COMING HOME

A STORY OF JOSH GIBSON, BASEBALL’S GREATEST HOME RUN HITTER

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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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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