Blastin' the Blues (Sluggers Series #5)
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Blastin' the Blues (Sluggers Series #5)

5.0 2
by Loren Long, Phil Bildner

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In Blastin’ the Blues, still fearing they are being followed and even more worried they have a traitor in their midst, the team travels to New Orleans, where the magic of their ball and the music of the city create one memorable game. But like always, trouble is right around the corner and the hits keep on coming for the Payne family and all of the


In Blastin’ the Blues, still fearing they are being followed and even more worried they have a traitor in their midst, the team travels to New Orleans, where the magic of their ball and the music of the city create one memorable game. But like always, trouble is right around the corner and the hits keep on coming for the Payne family and all of the Travelin’ Nine!

In Home of the Brave, after the rousing success in New Orleans, Griffith, Ruby, and Graham are determined to beat the Chancellor at his own game and save their family as well as the game of baseball. Pulling into their hometown of Baltimore, the Paynes are reunited with a familiar face, and the Travelin’ Nine are tested on the field once again. Can they win without the help of their baseball? Prepare for fireworks in this final inning to the grand slam series, Sluggers !

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
When readers last met the Travelin' Nine, they were on a train to St. Louis. The Chancellor's men tried to get the baseball and kidnap Graham. His older brother jumped off the train. Now he, Dog, Woody, and the baseball must get back on a train to meet up with the team at their next location. A visit with an old man and Woody's stories on the train enlighten Griffith about the Rough Riders and the magical baseball, who the Chancellor is, and why he wants Graham and the ball. Readers are introduced to Cy Young when Graham has an opportunity to take batting practice against him. A baseball game against the New Orleans Pelicans is arranged with hopes that the Travelin' Nine will win and add much needed money to their coffers. They did not anticipate that the Chancellor would bring in an ace pitcher—none other than Cy Young himself! In this fifth book in the "Sluggers" series, the melodrama continues, as does the old-time baseball lingo in this baseball fantasy. Long's charcoal illustrations add a further dimension to the book and are helpful to younger readers. The illustration of Theodore Roosevelt shooting at the magical baseball in the saloon will surely catch readers' eyes. Interesting little tidbits are peppered throughout the book, such as how Cy Young received his nickname and the line spoken by a newspaper reporter about the new red uniforms the St. Louis team is wearing: "[T]hey look like a bunch of cardinals that flew." Those who have been reading the series will look forward to the next and final book. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
Kirkus Reviews
In this bloated, dispensable-and, despite the title and setting, blues-free-episode, the 1899 baseball team with the magic ball travels to New Orleans, discovers a spy (anachronistically dubbed a "mole") in its ranks and sees eight-year-old Graham, son of the team's catcher Elizabeth, come into his own as the superstar "Chosen One" destined to save baseball from a never-specified threat posed by the glowering "Chancellor." Having slogged their way through hundreds of pages of reminiscences, fretful speculation and references to past incidents in the series-climaxed by an unsuspenseful game against the legendary Cy Young that the Travelin' Nine win, as usual, by cheating with their magical baseball-readers are unlikely to care. The series premise has worn vanishingly thin, and neither the old-timey baseball talk nor Long's occasional technically accomplished charcoal drawings are enough to keep this overlong leg of the road trip moving. (Historical fantasy. 10-12)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Sluggers Series , #5
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Recovery and Reality

lizabeth pulled Ruby and Graham closer. “For so long, I didn’t want to believe that the Chancellor was behind all this,” she said. “Now look what I’ve done.”

“You didn’t do anything,” Graham said, squeezing his mother’s hand.

“You can’t blame yourself,” added Ruby. She dabbed the tears from the corner of her mother’s eye with the napkin that had been sitting on the table.

At the far end of the dining car, Scribe stepped through the doorway. Crazy Feet and Tales followed close behind.

“We searched every car,” the Travelin’ Nine’s massive center scout announced. “The Chancellor doesn’t have any more of his men on this train.” He waved to Bubbles and Doc, standing guard by the far door, and pointed them to the tables in the center of the coach. “Let us sit and collect ourselves.”

Preacher Wil and Happy shifted over so that there was room for all the barnstormers to sit next to one another. For a few moments, they huddled together in silence. Everyone was still reeling from the attack that had taken place only a short time ago.

“Do you think they found shelter?” Tales finally ended the quiet.

