Josh Gibson was sometimes known as the Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues. Of course, in some circles, Babe Ruth was known as the Josh Gibson of the Major Leagues. And therein lies the heart of the matter. Although they might have played against each other during barnstorming games, they could never play together in the same league. Here a fictitious elderly man relates to his grandson his boyhood memories of one particularly exciting series of games early in Gibson’s career, when his appearance at the plate led to the cheers “Thunder’s coming.” Some of these games took place at Yankee Stadium, and grandfather was there with his father. The book begins with a brief explanation of the segregated leagues, a description of Gibson’s abilities, and an account of the series between the Homestead Grays and the New York Lincoln Giants, before focusing on grandfather’s recounting of the final game. The “memories” of the game are nicely detailed as the excitement builds and Gibson performs a feat never accomplished before or since. He hit a homerun completely out of Yankee Stadium. (Naturally, this is an unrecognized accomplishment, as it did not happen during a regulation major-league game.) The softly colored illustrations nicely accompany the text. One arresting illustration captures the fans’ reactions as Pop nervously twists his cap as he awaits Gibson’s turn at bat. The mixture of factual material and fictional memories is not always successful. Too much of Gibson’s life is left for the author’s notes and may be missed by young readers. Buried in these notes is the especially poignant fact that Gibson died of a stroke at the early age of 35, only a few months before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line in 1947. Gibson had always hoped and believed it would happen and did not live to see it. In the end we have a charming vignette of a figure who has been neglected in baseball lore for children, when we could have had a powerful, moving story. Still, it’s a start. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8167-7009-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd.


From the Zach and Zoe Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Lupica kicks off a new series starring a pair of 8-year-old twins who solve sports-themed mysteries.

Even the pleasures of competing in various events during his school’s Spirit Week dim a smidge for Zach Walker when the prized autographed baseball he brings to his third-grade class for show and tell vanishes. Happily, his bookish but equally sports-loving sister, Zoe, is on the case, and by the time of the climactic baseball game at week’s end, she has pieced together clues and deductions that lead to the lost treasure—which had not been stolen but batted through an open window by the teacher’s cat and stashed in a storage shed by the custodian. In the co-published sequel, The Half-Court Hero, the equally innocuous conundrum hangs on the identity of the mysterious “guardian angel” who is fixing up a run-down playground basketball court. Along with plenty of suspenseful sports action, the author highlights in both tales the values of fair play, teamwork, and doing the “right thing.” The Walker family presents white, but in both the narrative and Danger’s appropriately bland (if inappropriately static) illustrations, the supporting cast shows some racial and ethnic diversity.

Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-28936-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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