Hero worship abounds, but even within this context, the book scores a home run.

JOLTIN' JOE DIMAGGIO

The great Joe DiMaggio still holds fascination for modern fans.

Baseball in the first half of the 20th century was indeed the national pastime. Whether it was the major league teams, players and game, the minor leagues with their future stars, or the local sandlot team, baseball was king. Winter taps into this fervor for this brief but thorough biography. From the beginning, Joe was determined not to become a fisherman like his father. Baseball would be his way out. Winter covers all the highlights of DiMaggio’s remarkable career, including his amazing, still unbroken hitting streaks, contextualizing it against the Depression and the coming war. He describes Joe’s quiet, almost taciturn demeanor and how it did nothing to impede his stature as a national hero. The narrative notes how DiMaggio’s every deed was covered in depth in newspapers and on radio, how he earned his nicknames, “Joltin’ Joe” and “the Yankee Clipper,” and how he even became the subject of a hit song. Even DiMaggio’s later marriage to Marilyn Monroe is remarked on for its joining of two of the most famous icons in America. Ransome’s detailed watercolors beautifully convey DiMaggio’s persona and his baseball prowess with just the right combination of accuracy and nostalgia.

Hero worship abounds, but even within this context, the book scores a home run. (author’s note, stats, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4169-4080-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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