“What if they’re hurt?” the Professor asked.

“What if the Chancellor’s men found them?” Bubbles added.

Graham squeezed his mother’s hand again. Sitting against her, he could feel her tension growing with each question being asked. He looked over at his sister. Ruby was sensing it too.

“Woody’s with Griff and Dog,” Graham spoke up. He glanced to Preacher Wil as he mentioned the hound. “He’ll keep them safe.”

Ruby looked back at Graham. Even though he was the youngest of the group and the target of the assault, he was the voice of reason and reassurance. She was stunned by her little brother’s cool calm.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Woody,” Doc agreed.

“The Chancellor is behind everything,” Elizabeth blurted. She gazed around at the barnstormers. “That’s what I was telling Griff when the attack happened. All the money must be owed to him.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” said Tales.

“I am,” Elizabeth insisted.

For the first time since the raid, Elizabeth let go of her two children. She stood up and began explaining to the Rough Riders the truth about the debt. Like Tales, Bubbles and the Professor didn’t want to believe what they were hearing, and they tried a few times to refute her statements. However, when she had finished spelling everything out, the remaining holdouts could hardly deny the harsh truth: The debt belonged to Uncle Owen, not to Guy Payne. The debt was owed to the Chancellor, which was why his men had attacked them.

“I didn’t allow myself to believe it either,” she said, directing her words to those most reluctant to accept what she was saying. “I didn’t want to believe what my own son was trying to tell me.” Her voice was riddled with guilt. “If only I’d listened to him…”

“It’s not your fault, Mom,” said Ruby, reaching for her mother’s hand. “You know it’s not.”

“Mom, you’re trying to protect us,” Graham added. “You’re doing a great job.”

“Your children are right, Elizabeth,” Scribe said. “Listen to them now.”

“If anyone’s to blame,” Bubbles said, “it’s Owen Payne.”

But Elizabeth shook her head. “I should have listened to Griff. My son is in danger because of me.”

“Griff’s fine, Mom,” Graham assured her. “He’s with Woody and Dog. They’re all looking out for one another. I promise.”

Graham lowered his eyes. On the floor by his feet, he noticed a black hat that belonged to one of the goons. It must have fallen off during the skirmish. He reached down for the hat and placed it on his head. It was too big, and when he lifted the brim from his eyes, he was met with many disapproving looks. Graham removed the hat and placed it in his lap. He would try it on again later when the others weren’t around.

“I need to listen to you kids more,” Elizabeth said. She sat back down and pulled Ruby and Graham close again. “Much more.”

“He’s after much more than money,” Ruby whispered to Graham, who perched on his bed across the compartment from her. “The Chancellor’s after you.”

“No!” Graham smacked his cheeks and pretended to be shocked by the news. “He’s after me? Thanks for letting me know, Ruby. I don’t think I would’ve been able to figure that out.”

Ruby rolled her eyes. “Very funny, Grammy.”

She glanced at the door to their sleeping quarters. After the meeting in the dining car, which had lasted for more than an hour, several of the Travelin’ Nine had escorted Graham and her back to the compartment. One of the conductors had offered it to them, in light of what had transpired. Even though the train had been searched, and everyone was certain all of the Chancellor’s thugs had jumped off, the ballists weren’t taking any chances. They vowed to remain by the entrance to the private sleeping area the entire night.

BALLIST: player.

“I hope they have the baseball,” Ruby said, staring across at her brother and wrapping the covers around her shoulders like a shawl.

“Of course they do,” Graham assured her, swinging his legs off the edge of his cot. “Dog’s catch was amazing! There’s no way he was letting go of it after that grab!”

“I hope they’re all okay,” Ruby added.

She squeezed the back of her neck. She and Griffith had promised Graham that on the trip down to St. Louis they would tell him everything there was to know about the men who were chasing them. They would let Graham in on all the secrets. She had to keep the promise, even without her older brother by her side. After seeing Graham handle himself with such poise in the dining car, she owed it to him.

“The Chancellor confronted Griffith,” said Ruby.

“He did?” Graham stopped swinging his legs.

Ruby nodded. “Back in Chicago.”


“The night after the game,” Ruby replied.

“You mean the night before we were supposed to leave for Minneapolis.”

“Yes, Grammy,” she said, frowning. “That night.” Ruby sighed. “I’ve come up with theories about the Chancellor. Griff and I have talked about all of them.”

