Bestselling author Jonah Winter and award-winning illustrator James E. Ransome knock it out of the park with this tribute to one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived, Joe DiMaggio.
In the golden age of baseball, sports announcers ruled the radio, winning and losing was front-page news, and just about every young boy wanted to grow up to wear Yankee pinstripes, including Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., a first generation Italian from San Francisco.
“Baseball is not a job,” said young Joe’s dad, but through hard work and dedication, Joe grew up to make headlines as a top centerfielder and ace hitter—Joltin’ Joe, the Yankee Clipper. And when the paychecks started rolling in and the newspaper reporters wouldn’t stop calling, you can bet Pop was mighty proud!
During the Depression and WWII the country needed something to cheer for, and Joe was the star player who outshone the rest, even marrying movie star Marilyn Monroe—all by keeping his mouth shut and his eye on the ball.
"Baseball, believe it or not, was once the biggest sport in America.... And it wasn't just the biggest sport it was the biggest thing." That's some terrific context and tone setting for Winter's readers, many of whom may view baseball as quaint at best. Winter (You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!) writes with a casual elegance that beautifully captures the spirit of an athlete whose signatures were grace and reticence ("And the way he said nothing... only made him more noticeable"). Ransome's (Knock Knock) watercolors of DiMaggio's early years with his immigrant Italian family in San Francisco look a bit like a Little Rascals short film. But as Joe rises to the pantheon of American cultural heroes (yes, there's a nod to his marriage to Marilyn Monroe), Ransome nails the Yankee Clipper's majestic nose and magnetic, toothy grin, and the images grow in expressiveness and imaginative power. Evoke whatever baseball idioms you want grand slam, home run this book is it, enabling readers to understand both what made DiMaggio a one-of-a-kind talent and the special hold he had on the public imagination. Ages 4 8.