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Randy Riley's Really Big Hit


Randy Riley's Really Big Hit

Alethea Allarey

Official Links


Written & Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Published by Candlewick Press, 2012

2014-2015 Nominee - Primary


Randy Riley, a science genius, loves to play baseball, but it unfortunately it doesn’t love him. He never gives up, even when he strikes out again and again. He wonders how far the ball would go if he hit it and there were no gravity.

When Randy finds out that earth is in trouble and he is the only one that can save it, he creates a robot to meet the challenge. He finds out that his talents are so important and he can still love things just because he enjoys them. In the end it is all up to Randy, and he is up to bat in the biggest game of his life.

Meet the Author/Illustrator

Chris Van Dusen was born in Portland, Maine on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1960. He spent his childhood drawing with his brothers; his specialty was aliens, robots and monsters.

Dr. Seuss and Robert McCloskey were my heroes and [were] probably the two people that were most influential. I love Dr. Seuss for his amazing use of words and rhymes. His lines are almost musical. And Robert McCloskey’s illustrations are my favorites. He created such a sense of place in his illustrations. Plus they are full of detail which I love.”

After high school, Van Dusen studied fine art at The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and graduated with a BFA in 1982. It took him a while to figure out what he wanted to do; he was a waiter, and then was offered a part-time job at a magazine for teenagers. Eventually, he started drawing cartoons and illustrations for the magazine and his career as an illustrator began. For more than ten years he worked as a freelance illustrator specializing in art for kids; his illustrations appeared in magazines like Nickelodeon, Family Fun and Disney Adventures.

“One day I started thinking about drawing a picture of a boat stuck high up in a tree. I thought that would be a really funny and intriguing illustration. At the same time, a refrain kept running through my head‘Mr. Magee and his little dog, Dee/ Hopped in the car and drove down to the sea’. The combination of these two things eventually became my first book, Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee which was published in 2000.”

Van Dusen has been busy writing and illustrating children’s books ever since; these include Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee and A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee; the Mercy Watson series with Kate DiCamillo; The Circus ShipKing Hugo’s Huge Ego, and, most recently, President Taft is Stuck in the Bath. His next book is due out in August 2014.

His favorite books include but are not limited to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig, Terrific by Jon Agee, Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, Fanny’s Dream by Caralyn and Mark Buehner, The Orange Book by Richard McGuire, Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris Van Allsburg and The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Van Dusen lives in a little town on the coast of Maine with his wife Lori, two tall sons, Ethan and Tucker and a yellow lab named Pearl.

Learn more about Chris Van Dusen at



  • We are not all good at everything, but each of us is good at something. What do you do really well? What do you wish you could be better at?
  • What is perseverance? Why do we keep trying and trying and trying to do something?
  • If you could build a robot, what kind of robot would you build?
  • Have you ever hit a homerun? What can be as exciting as hitting a home run?
  • What does a hero look like?


Other titles by Chris Van Dusen
If I Built a House (2012)
King Hugo’s Huge Ego (2011)
Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee (2010)
The Circus Ship (2009)
If I Built a Car (2005)
A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee (2003)

Hit the Ball Duck by Jez Alborough (2006)
Goodnight Baseball by Michael Dahl (Mar 2013)
ABC's of Baseball by Peter Goldenbock (Feb 2012)
H is For Home Run: A Baseball Alphabet by Brad Herzog (2004)
Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies (2010)
Baseball Hour by Carol Nevius (2008)

Clink by Kelly DiPucchio (2011)
Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman (2012)
Robots, Robots, Everywhere! By Sue Fliess (2013)
MarvelTown by Bruce McCall (2008)
Robot Zot! By Jon Scieszka (Sep 2009)
So You Want to Be an Inventor by Judith St. George (2002)
Gizmo by Barry Varela (2007)
If I Had a Robot by Dan Yaccarino (Sep 1996)

Oh no!, or How My Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett (2010)
Dex: The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner (2003)
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman (1999)
Mighty Max by Harriet Ziefert (2008) 

For more information, please check the 2014-2015 Resource Guide - Primary.