebecca Sheir shares THE GREAT BALL GAME, a classic folktale originating from the Cherokee, Creek, Ojibway and Menominee people of North America, adapted for a contemporary audience by the host of the Circle Round podcast.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

The Great Ball Game: How Bat Settles the Rivalry Between the Animals and the Birds; A Circle Round Book by Rebecca Sheir; illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

Page length: 44 pages.

Recommended age range: ages 5 and up.


The Great Ball Game, a classic folktale originating from the Cherokee, Creek, Ojibway and Menominee people of North America, is adapted for a contemporary audience by Rebecca Sheir, host of the award-winning Circle Round podcast, and accompanied by the vibrant illustrations of Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, an Ojibwe Woodland artist. A dispute between the animals and the birds over who is best leads to a ball game challenge. When the game is disrupted by the arrival of a tiny creature named Bat, who doesn't seem to fit on either team, all the participants learn the value of diversity and celebrating those who seem "different." The accompanying activities and prompts encourage children to develop their own storytelling skills.

NOTABLE QUOTES

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FULL TRANSCRIPT:


[0:04] Introduction


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.


I am a teacher, a librarian, and a fan of kids. YOU are my favorite kind of people.


This is a podcast all about exploring big ideas in children’s books and the way that stories can help us feel seen, understood, and valued.


Helping me out on today’s episode is my Squish, Julia. Ready, Jules?


Julia: Hi! My name is Julia. I’m 7 years old and I’m from Maryland.


Today on the Children’s Book Podcast, Rebecca Sheir talks about The Great Ball Game.


Rebecca Sheir is the host, writer, and co-producer of "Circle Round", WBUR's storytelling podcast for kids and the grown-ups they love.


Matthew: The Great Ball Game: How Bat Settles the Rivalry Between the Animals and the Birds; A Circle Round Book by Rebecca Sheir; illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

“The Great Ball Game, a classic folktale originating from the Cherokee, Creek, Ojibway and Menominee people of North America, is adapted for a contemporary audience by Rebecca Sheir, host of the award-winning Circle Round podcast, and accompanied by the vibrant illustrations of Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, an Ojibwe Woodland artist.


A dispute between the animals and the birds over who is best leads to a ball game challenge. When the game is disrupted by the arrival of a tiny creature named Bat, who doesn't seem to fit on either team, all the participants learn the value of diversity and celebrating those who seem "different." The accompanying activities and prompts encourage children to develop their own storytelling skills.”



[2:12] Meet Our Guest: Rebecca Sheir


Rebecca: Hi, I'm Rebecca Sheir. I'm the host and writer of WBUR’s Circle Round Storytelling Podcast, and I'm the author of the book, The Great Ballgame.


Matthew: Quick confession: I am a really big fan of the Circle Round podcast. I think you will be, too, if you haven’t heard it yet. I’ll make sure I include a link in the show notes for you to check out later.

The book we’re talking about today is actually based off of one of their episodes.



[2:37] What kind of reader did you have in mind when you wrote this book?


Matthew: I asked Rebecca what types of readers she had on her mind as she wrote The Great Ball Game and, not surprisingly, it comes back to the kids from all over the world who tune in to Circle Round.


Rebecca: We've heard from so many listeners around the world, and at this point we're downloaded in over 160 countries. We get voice memos. Some of them sent pictures or cards or notes, but mostly it's voice memos. So I hear their voices.


And so it's usually the most recent child that I received a memo from. I think about them, I think about Leo in Nova Scotia or Patel in India.

And I'm always thinking about my own son, who is six years old and who craves a good story. He's listened to each Circle Round episode, I don't know, 185 times, all 185 episodes.


So I do try to think of a bunch of different children. So I'm not just writing for one person because our listeners physically, literally span the globe.



[3:36] Blessed By a Librarian


Matthew: Do you know the, the, the story of The Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy? One of the questions is, “Who is the most important person?” And the answer is, “The person you're with right now.” And I see you modeling that with the most important person is that, that… not the most important person, but the child you're thinking of is the one who you've seen most recently.


I love. Absolutely. Keep on with that. You're, that's a good barometer to follow if you needed a librarian to bless you today. You got it.


Rebecca: I've never been blessed by a librarian before.


Matthew: Thank you. Uh, well, I'm, I'm glad to be offering this service. I'll let the ALA know.


Matthew: Well, listeners! Now you’ve caught me being silly. Ha! When I said “I’ll let the ALA know” a moment ago, I was referring to the American Library Association, or ALA. Little library joke, there.



[4:23] What is a Folktale?


Matthew: Okay. Getting back to The Great Ball Game, this story as well as every story told on Circle Round, is a folktale. I’m not sure you’ve run across that word yet.


Julia? Do you know what the word “folktale” means? What kinds of stories are considered folktales?


Julia: Like a story? Um… it’s like a book about something. It’s a very old story told from person to person.


Matthew: Here’s Rebecca again with her description of a folktale.


Rebecca: A folktale is a traditional story or legend that originates among a folk, among a people. And folktales have been around for a long time, many, many, many generations, and they're part of the oral tradition, O-R-A-L and A-U-R-A-L tradition.


They've been passed down by speaking, and hearing, and not only are they just great stories full of surprise and adventure and suspense and humor, but sometimes they're used to explain a natural phenomenon in the world that perhaps people back then didn't understand. Why is the ocean salty? Why don't cats and dogs get along? Why do skunks have a weird smell when they spray? Where does thunder and lightning come from? There have been folktales written about all of these things.


