Richie's Picks : YOU NEVER HEARD OF WILLIE MAYS?!
Richie's Picks: YOU NEVER HEARD OF WILLIE MAYS?! by Jonah Winter and Terry Widener, ill., Schwartz & Wade, February 2013, 40p., ISBN: 978-0-375-86844-3
Hey! I'm an old guy. Count me as one who heard all about Willie Mays back before the current President was even born.
What a fun book this is!
"Birmingham, Alabama. 1941. A kid with his ear glued to the radio.
"'We interrupt this program for an important announcement. Joe DiMaggio has just homered off Red Sox pitcher Dick Newsome, extending his hitting streak to a record-breaking forty-five games.'
"As the story goes, a little boy named Willie Mays had himself a hero. Willie told his pop, 'I wanna be the next Joe DiMaggio.'"
The two-page spread from which this quote is taken is amazing! The young boy we know to be Willie Mays is sitting backward in a chair, garbed in overalls, his face right in front of a big old-fashioned radio. It is such a great beginning to the story. Every page turn thereafter builds up the legend that is Hall of Famer Willie Mays, arguably the greatest baseball player in history.
This was a guy who was playing pro ball at age 15 (when Major League Baseball was still segregated), a guy who was as good defensively as he was at the plate and on the base paths (and still, after all these years, holds records to prove it), a guy who had unbelievable talent and gave it his all - literally:
"Mays tried so hard he sometimes passed out right there on the field! They'd have to carry him off on a stretcher. And then, after games, he'd go back home to Harlem and play stickball on St. Nicholas Place with the neighborhood kids. It was like he couldn't stop! The Polo Grounds, the streets -- he didn't care where he was playin'."
Down in San Francisco, AT&T Park -- where the Giants play these days -- is located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. I love wandering around there. I grew up outside of New York, but my heart as an adult has long belonged to northern California, and so Mays has actually been my greatest hometown hero on both coasts.
YOU NEVER HEARD OF WILLIE MAYS?! is an exciting story about a really good guy. I really like the addition to many of the spreads of some facts and/or stats relating to Mays's career.
But what I love, above all, is the portrayal of the world in which this story takes place. From the smokestacks of Birmingham; to the old-fashioned bus driving through the South at night; to the water towers up above the buildings in Harlem; Terry Widener's ability to share the world of Mays, as well as depict the grace and determination that was the gifted athlete Willie Mays, makes this a delight to read.
Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/ http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php