I'm a bit wary of picture book biographies. I know, everybody swoons about their gorgeous illustration and their obscure subjects, or new treatment of famous subjects and unique presentation and....I just don't see them circulating much at our library. The only biographies kids read for school usually have to be 100 pages long and most picturebook biographies are too long for casual read-alouds. Historical figures are even more of a problem to get out there.
But I think this one won't have a problem. Nope. First, we have Jim Burke's illustrations which are an alluring combination of historical and vivid action, calculated to grab any baseball-minded reader without them immediately thinking "oh, it's some old book." Second, we have Jane Yolen. Her lovely language and excellent turns of phrase are evident here, but her language is carved down to its strong fundamentals and strongly bulwarked with the facts and stats that sports fans love. Parents will be pleased to see a "celebrity," even one long dead, who's a real role model, unlike many sports figures today. Kids will just be fascinated by Honus Wagner's impressive records and triumph over poverty, illness, and his own shortcomings.
Verdict: I'm looking forward to handing this one to sports fans - I think it's going to be a success!
ISBN: 978-0399246616; Published March 2010 by Philomel; Review copy provided by publisher through Raab Associates