In this striking picture book biography, an old-timer tells us what made Sandy Koufax such an amazing baseball player. We learn that the beginning of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers was rocky, that he was shy with his teammates, and experienced discrimination as one of the only Jews in the game. We hear that he actually quit, only to return the next seasondifferentfiring one rocket after another over the plate. We watch him refuse to play in the 1965 World Series because it is a Jewish high holy day. And we see him in pain because of an overused left arm, eventually retiring at the peak of his career. Finally, we are told that people are still "scratchin their heads over Sandy," who remains a modest hero and a mystery to this day.
Accompanied by sidebars filled with statistics, this Parents Magazine Best Book of the Year and Booklist Top of the List is sure to delight budding baseball fans.
Jonah Winter is the author of Muhammed Ali: Champion of the World, Roberto Clemente, and Dizzy. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
André Carrilho is the illustrator of Porch Lies by Patricia McKissack, which received three starred reviews. This is his first picture book. He lives in Lisbon, Portugal.
The huge lenticular cover image of pitcher Sandy Koufax in action makes this book hard to ignore; Winters fan-in-the-stands-style prose and Carrilhos high-impact, editorial-style images make it hard to forget. Neither author nor artist explain the famously self-contained 1960s Dodgers pitcher (Just when you were startin to understand him, hed haul off and throw you a curve, says the anonymous former teammate who serves as narrator). Instead, they capture what it feels like to be in the presence of an exemplary athlete. The obstacles that Sandy Koufax facedphysical limitations; anti-Semitism (Some of the guys said some pretty lousy things behind his backthings I cant repeat)are portrayed with zero sentiment; readers will root for Koufax because he is an engine of pure action. Debut artist Carrilho, offering texturally complex, digitally manipulated pencil drawings, has a bold, arresting aesthetic: while his harsh shadows, distorted perspectives and angular faces speak of a hardboiled reality, the baseball field itself is a storied place, rendered not in green but gold. Koufax becomes a figure of totemic strength, his eyes narrowing to black slits underneath bushy eyebrows, his body twisting as he delivers the perfect pitch. Not just a home run, this book is a grand slam. Ages 49. (Feb.)Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review, Booklist, December 15, 2008:
“Hand this book to kids unconvinced by Koufax’s mind-boggling numbers, or to the ones who know why they’re so mind boggling to begin with.”
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, January 5, 2009:
"Not just a home run, this book is a grand slam."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, February 2009:
“This striking book deserves a wide audience.”
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