When you go to a baseball game, you use all five senses. You watch the action, you hear the crack of the bat, you touch a foul ball when you catch it in the stands, you taste food like hot dogs and popcorn, and you smell the turf. But what if you were a dog instead of a person? How would you experience baseball? Probably like Mo: by smelling it.
Mo is the canine star of the Mo Smells… series of books, and he sees the world through his nose. There are eight books in the series, and the newest one takes Mo to a ballgame. Mo Smells the Ballpark, which is in stores now, finds Mo at a game with some of his dog pals, and they get into the action by sniffing around. And you get to join Mo on his journey of discovery. The book has scratch-n-sniff sections to bring the smells of the ballpark alive!
The books in the Mo series are written by Margaret Hyde, and for this new one she had a co-author: Nichelle Robinson, the daughter of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (and the godmother of Margaret’s kids). I recently had a chance to speak with Margaret and Nichelle about Mo Smells the Ballpark, what it was like to work together, and their love of baseball. Check it out!
What inspired you to write this book?
Margaret Hyde: I have a son who loves baseball and is a great baseball player, and his godmother’s father is a Hall of Fame player and she’s been saying to me for a long time that Mo and baseball would be such a great fit. Finally, I realized after watching a lot of baseball games and writing a lot of Mo books what she really meant was the smells of a ballpark for people who love to go to baseball games — hot dogs and cotton candy and all of that. Those are great, fun smells for kids with scratch and sniff stickers.
But more than that, baseball really teaches kids about being a team player and about resilience. In baseball, you can be striking out and failing most of the time and still be one of the best players in the game because it’s a team sport where you all support each other. I thought that would be a really great message for kids. I also wanted to have Mo be able to have this sort of fantasy of playing on a real baseball field, which is what I think a lot of kids would probably really like to do.
Nichelle, why did you want to help write this book?
Nichelle Robinson: My father has been in baseball since the age of 17, and he’s now 78, so baseball is my first love it’s been a part of my whole life. He’s inspired me every day of my life, and I just wanted to do this to honor him. That’s why this book is dedicated to him.
What was it like working together on this book?
MH: Nichelle is one of my close friends and the godmother of all my children, so it was just really fun. It’s a great excuse to spend time together, and Nichelle certainly knows baseball better than I do, so she had to help me out with all the baseball details because sometimes I would get them wrong. Sometimes even our illustrator would get them wrong, so she was a great help with all of that.
NR: Margaret’s the best. She makes me a better person all the time, and she’s just such an example for me and role model for me. She is about giving back and doing things that are out-of-the-box and always striving to be the best person you can be. I’m so glad we got to do something together. What’s better than working with your best friend on a project? And this book is going to be around for a very long time.
Nichelle, what was it like growing up with a baseball star dad? It sounds like it would be really exciting.
NR: I had some pretty unique adventures. I’ve been to the White House, and we moved around to a lot of places and cities, so I’ve traveled and been able to experience different environments and different countries. We lived in Montreal, Canada. I even went to school in Puerto Rico for six years. I’ve led a fantastic life and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
How does your father inspire you?
NR: He inspires me because every day he gets up and goes to work and does something that he loves, and that inspires me to go and do something I love, and to keep persevering! I learned from his example. He was the first black baseball manager.
Margaret, were you a baseball fan growing up?
MH: I liked baseball and I would play in my backyard. But growing up in Tennessee there wasn’t a baseball team in my town or state, so I didn’t really get to go to games. When I grew up and moved to Los Angeles, I started going to Dodgers’ games and certainly love the Dodgers now. I think baseball is really fun. It’s really fun to go as a family, too.
What message do you want people to take from this book?
MH: I want kids to really embrace and understand the importance of resilience in everything they do. I also want kids to know the importance of going outside, exploring their world, and just being curious. I think a lot of kids are so glued to television, iPhones, iPads, and video games that they don’t go outside enough. That’s one of the things with the Mo brand. We really try to focus on organic learning. Getting back to the basics — rolling in the grass, smelling the flowers, and playing baseball. All those things that kids don’t spend too much time doing anymore.
NR: I want them to find the joy that I find in baseball through this book. I just think younger people don’t play as much baseball anymore, so I hope that this book can bring new fans to this sport.
How do you think this book will inspire kids who play sports?
NR: It’s such a great story and it’s such a fun story that I would hope kids would see that baseball is fun to play and something they should absolutely try.
The interviews have been edited and condensed.