Recommended for ages 5-10.
In honor of summer's baseball season I am continuing my series of recommendations of baseball picture book biographies for young readers. Just released this year is a vibrant new picture book on beloved baseball hero Roberto Clemente by award-winning writer Willie Perdomo, with dynamic illustrations by Caldecott-honor illustrator Bryan Collier. In the story, a little boy named in honor of the baseball star learns about his namesake. The text is written in a kind of free verse poetry, some of which rhymes and some of which doesn't. The language incorporates Spanish words as well as English. Here is an example of the very lively and rhythmic text:
Clemente!Clemente!/It's us, tu gente!/Clemente! Clemente!/Prince of the baseball diamante/Canon-arm Clemente,/Puerto Rican prince Clemente,/Hall-of-Fame Clemente.
The author presents basic biographical information on Clemente, including the anecdote that by the time he learned to walk, he was always throwing something: "a can, a tomato, a rag ball, hitting bottle caps against a wall." We learn of his many baseball records, including 4 batting titles, and 12 Golden Gloves. The author also recounts the story of Clemente's "last sacrifice fly." Sadly, he was killed in 1972 in a plane crash while on the way to Nicaragua to help victims of a massive earthquake. In the end, this is a highly inspirational story, which points out that "with faith, with hope, with belief in yourself...that anything is possible in this world." A few months after his untimely death, Clemente became the first Latino player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The illustrations in this book really enhance the text and make Clemente's story come alive. The artist explains in a note at the end of the book that he used a watercolor-and-collage technique with multiple repeated layers to express the speed, power, impact, and sound Clemente embodied when he played. There is a particularly noteworthy two-page spread where the artist uses three overlapping images of Clemente and about seven baseball bats to show the player at bat.
This book is highly recommended for public and school libraries, as well as for baseball fans of all ages.
Hear the author read this book at www.mackids.com/clemente.
The author provides a brief bibliography of other books for young people about Clemente, as well as a number of useful on-line resources, including a virtual exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution.