Becoming Babe Ruth
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Becoming Babe Ruth

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by Matt Tavares
     
 

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Matt Tavares’s striking homage to one of baseball’s legends offers a rare view into Babe Ruth’s formative years in "the House that built Ruth."

Before he is known as the Babe, George Herman Ruth is just a boy who lives in Baltimore and gets into a lot of trouble. But when he turns seven, his father brings him to the gates of Saint

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Overview

Matt Tavares’s striking homage to one of baseball’s legends offers a rare view into Babe Ruth’s formative years in "the House that built Ruth."

Before he is known as the Babe, George Herman Ruth is just a boy who lives in Baltimore and gets into a lot of trouble. But when he turns seven, his father brings him to the gates of Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, and his life is changed forever. At Saint Mary’s, he’s expected to study hard and follow a lot of rules. But there is one good thing about Saint Mary’s: almost every day, George gets to play baseball. Here, under the watchful eye of Brother Matthias, George evolves as a player and as a man, and when he sets off into the wild world of big-league baseball, the school, the boys, and Brother Matthias are never far from his heart. With vivid illustrations and clear affection for his subject, Matt Tavares sheds light on an icon who learned early that life is what you make of it — and sends home a message about honoring the place from which you came.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Pamela Paul
There is warmth and affection in Tavares's paintings, which generously illustrate the text, often in immersive spreads.
Publishers Weekly
Even legends start out small, and for George “Babe” Ruth, those early years were bleak. A troublemaker, he’s sent away to Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where strict discipline is a way of life: “They eat breakfast in compete silence. If they talk, they might get whipped,” writes Tavares, who previously profiled big-leaguers in There Goes Ted Williams and Henry Aaron’s Dream. But Saint Mary’s is also where George discovers his gift for baseball, thanks to the tough love of Brother Matthias. When Saint Mary’s later falls on hard times, the Babe, now making “the largest sum any team has ever paid for a baseball player,” uses his celebrity to help the institution get on its feet again. Tavares continues to prove he’s a double threat, with a concise, forthright writing style and expansive, sepia-toned watercolors that bring to mind vintage photos and newsreels. The tableau style, while handsome, is perhaps too tidy and constraining; Tavares conveys a sense of scale, but not spirit—and that’s important for the man who all but defined “larger-than-life personality.” Ages 5–8. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Baltimore in 1902 could be a tough town for people with little money and few skills. George Herman Ruth found this out at a young age, and he had trouble coping. He played hooky, stole from local merchants, and seemed to be headed for a dismal life as a petty thief. In desperation, his parents sent him to a boarding school known as Saint Mary's Industrial School for Boys, and that was a critical point in his life. He learned responsibility, loyalty, and generosity He also learned how to throw a curve ball and hit one out of the park, eventually becoming one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game of baseball. This is the story of how Babe Ruth, with the help of some great teachers and role models, was able to turn his life around. It is also the story of how, after he had become rich and famous, the Babe lent his time, talent, and money to help the school that had saved him, and to give some joy to those who needed it most. The text is clear and easy to read, and is written on a simple level. After hearing the story a few times, young readers may be able to read some sentences for themselves. The illustrations are huge and colorful, and the inclusion of newspaper-style drawings is an especially nice touch. At the back of the book is an author's note; charts on Ruth's pitching and hitting statistics; and a bibliography. This is a big book, as big as the Babe himself. Baseball fans will be captivated by the story, but no young reader could fail to be inspired by this true, rags-to-riches story of an American baseball hero. Reviewer: Leona Illig
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Tavares features the "Sultan of Swat" in this picture-book biography. When George Herman Ruth was seven years old, his father sent him away to a reformatory to keep him out of trouble. At the end of the school day, when all the schoolwork was done, he was taught to play baseball by Father Matthias. Ruth began his career at age 16 when he signed a contract to play for the then minor-league Baltimore Orioles. Characteristic of Tavares's attractive painterly style, the watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations stand out with their action-packed scenes, dramatic angles, and the full-spread portrait of Ruth. An author's note explains that there was no television in the 1920s, so fans relied on radio sportscasters for the colorful descriptions and exciting stories of Babe Ruth and his rise from rags to riches. Because this is the author's tribute to a great player, there is no mention of the sadder aspects of Babe's later life. Readers, both baseball fans and others, will enjoy this story of the athlete's gratitude and thankfulness for learning his lifetime sport.—Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA
Kirkus Reviews
An homage to the Bambino introduces a new audience to this great legend of baseball. Babe Ruth's baseball skills changed the game forever, and his story reads like a movie script. Seven-year-old George, not quite an orphan, is placed by his father in the St. Mary's Industrial School because he is unmanageable and incorrigible. The regimented life there is beneficial if not so much to George's liking, but Brother Matthias teaches him baseball and hones his considerable skills. At 19, he is signed by the minor league Baltimore Orioles, where he is renamed Babe for his wide-eyed, enthusiastic embrace of his new life. From Baltimore to Boston to the New York Yankees, in a time before television and Facebook, he becomes a celebrity of monumental proportions. Tavares is careful to include all the relevant information, focusing on Ruth's exploits on the field as well as his charitable nature--he helps St. Mary's rebuild after a devastating fire--while presenting his fast and furious lifestyle as part of his charm and appeal. Watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations in yellows, greens and shades of amber against bright blue or shining white backgrounds depict a glowing Ruth glorying in his accomplishments. Tavares allows young readers to view Ruth with just the right amount of hero worship and awe. Flamboyant and amazingly talented, the Sultan of Swat receives due appreciation here. (author's note, statistics chart, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)
From the Publisher
Well-researched, realistic illustrations, rendered in watercolor, gouache, and pencil, depict early-twentieth-century life and Major League Baseball during Ruth’s era. Equally important, the art captures Ruth’s irrepressible personality and joy in playing baseball. Yes, the eyes definitely twinkle.
—Booklist (starred review)

This is a story about the boy who became the man as much as it is about baseball...There is warmth and affection in Tavares’s paintings, which generously illustrate the text, often in immersive spreads.
—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763656461
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
02/12/2013
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
588,255
Product dimensions:
9.90(w) x 12.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile:
AD810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Well-researched, realistic illustrations, rendered in watercolor, gouache, and pencil, depict early-twentieth-century life and Major League Baseball during Ruth’s era. Equally important, the art captures Ruth’s irrepressible personality and joy in playing baseball. Yes, the eyes definitely twinkle.
—Booklist

Meet the Author

Matt Tavares is the author-illustrator of Zachary’s Ball, Oliver’s Game, Mudball, Henry Aaron’s Dream, and There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived. He is also the illustrator of The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup and Lady Liberty: A Biography by Doreen Rappaport, among other picture books. Matt Tavares lives in Ogunquit, Maine.

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