“What are they?” Graham inched forward. “What did the Chancellor say to Griff?”

Ruby reached under her mattress, pulled out her journal, and flipped to the entry she’d written earlier in the week on the train ride to Minneapolis. She then read the three quotes listed under the heading “The Chancellor’s Words.”

“‘That’s not all I want,’” Graham repeated. “‘You have something else that I want too.’ He was referring to me, right?”

“Yes, Grammy.”

Graham lay down on his bed. As he stared into the darkness, thought after thought after thought bombarded his brain. All of a sudden, he realized he knew things that not even his brother and sister did. Some of what Ruby proposed as theories—that he was connected to everything and that the Chancellor was setting a trap—Graham knew as facts. He didn’t know why or how he knew; he only knew that he did.

And the knowledge terrified him.

Graham sat back up and reached for the black hat hanging from the nail above his pillow. Since the others weren’t in the room, he could put it on. He pulled the brim down over his eyes, just like the Chancellor’s thugs wore theirs, but because the hat was so big, the front covered almost his entire face.

“There’s another problem,” Ruby said, rewrapping the covers over her shoulders. “One of the Travelin’ Nine can’t be trusted.”

“I know. I heard the old man’s warning too,” Graham replied flatly. He lifted the brim. “I’m sure there’s a mole on the team.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know,” Graham said. “Like you and Griff do.” He dipped his feet into his slippers and shuffled across the dark compartment to his sister’s bed. “I don’t want to believe it,” he added, sitting down beside her.

“I hate thinking about it,” said Ruby. “I hate thinking that one of the Rough Riders can’t be trusted. How can… how can someone so close to us do something so cruel?” Her voice cracked. “Why would one of them want to harm us?”

“Who do you think it is?” Graham asked, resting his hand on his sister’s shoulder.

“I have no idea. Do you?”

Graham shook his head.

“I only know it’s not Scribe,” Ruby said.

“How do you know?”

“He shares some of what he writes in his journal with me,” she replied, speaking slowly. “The things I’ve read, the things he’s read to me—it can’t be him. He would never have written some of those things if it was.” Ruby swallowed. “And like Griffith says, and like you just said, some things you just know.”

Graham drew his sister close, and when he did, the brim of his hat brushed against the side of her head. All of sudden, he wanted no part of the hat. It belonged to men who worked for and stood alongside the most evil man there was. He ripped the hat off his head and threw it to the floor. Then he stood up, stormed over to it, and stomped on it with both feet.

“It’s about time,” Ruby said, managing a smile.

Graham turned back to his sister. “Now I understand why everyone was so upset when I—”

Knock! Knock!

Ruby and Graham froze. But then they saw the soothing shape of their mother sliding open the pocket door.

“I heard a commotion,” she said. “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine, Mom,” Graham replied. He picked up the hat, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it into the corner. “I was just doing something I should’ve done an hour ago.”

“I’m sorry to bother you at this late hour,” she said, stepping in and shutting the door. “But since I heard the noise and the talking, I knew you weren’t sleeping.” She placed the lantern she was holding on the floor next to Ruby’s cot and sat down on the end of her daughter’s bed. “I need to talk to you.”

“What is it?” Ruby asked.

Elizabeth rested her hand on Ruby’s knee and gazed down at Graham, now seated on the floor. “We need to have another conversation,” she said. She waited for Graham to look up at her. “It’s about your father.”

“What about Dad?” Graham’s eyes widened.

“Graham, I need you to listen to me.”

“Is he coming back for my birthday?” Graham pressed. “Will he be at the party?”

Elizabeth exhaled. “What I’m about to say to you is not going to be pleasant, but I need for you to hear me. Do you understand?”

Graham nodded.

“Your father is dead, Grammy,” she said, her voice firm, but warm. “He isn’t coming back. Ever. That’s what dead means. No matter how badly you may want him to come back, and no matter how hard you wish for him to return, he can’t. We must believe he’s gone on to a better place, and that he’s watching over all of us at this very moment.” She looked deeply into her son’s eyes. “Do you understand what I just said to you?”

Graham did understand. Every last powerful and crushing word. In all his life, he had never heard his mother speak that way to anyone. He knew she didn’t do it to be hurtful. She did it because she needed to be heard and understood.

