Calkins Creek, 2011, 135 pages, middle grade
The good stuff
- Baseball–Baseball, as American as apple pie and the ol’ red, white, and blue–a great topic for kids.
- Poignancy–The scene where Hank refuses to play on Yom Kippur and shows up at shul, to me, made the whole book. I cried. I also liked the scene where he’s looking to beat Babe Ruth’s home run record and how even competing teams pitch in (pun intended) to help.
- Research–Quotes from newspaper reporters, from Hank’s autobiography, and other personalities added to the vibrancy of the text.
- Context setting–Hank is placed in his world, especially the introduction of minorities into the baseball leagues, the challenge of anti-Semitism, and Hitler’s rise to power.
- Back matter–Extensive back matter include source notes, further resources (DVDs, books, places to visit), and a bibliography.
- Photos–The book is well illustrated with photos not just of Hank and baseball, but also those depicting Hank’s world and times. My favorites were the ones of Jesse Owens and a six-frame set of Hank hitting his 46th home run in 1938.
- Captions–The photo captions include new information and are not just regurgitations of the text.
- Design–From the red, white, and blue cover with an action photo of Hank to the layout of the photos, the design makes this book interesting and easy to read.
The not-so-good stuff
- Wanted: more back matter–I would have liked to see included in the back matter a listing of Jewish baseball players and maybe a summary of Hank’s stats.
- Technicalities–There were some technical details that disturbed me. First, one phrase showed up repeatedly: “It wasn’t long before…”, “It did not take long…” and these appeared on two consecutive pages. Also, as I was reading Chapter 7, I realized I had read some of the same information in Chapter 1 (the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Father Coughlin’s radio broadcasts). Two other sentences struck out for me: “Like many Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s, David and Sarah Greenberg had come to America from a small Romanian town” (page 15) and “Cochrane never full recovered from his injuries, and before the home run race heated up in September, he was gone.” (page 73). In the first sentence, I didn’t see why it was necessary to say “many Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s.” Most of the Jewish immigrants coming at that time were from Russia because of the pogroms, so I found this confusing. In the second sentence, “he was gone” made me believe Cochrane had died, but the next sentence clarified he was released from the team.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0