Say-Hey and The Babe: Two Mostly-True Baseball Stories

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Waldman's (Masada) folksy narrative combines baseball fact, lore and nostalgia. The structure may be hard for some readers to follow, but baseball fans may well be willing to stick with it. In the opening vignette, set in 1951, a trio of boys finds an old baseball at the bottom of a sewer. The next episode flashes back to opening day of the New York Yankees' 1927 baseball season, when a ball hit by Babe Ruth strikes a girl sitting in the grandstands. After the game, a regretful Ruth gives her a ball signed by him and his teammates, which her father proudly keeps on display. Not long after that, the girl's brother, Harry, fetches the prized ball when he and his stickball-playing pals lose theirs, yet that ball also gets lost down the sewer. Setting the groundwork for the ball's retrieval, Waldman then shifts the action back to that same day in 1951, when Harry's son, Peter, and his two buddies save their lunch money to see Willie "Say-Hey" Mays and the Giants play at the Polo Grounds, then head to Harlem to watch their idol play stickball. After Mays blasts a Spauldeen over seven sewers, Peter and pals attempt to recover it from a sewer only to find the autographed Yankees ball instead. The author includes copious sidebars filled with baseball and stickball history and trivia. Monotone pen-and-inks and realistic watercolor paintings together effectively evoke these eras and capture the energy both on the field and in the street. Ages 6-10. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
You will have to read this book at least twice—once to enjoy the interesting storyline and once to read through the sidebars and insets that provide historical vignettes to compliment the fictionalized tales. The slang and language used in New York at the time is also explained in the sidebars. The story line follows three little boys as they save their lunch money in order to be able to go see Willie Mays play baseball. Their story is intertwined with that of a young girl who, in 1927, was struck by a baseball hit by Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium. Treated by the Yankee's physicians, she was also given a baseball signed by the entire team. Her treasured ball was lost by her brother when he used it because his team needed a ball to continue their own pick-up game. The melding of the stories comes when Pete, Moose, and Eddie find the "lost" ball in a sewer while searching for a rubber ball that their hero, Willie Mays, had hit while playing stickball in Harlem in 1951. The pen-and-ink illustrations have a historical look without being simply painted in sepia to give them an aged appearance. The color illustrations are a combination of watercolor, acrylics, and graphite. There is a lot of baseball history and "trivia" packed into this picture book. The historical note on the last page gives the actual facts behind the stories. You do not have to be a baseball fan to find this one interesting. 2006, Holiday House, Ages 6 up.
—Sheilah Egan
Baseball abounds here with myths and legends. Waldman takes two of these "mostly true baseball stories" and combines them, featuring a pair of the sport's greatest players, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. The first recounts the day in 1927 when Babe Ruth presented a baseball autographed by the entire Yankees team to a fan hit by his homerun. The second recalls a neighborhood stickball game in 1950s Harlem when Giants outfielder Willie Mays hit a "Spauldeen" ball past six sewer grates and into the seventh, a record. The bridge between these legends is the story of Pete, Buddy, and Moose, who travel to Harlem and witness Mays's seven-sewer hit. They attempt to retrieve the "Spauldeen," but what they find instead is a baseball autographed by the "team whose lineup was once referred to as Murderers Row, the most awesome team in the history of baseball: the 1927 New York Yankees!" It is the same ball that Babe Ruth had once presented to his fan. As author and illustrator, Waldman creates a work that has the feel of a storybook. The watercolor illustrations and the "There was a time, not so long ago . . . ," opening set the mood. He also includes many sidebars about the teams, the players, and the city of New York, allowing the reader to "separate fact from fiction." This successful combination of sidebar and story make the book a good choice for middle school readers whether they are interested in baseball's history or its myths. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2006, Holiday House, 32p., Ages 11 to 14.
—Christine Sanderson
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Two loosely connected tales evoke the days when baseball legends interacted with ordinary fans. A prologue describes a boy and his friends retrieving a foul-smelling object from a sewer in 1951. In the first story, which harks back to 1927, Babe Ruth hits a ball into the stands and strikes a young spectator. As Mona Finkel recovers after the game, Ruth presents her with a ball signed by the entire Yankee team. It is a cherished family heirloom, until her brother, Harry, loses it down a sewer hole while playing stickball. The second tale is set in 1951 and concerns Harry's son, Peter, who loves playing stickball and watching Giants great Willie Mays. When Peter hears that Mays is playing stickball in Harlem, he goes to watch and ends up rediscovering his family's missing treasure. Sidebars provide some baseball facts; explain the equipment, rules, and history of stickball; and include anecdotes from players. Waldman's stylized watercolor illustrations do a fine job of detailing the action and supporting the nostalgic mood. There's a lot going on in this brief picture book, but the slight stories and characters fail to come to life. Nor do readers gain any insight into the personalities of Ruth and Mays. The main audience for this title will be adults looking to share their memories with youngsters.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1951, it was common to see Willie Mays playing in the streets of Harlem with the neighborhood stickball teams. Pete and his friends witness Mays hit a "spaldeen" for an incredible distance of seven sewers. While searching for the ball in the sewer, Pete instead finds a ball autographed by Babe Ruth and his 1927 Yankee teammates. It is a remarkable chain of events that leads to that moment, because Babe Ruth had originally given the ball to Pete's grandfather, and his father had been the one to lose it. Waldman deftly weaves two real events into a charming, nostalgic tale that lovingly evokes the dynamics of growing up in New York City in a time abounding in possibilities. While never allowing his imagination to be compromised, he presents a wealth of factual material about baseball, stickball and 1950s New York, in distinct, framed sidebars. Exquisitely detailed sepia pen-and-ink drawings and glowing watercolor illustrations, again a mixture of imagination and renderings of historic images, perfectly enhance the text. Absolutely marvelous. (Picture book. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823418572
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 10.26 (h) x 0.36 (d)

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