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A bittersweet legacy now accessible to younger readers and sports fans.

Following up his middle-grade novel A High Five for Glenn Burke (2020), Bildner pens a picture-book biography about a remarkable gay Black baseball player.

A rare “five-tool talent” (he could run, catch, throw, and hit for both average and power), young Glenn Burke was snatched up by the Dodgers, and teammates and fans alike soon delighted in his high-spirited humor and enthusiasm for the team and game they loved. Burke enjoyed a strong rookie season and is credited with inventing the high-five with teammate Dusty Baker. Burke was also a closeted gay athlete, vulnerable to the homophobia of people such as his manager, Tommy Lasorda, who traded Burke mere months after he’d helped get the Dodgers to the World Series. Burke’s story has plenty of sadness—ongoing homophobia, a debilitating car accident, and an HIV diagnosis, which led to his far-too-early death in 1995 at age 42. But it also has joy: He found his community after leaving baseball, won gold in the Gay Olympics, and lived to see his special handshake become a widespread symbol of celebration. O’Brien’s illustrations, opaque and with highly defined detail, are both imposing and intimate, and they move readers through Burke’s trials and triumphs. Bildner’s honest and weighty text is balanced by spreads full of motion, whether figures round bases or connect with high-fives.

A bittersweet legacy now accessible to younger readers and sports fans. (author’s note, bibliography, timeline) (Picture-book biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9780374391225

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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