CASEY BACK AT BAT

Back in 1888, Mighty Casey struck out and left Mudville joyless. But now he finally has another “at bat.” This time he actually hits the ball over the wall, and oh boy, does it travel. It hits that tower in Pisa and makes it lean, and then wreaks further havoc around the globe. It even crashes the time barrier and scares the dinosaurs into extinction, heading back to earth after a quick visit with some astronauts. Meanwhile, back at the ballpark, Casey is basking in the glory of his monumental home run—or not. For here comes the ball, streaking right into the shortstop’s glove. Gutman pulls out all the stops, piling absurdity upon absurdity. The verse moves briskly, lightly mimicking the original, but with a nod to modern syntax. Johnson and Fancher’s paintings are remarkable. Each illustration perfectly matches the text, imaginatively distorting perspective to enhance the larger-than-life events. Look more closely and find that underlying the scenes are subtle newsprint or graphic designs that add texture and mystery. Sheer delight. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-056025-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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JOE LOUIS, MY CHAMPION

One of the watershed moments in African-American history—the defeat of James Braddock at the hands of Joe Louis—is here given an earnest picture-book treatment. Despite his lack of athletic ability, Sammy wants desperately to be a great boxer, like his hero, getting boxing lessons from his friend Ernie in exchange for help with schoolwork. However hard he tries, though, Sammy just can’t box, and his father comforts him, reminding him that he doesn’t need to box: Joe Louis has shown him that he “can be the champion at anything [he] want[s].” The high point of this offering is the big fight itself, everyone crowded around the radio in Mister Jake’s general store, the imagined fight scenes played out in soft-edged sepia frames. The main story, however, is so bent on providing Sammy and the reader with object lessons that all subtlety is lost, as Mister Jake, Sammy’s father, and even Ernie hammer home the message. Both text and oil-on-canvas-paper illustrations go for the obvious angle, making the effort as a whole worthy, but just a little too heavy-handed. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58430-161-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.

RAFI AND ROSI MUSIC!

From the Rafi and Rosi series

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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