For young fans who love the odd, fun details of baseball.

MIRACLE MUD

LENA BLACKBURNE AND THE SECRET MUD THAT CHANGED BASEBALL

A baseball entrepreneur finds a solution to a long-standing technical problem.

Lena Blackburne was at best a journeyman player. He played several positions for several teams, and later, he became a coach just to remain a part of the game he loved. In the first part of the 20th century, new baseballs were hard to handle since they were too shiny and slick, so many different methods were used to dull them. Shoe polish, spit, tobacco juice and dirty water were all tried, but each caused additional problems, as did employing only old, beat-up balls for the entire game. Blackburne was determined to find a better way. When he serendipitously stepped into some soft, gooey, gritty mud at a fishing hole near his home, he brought some to the ballpark, tried it out on some new baseballs and produced perfect results. At first, he provided them only for his own team, but then he sold tubs of the mud to all professional teams. Eventually it became—and still is—the only substance allowed on any baseball. Kelly provides information about an unusual aspect of the game in a sprightly, entertaining story with a great “aha” moment. Dominguez’s bright, expressive double-page spreads follow the events closely and make them live.

For young fans who love the odd, fun details of baseball. (author’s note, statistics) (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8092-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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