The Washington Post
You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!by Jonah Winter, Andre Carrilho
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… See more details below
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 season—different—firing 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.
The Washington Post
The huge lenticular cover image of pitcher Sandy Koufax in action makes this book hard to ignore; Winter's fan-in-the-stands-style prose and Carrilho's 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, he'd 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 faced-physical limitations; anti-Semitism ("Some of the guys said some pretty lousy things behind his back-things I can't 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 4-9. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This picture-book biography of a pitching ace is a real treat. Much about this private man has been a mystery, so Winter focuses on how the gifted young athlete went from unpredictable to otherworldly in such a short time. Koufax spent his early years with the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he was either warming the bench or walking batters. The team moved to Los Angeles in 1957, and it wasn't until 1961 that he learned to control his pitch. He then proceeded to flummox opposing hitters until 1966, when he unexpectedly retired. The unnamed narrator, a teammate who speaks in the vernacular of an old-timer, greatly influences the voice of the book: readers can hear the spit of sunflower seeds between the lines. That Koufax was a Jew playing baseball at a time when the game was still deeply segregated is mentioned and honored, particularly with the anecdote of how he gave up his spot in the World Series rotation to observe a High Holy Day. Carrilho's caricature style is reminiscent of Al Hirschfeld's work, exaggerating everything that is beautiful and unknown about Koufax, from his extraordinarily athletic body to his private mystique. The graphite illustrations, enhanced via Photoshop, are dominated by golds, grays, and, of course, Dodger blue. While the author never offers an explanation for his subject's metamorphosis, that it should be hailed and remembered is never in doubt. This striking book deserves a wide audience.-Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole Public Library, MA
“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.”
Meet the Author
Jonah Winter is the author of many award-winning books about baseball figures, including Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates; You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!; and You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?! His other stellar titles include Here Comes the Garbage Barge!, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book; Frida, a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner; and Dizzy, the recipient of Best Book of the Year citations from Booklist, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, The Bulletin, and Kirkus Reviews.
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.
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