cover image WIN ONE FOR THE GIPPER: America's Football Hero

WIN ONE FOR THE GIPPER: America's Football Hero

Kathy-jo Wargin, , illus. by Bruce Langton. . Sleeping Bear, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-58536-221-9

These well-suited collaborators present a crisp portrait of George Gipp, a gifted athlete from Michigan who landed a baseball scholarship to Notre Dame in 1916. Yet one day, as he kicked around a football with a friend, his talent caught the attention of renowned coach Knute Rockne, who convinced Gipp to join his team. Young football players and fans will most appreciate the author's recap of highlights of Gipp's stellar college football career, during which he repeatedly led his team to victory and became a national sensation. Wargin (The Legend of Sleeping Bear ) also imparts a sense of Gipp's likable off-field persona (if he won money playing pool or cards with local folk, "he bought dinner for people who didn't have enough to eat"). Gipp's devotion to his team and fans drove him to play in one game even though he was feverish, resulting in a fatal case of pneumonia. The book's title comes into play in the story's poignant, unabashedly sentimental finale: eight years after Gipp's death, "at just the right moment," Rockne shares with his flagging Notre Dame team the now famous words that the football hero whispered on his deathbed. Those words inspire the team to come back and beat longstanding rival Army. Langton's (B Is for Buckeye ) realistic, closely focused paintings do a better job of portraying the bond between Gipp and his coach than in depicting the action on the field. Nonetheless his portraits convincingly convey the hero's gumption and grit. Ages 6-12. (Oct .)