Closing his eyes and pressing his palms against his temples, Graham couldn’t stop his mind from returning to his experience during the game in Minneapolis. How could he have imagined something so real?

Maybe because it involved his father?

But he could see his father waving; he could hear him calling, “Happy birthday!” And no matter how many times he tried to tell himself it was just a dream or vision, and no matter what his mother said, Graham couldn’t get rid of his lingering doubts. He had done things when time had stopped for everyone else. There was evidence: There had been snow on Griffith’s head—snow that he had put there; the pitched ball had not passed right over home plate after all— he had moved it. Something had happened.

“I need… I need to go for a walk,” he whispered. He stood up slowly. “I need to get some air, Mom.”

“I completely understand,” she replied. “But I don’t want you going out by yourself.” She shuffled over to the door, slid it open slightly, and peeked her head out.

A moment later the Professor and Scribe stepped in.

“I’ll take a stroll with you,” the Professor said to Graham. “If that’s okay.”

Graham nodded and headed for the door. The Professor followed him out.

“I’m glad you called us in,” Scribe said as soon as Graham and the Professor exited. “I was looking for a way to begin a dialogue. I know it’s been quite an evening, and the last thing I want to do is burden you with anything more, but I feel it is my duty.” Scribe paused. “It’s about Owen.”

“Everyone believes me now about the money and the Chancellor, yes?” Elizabeth asked.

“Indeed they do,” replied Scribe. He removed his quill from behind his ear and ran the feathered end across his forehead. “It is difficult news to digest, as you can imagine. Some are having a harder time than others.”

Ruby stared at the Travelin’ Nine’s center scout. In the small confines of the sleeping compartment, he looked even larger than usual. Entering the room, Scribe had ducked low through the doorway, and now inside, instead of standing hunched over, he sat on one knee, his elbow on his leg and his chin in his hand.

“Everyone is so terribly disappointed in him,” Scribe went on. “None of us can quite believe the danger and harm his poor judgment has caused. I sympathize with him. So does the Professor. We forgive him because he’s Guy’s brother, but only because he’s Guy’s brother. If he were not, it would be extremely difficult. Perhaps impossible.” Scribe tucked the feathered pen back behind his ear. “Unfortunately, some of the others… Bubbles and Tales are rather enraged. They are not thinking forgiveness, not at the moment. I am hopeful that they will come around, but I am concerned. We need them.”

Ruby dabbed the corners of her watering eyes. Scribe was usually a man of few words. She wasn’t used to hearing him speak in such a manner. It only added to her fears and worries.

“They will come around,” she said, resting her hand on Scribe’s knee. “I know you believe that.”

“I do, Ruby,” Scribe said, smiling. “Nevertheless, I felt it was my responsibility to tell you all that is taking place.”

Ruby closed her eyes. Scribe was not the mole. If there was ever any doubt in her mind—not that there was—it had been removed. Scribe would never lie to her. He would never betray them.

“We cannot keep secrets from one another,” he continued. “Not in these dangerous times. We need to be a family. We need to be together. Always.”

© 2010 Phil Bildner and Loren Long

Meet the Author

Loren Long illustrated President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing; the newest version of The Little Engine that Could; Madonna’s second picture book, Mr. Peabody’s Apples; Nightsong by Ari Berk; and the Barnstormers series. He also illustrated Frank McCourt’s Angela and the Baby Jesus and is part of the Design Garage for Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown series. Loren’s work has appeared in Time, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. He lives with his wife and two sons in Westchester, Ohio. Visit him at

Phil Bildner is a former New York City public school teacher who lives in Newburgh, New York. He spends much of his year visiting schools and libraries around the country and world. He is the author of over twenty books including the middle grade novel A Whole New Ballgame and picture books Marvelous Cornelius, The Soccer Fence, The Hallelujah Flight, and Twenty-One Elephants. Along with Loren Long, he is the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Sluggers series. Visit him online at

Loren Long illustrated President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing; the newest version of The Little Engine that Could; Madonna’s second picture book, Mr. Peabody’s Apples; Nightsong by Ari Berk; and the Barnstormers series. He also illustrated Frank McCourt’s Angela and the Baby Jesus and is part of the Design Garage for Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown series. Loren’s work has appeared in Time, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. He lives with his wife and two sons in Westchester, Ohio. Visit him at

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Blastin' the Blues (Sluggers Series #5) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great part of the series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago