This picture book biography of one of baseball's greats inspires as well as informs. Golenbock (Teammates) deftly winnows his material to suit his audience, keeping the story line focused and lean while allowing the theme perseverance in the face of obstacles to shine through. As the author tells it, Aaron is born during the Depression and grows up in a poor but loving family. His father teaches him "the joy of playing baseball in open grassy fields," while his mother stresses determination ("Set goals for yourself and don't let anyone stop you from achieving them"). Young Hank dreams of playing in the major leagues (which excluded black players until the year he turned 13). In time, his talent and drive take him to stardom with the Milwaukee Braves, where he sets a new goal for himself, to break the career home run record of Babe Ruth, "baseball's most beloved hero." Receiving hate mail and death threats, Aaron becomes even more determined, and breaks the record at the beginning of the 1974 season (with the now Atlanta-based Braves). Golenbock's prose is straightforward but full of drama and poignancy, qualities reflected in the quiet dignity of Lee's (The Good Luck Cat) spare, muted acrylic portraits, which transcend mere athleticism to capture the essential humanity of this compelling tale. Ages 6-9. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This is a wonderful example of a picture book par excellencestunning illustrations, brief, crisp text, clear content, and a goosebumps finale. An inspiring book to read again and again about virtue and faith. It will make a perfect gift. 2001, Harcourt Brace & Company, $16.00. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: A. Braga SOURCE: Parent Council, September 2001 (Vol. 9, No. 1)
Recently some of the most revered baseball records have been broken, so it's good to look back on the men who set them. Hank Aaron is remembered for breaking Babe Ruth's home run record, hitting number 715 for the Atlanta Braves in 1974. He is also remembered for battling incredible odds of poverty and hate to become only the second black man—after Jackie Robinson—playing for major league baseball when he broke that record. His story is inspiring with its beautiful examples of striving for excellence, love of parents and God, and persevering through prejudice and hate mail as he continued to do what he did best—play ball. The bright acrylic paintings present a bold face for this brave man's story, and the book has earned many awards, including ABA's Pick of the Lists. 2001, Gulliver/Harcourt,
Gr 1-3-This richly illustrated biography tells the story of the Hall of Famer by placing him in the proper historical context and attempting to humanize him. Aaron, a southern country boy, followed his dreams under the strict, but loving guidance of his parents. Despite his mother's wish that he attend college, he took a job on a professional team and rose quickly to the top as a home-run hitter. However, with racial tensions at an all-time high in the United States, his journey was not without problems. Hate mail and threats began to chip away at his hopes for success, until Aaron's adoring fans helped keep his dream alive. What Golenbock does well is capture the feel of 1960s' America, swelling with civil-rights tension. He deftly tells the athlete's story and proves that his subject certainly was "brave in every way." At times the narrative is a bit slow and the style is dry. Still, this baseball giant is brought down to earth as readers learn of his humble past and his personal struggles. Lee's strong, full-page acrylic illustrations in rich tones and textures work well and give the story depth and intensity.-Holly T. Sneeringer, St. Mark School, Baltimore, MD Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The veteran sportswriter, whom readers will remember from his affecting story of Jackie Robinson and PeeWee Reese (Teammates, 1990), takes the real-life tale of baseball slugger Hank Aaron and fashions it into a fable of hope, endurance, and faith. Aaron's father wished him the joy of baseball, and his mother wanted him to make a difference in the world. A childhood of grinding poverty included both schoolwork and baseball, and by the time he was 16, a local team wanted him and the color line had been broken in the majors. Aaron joined the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 as a powerful home-run hitter. When he began to close in on Babe Ruth's record of 714 homers, he also began to get nasty letters. Two of the most powerful illustrations in Lee's muscular acrylics are of Aaron standing before a wall of ugly hate mail and swinging in front of a looming image of the Babe. The art is made in the sunny, saturated colors of baseball cards, and the one of Aaron at full extension tossing the bat away as he heads for first is as pretty a piece of baseball art as can be imagined. Aaron did break Ruth's record, he did receive an outpouring of support, and his mom was there in 1974 when he hit #715. Pair this for the perfect spring story hour with Lesa Cline-Ransome's Satchel Paige (not reviewed) and Elisha Cooper's Ballpark (1998). (Picture book/biography. 6-9)