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.)
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
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)
Tavares brings the well-paced story to a nice close as the now-world-famous Babe returns to Saint Mary’s to put on an impromptu slugging exhibition for the boys, similar to the ones Brother Matthias gave that so enchanted George as a boy. It’s a lovely, poignant ending to a standout sports picture book biography.
—The Horn Book
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.
How can an author make the umpteenth picture book about Babe Ruth justify its shelf space? By finding the right angle on the legend and trimming the larger-than-life figure down to a guy a kid might want to shake hands with...Though subtle in color, Tavares’ illustrations are often big and brash in composition, with plenty of close-ups of a beaming Babe.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
An homage to the Bambino introduces a new audience to this great legend of baseball...Tavares allows young readers to view Ruth with just the right amount of hero worship and awe.
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...Readers, both baseball fans and others, will enjoy this story of the athlete’s gratitude and thankfulness for learning his lifetime sport.
—School Library Journal
Everything about this picture book biography will engage the child reader.
—Library Media Connection
The appeal of Matt Tavares' beautifully illustrated biography is its focus on Ruth's humble origins.
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
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)