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Something to Proveby Robert Skead, illustrated by Floyd Cooper Carolrhoda Books, 2013
Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares Candlewick Press, 2013
The World Series is here! For those who LOVE baseball – it doesn’t matter if you are a Cardinals fan or a Red Sox fan. All that matters is that the Fall Classic is starting tonight. — Here’s to baseball!
In celebration of the start of the Series – let me tell you about a couple of terrific nonfiction picture books on baseball subjects that were published in the last year.
Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs Rookie Joe DiMaggio
In 1936 the New York Yankees wanted to test a “young, skinny prospect named Joe DiMaggio” to see if he could prove himself a major leaguer. In order to test him, they needed him to go up against the best. It was the era of segregation and black players were only allowed in the Negro Leagues – but one of those players was asked to pitch against the rookie. Satchel Paige was that player – he was the best pitcher in the Negro Leagues and probably the best pitcher in baseball. This picture book tells the story of the day the Satchel Paige All-Stars played an exhibition game against Dick Bartell’s All-Stars (with Joe DiMaggio).
The illustrations are brown and grainy – reminiscent of 1930′s films. Once the game starts you can almost hear the crackle of the old radio and the play-by-play announcer recounting what is unfolding in front of him for listeners everywhere. The game went to extra innings and both players proved their talents. The game’s tension is evoked – and the issue of race and injustice is portrayed.
Becoming Babe Ruth
This is a picture book biography of George Herman Ruth – the kid born in Baltimore that was always in trouble from a very young age. When he was seven, his parents sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Although difficult being removed from his family, the school remained a force in his life throughout his career. It was at the school that George met Brother Matthias who awed all the boys with his hitting prowess. Brother Matthias taught George the fine art of baseball – and sharpened the boy’s facility at the many aspects of the game. At 19 Ruth was signed by the minor-league Baltimore Orioles and soon earned his nickname as one of the new babes on the team. His rise to stardom was swift – but he never forgot Brother Matthias and St. Mary’s. He returned for games – and when the school burned down Ruth was there to lend support and financial aid.
Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, was a larger than life celebrity before the television. Stories of the Babe and his adventures and excesses (and they were many) were told in newspapers and by the radio baseball announcers. This picture biography looks at Ruth’s life in baseball – and the school that remained a force in his life. The illustrations are full of activity – and there are many portraits of George Herman Ruth that show a twinkle in the eye, a joyful soul and a kid who didn’t like rules. The book is a tribute to a legend in the sport of baseball.
The book is written and illustrated by Maine’s own Matt Tavares.
Enjoy these books — and enjoy a great Fall Classic!
MISTER MAX: THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS by Cynthia Voigt Alfred A. Knopf, 2013 (ages 8-12)
12 year old Max Starling and his actor parents are looking forward to an adventure in India after a mysterious invitation from a maharajah arrives requesting that his parents start a theatre. However, on the day of departure Max arrives at the docks to meet his parents – but they have disappeared and no one has heard of the ship he is to meet. Max is concerned about what happened to his parents (and worried that they left him on purpose) – but now what to do? He and his grandmother (who lives next door) begin investigating the disappearance with very few clues. In the meantime, Max is determined to be independent and support himself. No one is hiring and he has no skills. His accidental reunion of a wandering toddler with the child’s mother – proves lucky and providential. The grateful mother rewards him a modest sum and begins to tell friends about his talents. Soon Max is being asked to find other missing items. Max resists the title – detective- and comes up with his own job description – “SOLUTIONEER.” Using the trunks and wardrobes of costumes from his parents’ theatrical roles to disguise himself as he takes on cases, and using his powers of observation developed as he watched rehearsals and performances, Max is able to eke out a modest living. With just the right touch he resolves the problems that come to him.
The final chapter gives Max and his grandmother the first clue to his parents’ disappearance. The book is fast-paced with a charming protagonist in Max. Readers will be eager to read his next adventures as he continues his search for his parents (and perhaps other lost things).
This is the first in a projected trilogy by Newbery Award winner and Maine resident Cynthia Voigt.
Today, we begin our book reviews of titles old and new!
Stickby Andy Pritchett, Candlewick Press, 2013
I can’t help it – I’m always drawn to picture books featuring dogs. I have been like this since I was a kid. Sometimes – I’m deeply disappointed in the book. However, the big-eared canine on the cover of this picture book did not disappoint.
The bubbling excitement of the pup, when a stick is discovered, seems like it should be contagious. He tries to find a friend to play ‘stick’ – but the cow, bird and pig have other interests. The poor puppy is dejected – and throws the stick away. But another puppy finds it and returns to play. The other animals (cow, bird and pig) are attracted by the joy playing ‘stick’ brings to the pups – and join in.
The story is told using only 6 words. But the text size, punctuation marks – and mostly the expressiveness of body language explore the emotions of the simple tale. Speech balloons indicate who is speaking. The page colors are bright and cheerful until the two page gray gloom of the poor pup’s dejection at not finding a friend.
The story is VERY simple, and the characters are appealing. The very limited vocabulary could work for emerging readers. It is very simply told but captures the joy of finding a friend for very young readers.