A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

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THE SPY WHO PLAYED BASEBALL

Moe Berg was a decent defensive catcher who struggled at the plate in the 1920s and ’30’s—it’s his post-baseball career that fascinates.

He was intellectually gifted and was one of only a few Jewish students at Princeton, where Jews were prohibited from joining social clubs. However, they were happy to have him on their baseball team. Upon graduation, he began his 15-year major league career. At a time when major league baseball players were white, Christian, and, with few exceptions, poorly educated, Berg was Jewish, a college graduate, a speaker of many languages, and attending law school. In 1941, he became a spy for the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA. His knowledge of languages and world cultures was an asset, as was his seeming fearlessness: as a Jewish American, he would be in particularly grave danger if caught. He parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia and made contact with resistance groups. He spied on a German physicist to determine Nazi nuclear capability. Berg always remained secretive, and there’s little information about his postwar life, but that’s the way he wanted it. Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax. Cherrington’s bright cartoons capture the events and subtly convey Berg’s differences from the gentiles who surround him.

A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too. (afterword) (Picture book/ biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0313-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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DANCING WHEELS

A stereotype about people with disabilities is shattered by this introduction to a dance company known as Dancing Wheels, a group composed of “sit down” and “stand-up” dancers. The story begins with Mary Fletcher-Verdi, born with spina bifida, a condition that causes weakness in the legs and spine. Mary always wanted to dance, and, encouraged by a family who focused on what she could do rather than what she couldn’t, she studied the art and eventually formed a mixed company, some who dance on their legs, and some who dance in wheelchairs. What she accomplished can be seen in this photo journal of the group’s dance workshop in which beginners and experienced dancers study and rehearse. Along the way, McMahon (One Belfast Boy, 1999, etc.) intersperses the history of the group, some details about the dancers, their families, and the rehearsal process that leads up to the final performance. Three children are featured, Jenny a wheelchair dancer, Devin, her stand-up partner, and Sabatino, the young son of Mary’s partner. The focus on these youngsters gives the reader a sense of their personalities and their lives with their families. Godt’s (Listen for the Bus, not reviewed, etc.) color photographs detail every aspect of the story and show the dancers at home and in rehearsal, interacting with each other, having fun, and finally performaning. They convey the dancer’s sense of joy as well as the commitment to the dance as an art form felt by the adult directors and teachers. An excellent book for helping children and adults expand their understanding about the abilities of the “disabled.” (Nonfiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-88889-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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THE 25 GREATEST BASEBALL PLAYERS OF ALL TIME

In no particular order and using no set criteria for his selections, veteran sportscaster Berman pays tribute to an arbitrary gallery of baseball stars—all familiar names and, except for the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, retired from play for decades. Repeatedly taking the stance that statistics are just numbers but then reeling off batting averages, home-run totals, wins (for pitchers) and other data as evidence of greatness, he offers career highlights in a folksy narrative surrounded by photos, side comments and baseball-card–style notes in side boxes. Readers had best come to this with some prior knowledge, since he casually drops terms like “slugging percentage,” “dead ball era” and “barnstorming” without explanation and also presents a notably superficial picture of baseball’s history—placing the sport’s “first half-century” almost entirely in the 1900s, for instance, and condescendingly noting that Jackie Robinson’s skill led Branch Rickey to decide that he “was worthy of becoming the first black player to play in the majors.” The awesome feats of Ruth, Mantle, the Gibsons Bob and Josh, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and the rest are always worth a recap—but this one’s strictly minor league. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4022-3886-4

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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