Quirky, idiosyncratic, oddly balanced and surpassingly entertaining.



This entry in the Penguin Lives series focuses on Branch Rickey’s game-changing efforts to bring Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, shattering baseball’s race barrier.

At the age of 80, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Breslin (The Good Rat: A True Story, 2008, etc.) retains his legendary savvy street smarts and crustiness. In a brief volume about a baseball executive, he creates opportunities to crack wise (“Baseball was a sport for hillbillies with great eyesight”), skewer (actress Tallulah Bankhead was “a loud dimwit from Alabama”) and appropriately condemn (he blasts baseball journalists of the Robinson era for their unconscionable social blindness and moral retardation). Wesley Branch Rickey (1881–1965), born on an Ohio farm, attended Ohio Wesleyan University, played baseball, made it to the pros (he didn’t excel), went to law school and then returned to baseball, where he spent most of the rest of his life as an executive. Breslin credits him for inventing the farm system—a system he compares, fairly crudely, with slavery. The author skims across most of Rickey’s career, rightly highlights his efforts to integrate Major League Baseball and shows how the trio of black players Rickey brought to the Dodgers—Robinson, pitcher Don Newcombe, catcher Roy Campanella—elevated the team to elite status. Breslin covers Rickey’s final years in a furious few pages, including a stand-alone chapter about legendary black pitcher Satchel Paige. Along the way, we catch glimpses of Rickey’s Christian piety, his GOP allegiance and his hand in assembling the 1960 Pirates, a team that defeated the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series with a home run by second baseman Bill Mazeroski, the last player Rickey had scouted. Breslin ends in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama, an event he alluded to on page one.

Quirky, idiosyncratic, oddly balanced and surpassingly entertaining.

Pub Date: March 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02249-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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