Ben and Emma's Big Hit

by Gavin Newsom (Author) Alexandra Thompson (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

From California Governor Gavin Newsom comes an empowering picture book about a young boy with dyslexia who discovers a new way to look at reading.

Ben loves baseball. He loves the lines of diamond-shaped field and the dome of the pitcher's mound. What Ben doesn't like is reading. Ben has dyslexia, which means letters and sounds get jumbled up in his brain, and then the words don't make sense. But when Ben starts looking at reading like he looks at baseball, he realizes that if he keeps trying, he can overcome any obstacle that comes his way.

In this empowering story by California Governor Gavin Newsom, inspired by his own childhood diagnosis of dyslexia, readers will learn that kids with the determination to try (and try again) can do big things. *This book is set in a font specifically designed to be easier for people with dyslexia to read.

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Kirkus Reviews

Swings well enough to get struggling readers to first base—and perhaps beyond.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 2--Drawing a parallel between baseball and learning to read, this school story about dyslexia is a home run. Ben (a shaggy, blond-haired boy) is a natural at baseball but when it comes to reading, "it felt like going up against the hardest team in the league, every day." Fortunately for Ben, and three other students of varying skin colors and ethnicities, they have a patient and empathetic reading coach in Ms. Kim. The alphabet and reading drills frustrate Ben and his emotions get the better of him but gentle intervention by Ms. Kim re-centers him so that he can rejoin the class. He learns that Emma, even though she carries around the largest books, only does so because she likes to pretend she can read them. Ben's emotions and the constructive classroom environment are thoughtfully depicted. When the class finds that Ms. Kim likes baseball but has never been able to hit the ball, the tables are turned and Ben finds himself coaching and motivating his teacher as his classmates cheer her on. Realistic illustrations with soft colors dominated by pale blue and green, and expressive characters, depict the supportive environment and the themed connection between reading and baseball well. As the class gathers together outside, the ending sentiment to try hard every day may seem trite but fits well with the twin themes of teamwork and coaching. Newsom, governor of California, provides a note about his own journey with dyslexia. VERDICT Learning of any kind takes perseverance and teamwork; teaming the difficult discussion of dyslexia with reader-friendly baseball will help get this book into the right hands.--Ramarie Beaver, formerly at Plano P.L., TX

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Gavin Newsom
Gavin Newsom is the 40th Governor of California. He previously served as the 49th lieutenant governor of California and as the 42nd mayor of San Francisco. Newsom attended Santa Clara University, where he received a partial baseball scholarship and majored in political science. He lives in Sacramento, California, with his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and their four children. Visit him online at and follow him on Twitter @GavinNewsom.

Ruby Shamir is an author, researcher, and adapter, who has worked on numerous New York Times bestselling and award-winning books. She lives in the Bronx, NY with her husband and three children. You can visit Ruby Shamir online at

Alexandra Thompson is an illustrator, author, and surface designer living in the Oxford Hills of Maine. Her debut picture book, A Family for Louie, released June 9th, 2020. Visit her online at and on Instagram @alexandraco_illustration.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Philomel Books
Publication date
December 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV039150 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Special Needs
JUV039230 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Bullying
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Books and reading
Baseball stories
Dyslexic children

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