One week to MLB’s all star game…so All Star! is a must-read

July 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm Leave a comment

All Star! Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jim Burke; published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, New York; 2010.

How does a coal-shoveling, bow-legged boy from Pennsylvania get his mug on the most valuable baseball card of all time?  Well, by hard work, quick wit, and love of the game, of course.  Honus Wagner, often overlooked all star of baseball past, had a strong arm and fast feet but played for love of the game.  His story, especially in the hands of Yolen and Burke, is not just about the greatest shortstop in major league history, but of the man behind the glove.  And the man that refused to endorse tobacco but ended up with his face on the most valuable baseball card in history.  As Wagner would have said, “How about that!”

Yolen’s text is rhythmic and riveting.  She carries us along the gentle back story of Honus Wagner then builds a wave of words describing his successes.  Combined with Burke’s oil paintings, we are carried back to days when baseball was played for love of the sport, not multi-million-dollar salaries.  In fact, Burke’s love of Wagner is evident in the illustrations: the color choices reflecting the time period made me feel like I was looking through a window into Honus Wagner’s world.  Sometimes the images spilled off the pages, reminding us that this man was larger-than-life in the baseball world of his day.  Capping this beautiful tribute are images of baseball cards, ticket stubs, a bat, and other memorabilia about the bow-legged shortstop, decorating the end pages.

I love books about baseball players that beat the odds to become heroes of the game.  In this age of out-of-control salaries and steroid scandals, it is so refreshing to read about an upstanding citizen and true hero.  This wonderfully written and incredibly illustrated book belongs on every baseball pathfinder and in every boys-of-summer display.

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Entry filed under: Non-fiction or Informational, Picture Book, Starred Review Book (Horn Book, Booklist. School Library Journal, Kirkus or PW). Tags: , , , , .

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