It’s a story Wilf Pauls has shared with children many times over the years, about his own childhood when he took something that wasn’t his.
For his latest offering, the author of children’s books including the Baby Brawn series and Fweddy the Wed Fwog Pwince, took an autobiographical turn.
The Baseball Bat: A True Story, takes place in 1958 in Kelowna. It begins at the former Gordon Road Elementary, where a seven-year-old Pauls find a baseball bat left lying at home plate on the ball diamond farthest from the school.
“Our bat at home was embarrassing. You got slivers if you picked it up the wrong way. My family was too poor for me to ask for a new bat,” reads the story. “Ever since I was four years old, my brother and I had taken turns pitching and hitting the ball with that ugly old stick. We loved baseball!
“Now here in front of me was a treasure.”
What unfolds from there isn’t a tale of baseball-oriented Americana, but of a seven-year-old rationalizing what amounts to theft, his fear of being caught and the guilt that would later have him looking to make amends.
Instead of illustrations, as Pauls has used in his past books, the story of The Baseball Bat comes to life with photos of family members in starring roles. Pauls is played by grandson Hudson. Another grandson, Bryce, plays Pauls’ brother Reuben. Granddaughter Olivia is Paul’s sister Olive, and his daughter Seija (Hudson and Olivia’s mom), is Paul’s mother. Roxanne Sewell, Hudson’s Grade 1 teacher, and Brady Holland, Hudson and Olivia’s principal, gave life to the school connection. The kids in the book are the same age Pauls and his siblings were at the time the story took place.
Pauls said he used to share the story of the stolen baseball with kids in schools, including at Bastion Elementary, when he worked with School District 83 as a teacher librarian. Yet he never shared it with his siblings until a family reunion in 2019, when he was telling kids bedtime stories. Pauls said he never wanted to share it with his siblings for fear they would no longer trust him.
“The idea of not being trusted was important,” said Pauls.
The bat later disappears in a Pauls family move. In Grade 6, still feeling guilty, Pauls decides to write the school, confessing his crime.
“I purposely didn’t say anything more at the end because often you have a perfect Disney ending where OK, now the school writes a letter back – which didn’t happen…,” said Pauls. “The whole thing is, children need to know sometimes you don’t know what the end result is, you just have to do the right thing.”
As a teacher, parent and grandparent, Pauls has been involved in situations where other children have been caught stealing. He says it’s something any child is capable of. To help adults in such situations, Pauls includes at the back of his book a guide – things to consider when formulating a response. Pauls hopes the book will inspire vibrant discussions on stealing, and the value of honesty and integrity.
“Anyone can make a poor choice,” writes Pauls. “The good news is that we can try to make it right.”
The Baseball Bat: A True Story, is available at amazon.ca and Barnes and Noble.
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