Monday, April 15, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares

40 p. Candlewick Press, February, 2013. 9780763656461. (Finished copy provided by publisher to review for InfoLinkNJ.)

Matt Tavares hits another one out of the park. This time, he sends us back in time to 1902, when George Herman Ruth, age 7 is about to be turned over to Saint Mary's School for Boys because he's "incorrigible." Told in the present tense, in spare short lines that look like verse, the reader learns a bit about the life of 800 boys who need structure and rules. George chafed against the rules and lived for the end of the day. The highlight of his day was being able to play baseball and to watch Brother Mathias slug baseballs over the treetops.

The paintings and spot art depict a variety of scenes, baseball and otherwise. The palette juxtaposes the grays and browns of life inside the institution with the greens and blues on the baseball field. The depiction of this larger than life man is age-appropriate, focusing on his drive, his skill and his gratitude and generosity. Although it must have been heartbreaking when Ruth's parents gave him up, who knows what might have happened had they not?

As a side note: this is the second picture book that I've read recently in which a priest serves as a mentor to a young boy. In Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop relates the story of learning forgiveness with the guidance of Father Trevor.

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