A baseball fan, I'm not; but I always seek out biographies that will capture students' interests. So I was excited to rea2012 Sydney Taylor Honor Book
A baseball fan, I'm not; but I always seek out biographies that will capture students' interests. So I was excited to read a new biography about Hank Greenberg, America's first Jewish baseball star. Shelley Sommer's Hammerin' Hank Greenberg was recently honored by the Association of Jewish Libraries for authentically portraying the Jewish experience. Tweens and young teen baseball fans will be interested in the way Sommer weaves together American history from the 1930s and '40s with Greenberg's story.
At over 6 feet tall, Hank Greenberg was a powerful hitter and a first baseman with a long reach. Signing with the Detroit Tigers in 1930, Greenberg rose to fame during the Great Depression and during a time when many ethnic groups faced discrimination and prejudice - on the ball field and off. As Sommer writes, "Hank Greenberg was not the first Jewish man to play in Major League Baseball, but he quickly became the most widely known" (p. 43). In 1938, Greenberg came within 4 home runs of breaking Babe Ruth's home run record.
Throughout this story of Greenberg's career, Sommer interweaves a backdrop of American history in the Great Depression and World War II. This is particularly effective for tweens who may have some understanding of American history, but who may not understand how it affected sports players. I was interested in the parallels Sommer drew between boxer Joe Louis's role in boxing, being a champion for African Americans, and Greenberg's role as a hero for American Jews.
Sommer also does an excellent job integrating quotes from primary sources, and this adds depth and weight to Greenberg's story. She incorporates many quotes from her research in the archives of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. I was particularly struck by a letter Greenberg wrote to a fan asking for advice for a young Jewish baseball player. Greenberg wrote,
"Baseball is a game that affords any youngster an opportunity to progress. Ability is the sole determining factor in advancement, and not religion, the way your hair parts or your parental lineage." In a handwritten postscript, he added: "If prejudice does exist and I refuse to recognize that it does does, then let it spur you on to greater achievement rather than accept it and be licked by it" (pp. 104-105).
For me, this sums up Greenberg's positive attitude, determination and dignity. He withstood jeers from opposing players, and kept playing his very best through hard times and good.
The backmatter provides interesting insights into Greenberg's life and Sommer's sources. Baseball fans I shared this with were particularly interested in the all-star baseball team that Greenberg named, and wanted to know more about the other players he included. Sommer includes a list of further resources for readers to learn more about Hank Greenberg and the history of the times when he played baseball. She also includes a full bibliography and source notes. The one item I would have found useful is a timeline to visually integrate the different events described, both in Greenberg's life and American history....more
I enjoyed this book, loved the characters, the dramatic tension, the setting. It was great on audio - both my 10 year old daughter and I raced throughI enjoyed this book, loved the characters, the dramatic tension, the setting. It was great on audio - both my 10 year old daughter and I raced through it on audio. I haven't pulled together a review, but I wanted to write down these lines before I pass my book onto students.
Great opening line: "Nothing is the way it's supposed to be when you live on an island with a billion birds, a ton of bird crap, a few dozen rifles, machine guns, and automatics, and 278 of America's worst criminals - 'the cream of the criminal crop' as one of our felons likes to say. The convicts of Alcatraz are rotten to the core, crazy in the head, and as slippery as eels in axle grease."
Here's my favorite line, from near the end: "People say I was heroic by calling for help the way I did, but I know how close I cam to staying silent.
I scared myself that night. I saw how much I want to get along. But sometimes you have to make trouble. Sometimes making trouble is the right thing to do." ...more
Two teams battle for the little league championship baseball game, in this gripping sports novel. Sam is the game’s announcer – he’s injured and so caTwo teams battle for the little league championship baseball game, in this gripping sports novel. Sam is the game’s announcer – he’s injured and so can’t play, but he lives through each moment of the game. Kids will love the way Preller captures the rhythms of the game, routine plays, surprises and strategic moves. It’s full of suspense and excitement as you root for each team. I really loved how the story brought you into how different players felt at each small moment of the game, play by play. As you get into the story, you realize that Sam’s life has been upended by bone cancer, and he’s struggling with more than typical injuries. But his friendships come through in the end....more