SHOELESS JOE & BLACK BETSY

Phil Bildner, Author, C. F. Payne, Illustrator
Phil Bildner, Author, C. F. Payne, Illustrator , illus. by C.F. Payne. S&S $17 (40p) ISBN 978-0-689-82913-0
Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-35016-7
Prebound-Sewn - 40 pages - 978-1-4177-4056-7
Paperback - 40 pages - 978-0-689-87437-6
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-4920-4
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One of baseball's greats receives star treatment in this compelling book. Shortly before "Shoeless Joe" Jackson (so named for having played a game in his stocking feet) joins the minors, he falls into a slump, and out of desperation ends up in the workshop of "the finest bat smith in all of South Carolina." Joe names the bat Ol' Charlie Ferguson makes for him Betsy ("Pitchers are going to honor and respect this bat the way they respect the flag Betsy Ross created," the hero states), but the slump continues. So does the partnership between the two men as Ol' Charlie refines the bat's design—it's remade from the "north side of a hickory tree" and rubbed down with tobacco juice so it will be "dark and scary-looking"—and Joe learns how to massage it with sweet oil and keep it wrapped in cotton ("Cotton will make Black Betsy feel right at home in Cleveland," Ol' Charlie tells him). Finally Betsy takes him to the major leagues and his finest season ever. Rookie Bildner hits a home run here, zeroing in on the bat as just the right lens through which to view his picture book biography. He strews the conversational prose with appealing colloquialisms in a catchy refrain ("sure as the sky is blue and the grass is green"). Payne's (The Remarkable Farkle McBride) portraits take on a tall-tale quality suffused with nostalgia; his strong-featured characters offer a riveting blend of humor and gravity. An afterword fills in the details of Jackson's life and career, including the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)

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