Folktales also tend to impart a moral, some sort of lesson to teach the listener how to be a better person and how to make the world a better place.



[5:56] the Story of the Great Ball Game


Matthew: As much as Rebecca loves sharing folktales with readers and with listeners, she’s not sharing them from memory. A lot of research goes into her writing.


Rebecca: I spend a lot of time at a magical, mystical place called the Library, Um, . I do so much research. I should have a PhD in folklore at this point.

I'm constantly pouring through picture books of folk tales that were made last year and anthologies of folk tales that were collected and published in 1882. Love, love, love finding as many folk tales as I can and as many versions of a folktale.


So I believe with the great ballgame, I think I found a Cherokee version. Through research. I then found a retelling by the Creek people, and then another one by Ojibwe, then another one by the Menominee people. It's been told among many Indigenous peoples of North America.


And I read through all of them over and over and over. And thought, “What can I do to make this really pop for a modern audience while staying true and respectful, of course, to the source material?” And what we came up with was very similar premise to the original source material


Way, way back when the world was young, before humans roamed the earth, there were the birds and the animals. And they were arguing about which side was better. And they decide to have a great ball game to decide once and for all who is better. But then this seemingly odd creature shows up. No one's ever seen him before.

His name is Bat. And he wants to know which team he can join. The animals say, “Well, of course you can't join our team. You have wings.” And the birds say, “But he can't join our team. He's got fur and teeth.”


And without giving away what happens next, many adventures ensue. And, most importantly, many valuable lessons are imparted about the importance of embracing individuals who are different, about embracing diversity, celebrating non-conformity, including others, and realizing that being different can make you stronger.



[7:57] Joshua Pawis-Steckley’s Art Comes From Connection


Matthew: Along with an engaging story, The Great Ball Game has some really beautiful illustrations that bring the folktale to life.


Rebecca: Storey Publishing, who was putting out the books, they wanted to be very, very thoughtful about making the illustrations as appropriate and authentic and have as much integrity as possible vis-a-vis the story being told.


And so Joshua Pawis-Steckley was found. He's an Ojibwe Woodland artist and he is incredible. He infuses every single page with so much color, so much life, and so much fascinating Ojibwe symbolism and iconography.


The ball game itself is based on a stick ball game played among his people for ever. People have asked me, “Is it lacrosse that they're playing? What are those sticks?” It's stickball, from this tradition.


Likewise, for A Taste of Honey, which is our book that's based on a Pakistani and Indian tale. Chaaya Prabhat, who lives in India. She just infuses every page. I mean, there, it's a feast for your eyes, her illustrations.


Each one of our illustrators is somewhere else around the world, steeped in the culture that this folk tale comes from. And these books just would not be half what they are without these incredible artists.


Matthew: It's beautiful. And Joshua really has done an exceptional job, both in, in that setting. I love a good book that allows us to be essentially in one place, but allow time to pass and feel like we're not seeing the same thing, but also to be able to bring sport to life and illustration.


I've read a lot of children, I've read a lot of children's books and he's done a really beautiful job. I'm excited for this book to find its readers.


[9:54] A Message from Rebecca Sheir to You


Matthew: Listeners, as we close our time together, Rebecca Sheir had a message that she wanted to make sure reached each of you.


Reader or not. Circle Round listener or not.


This is a message for you to take with you as we leave.


Rebecca: Don't be afraid to tell your stories. You don't have to rely on a famous author or podcast host or movie maker to tell a story. You have your own stories you can tell.

It can be a story about you, how you spent your summer vacation. That could be a fascinating tale.

Or you could go ahead and make up characters. Make a talking bat, you know?

You've got stories. You just have to use your imagination. It's ready and waiting for you.



[10:50] Closing


Matthew: The Children’s Book Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner.


Follow the show wherever podcasts are found, and leave us a rating or review when you do. That helps us out a whole lot because it helps the show get discovered by and recommended to new listeners.


Rebecca? Where can listeners find you?


Rebecca: Well, you can find Circle Round, the podcast, wherever you find your podcast, but we also have a website, which is wbur.org/circleround. Not only is every single episode on that website, but you can find links to all of our books. We're doing four books total. We have three out now. And we also have extra things on the website: information about the culture or country where the folk tale is from, the musical instrument that Eric Malones uses to score the episode. If you wanna learn more about the pipa he used for this Chinese tale, or the Shamisen he used for this Japanese story, you can learn more there.

So yeah, wbur.org/circleround.


Matthew: Visit matthewcwinner.com for a full transcript of this episode plus some questions that you can use as you think about this episode.


Want a copy of The Great Ball Game or the other books by Circle Round? Julia, where should people look?


Julia: Check your school or public library, your classroom, or, if you want to support independent bookstores, you can purchase a copy at Bookshop.org.


Matthew: I’ll have a link in the show notes.


Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (https://stebs.design/).


Our music is by Podington Bear.


Podcast hosting by Anchor.


We are a proud member of Kids Listen, the best place to discover the best in kids podcasts. Learn more at kidslisten.org.


Be well. And read on.


Matthew: Anything else you wanna say, Jules?


Julia: Be well. And love everyone in the world.


End Of Episode

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