BABE RUTH AND THE BASEBALL CURSE

Two nonfiction baseball stories enclosed in one cover should be a winner for newly established readers who are baseball fanatics—unfortunately, it’s not. The first is a thin sketch of the life of The Babe, the Bambino, George Herman Ruth, bad boy turned national hero, a figure larger than life. Too thin, alas: The Babe was so outsized, so personable, so human, and not enough of that comes through in this. The second story is the sad tale of the fall of the Boston Red Sox after The Babe was sold to the hated New York Yankees. Following that fateful event, Boston was in decline for decades as New York was in ascendancy. It’s an exciting story, but Kelly’s writing is flat, dependent on exclamation points and forms of “to get” instead of strong, chewy verbs—lazy and inexcusable writing in a book meant for developing readers. Furthermore, even as the book appears on shelves it is outdated, making no mention of Barry Bonds or of the Red Sox’s ignominious defeat in 2008. Too bad. (Nonfiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85603-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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THE FANTASTIC UNDERSEA LIFE OF JACQUES COUSTEAU

This second early biography of Cousteau in a year echoes Jennifer Berne’s Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (2008), illustrated by Eric Puybaret, in offering visuals that are more fanciful than informational, but also complements it with a focus less on the early life of the explorer and eco-activist than on his later inventions and achievements. In full-bleed scenes that are often segmented and kaleidoscopic, Yaccarino sets his hook-nosed subject amid shoals of Impressionistic fish and other marine images, rendered in multiple layers of thinly applied, imaginatively colored paint. His customarily sharp, geometric lines take on the wavy translucence of undersea shapes with a little bit of help from the airbrush. Along with tracing Cousteau’s undersea career from his first, life-changing, pair of goggles and the later aqualung to his minisub Sea Flea, the author pays tribute to his revolutionary film and TV work, and his later efforts to call attention to the effects of pollution. Cousteau’s enduring fascination with the sea comes through clearly, and can’t help sparking similar feelings in readers. (chronology, source list) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85573-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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