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BECOMING JOE DIMAGGIO by Maria Testa Kirkus Star


by Maria Testa

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7636-1537-4
Publisher: Candlewick

Joseph Paul, named for the wondrous new rookie centerfielder of the 1936 New York Yankees, has big dreams and a long hard road to travel in order to achieve them. Papa-Angelo, his grandfather, teaches him baseball, honor, compassion, courage, perseverance, and so much more. His very existence is a special gift to the old man, for he gives him “dreams to go with his nightmares.” His father is in jail during much of his childhood, but in spite of the shame and the broken promises, these two love him. The son of poor Italian immigrants, Joe DiMaggio is a guiding star for both of them. In 1941, when most of the world is already engulfed in war, DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak postpones for a while the dread of what is to come. “Hits were the same as hope that summer, filling our hearts in the face of the truth that the president had been wrong: there really was something to fear after all.” Joseph matures during the war, watching his grandfather’s sadness intensify, and accepting that his father will never become a hero. At war’s end, DiMaggio returns from the army, hitting a homerun in his first game, bringing forth “a sigh of relief so pure and loud you would have thought the whole world had finally remembered how to breathe.” Joseph identifies with DiMaggio and everything he stands for in reality and in his imagination. He wants to become Joe DiMaggio, but he is reminded “that someone else already is.” So Joseph chooses his own path and becomes someone truly wonderful and unique. Testa tells the entire story in verse. Each poem is a perfect, gripping chapter in Joseph’s story. Words are carefully selected and images are beautifully crafted. Strong emotions are evoked, but there is no sentimental manipulation. When the author states in an endnote that Joseph was her father, it serves to validate the reader’s instant recognition of his humanity. A powerful, glowing, unforgettable achievement. (Poetry. 10-14)