Dumbo taught us that sometimes an elephant can fly, but can an elephant play baseball? That’s the question in the eighth book of the Disney Fun-to-Read Library, Dumbo at Bat.
The circus has to take a break for a few days, because the wagon needs painted. Everyone is sad, because they won’t have anything to do, when Timothy Mouse suggests that they can play baseball. Everyone quickly agrees that this is a good idea, and they plan a game of baseball between the clowns and the animals.
Everyone practices hard, but poor Dumbo just can’t seem to get anything right. When he tries to hit or catch the ball, he misses, and he trips over his ears when he tries to run. It seems that Dumbo might cause his team to lose, so when the day of the game comes, they tell him to watch, and see if he can’t learn to play baseball, that way.
When the last inning comes around, the clowns gain a 5-4 lead. The animals do their best, but Giraffe is hurt and can’t keep playing. So it’s up to Dumbo to try to stop the clowns gaining any more points. Timothy tells him to believe in himself, and Dumbo manages to catch a ball, giving the clowns three outs.
In the last half, Lion is on base, and Dumbo is at bat he swings, twice, and twice the ringmaster, acting as umpire, calls “Strike!”. At last, Dumbo hits the ball, and manages to slide home, winning the game. The clowns don’t understand how he did it, but Timothy explains that Dumbo believed in himself, and that was all he needed.
Though the title refers to Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s 1888 poem “Casey at the Bat“, of course this book has a happier ending, for the animals anyway. It seems a little unfair that Dumbo just magically gets better at the last moment–after all, the clowns practiced hard, too, and had done very well. Still, the lesson that it’s important to do your best and believe in yourself is a good one.
The art is nice. The backgrounds are simple, as usual for books in this series, but the characters are lively, and it’s great to see the baseball diamond full of animals and clowns.
Dumbo at Bat is a good book, with a decent story, fun art, and an important lesson. I’d certainly recommend it for young children.