cover image Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth

Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth

Robert Burleigh. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200970-0

Burleigh and Wimmer, the creative team behind Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindbergh, give a bravura encore performance, this time turning their attention to another 20th-century legend, Babe Ruth. The Sultan of Swat emerges in sharp relief, a multi-layered profile of one of the brightest and best of the boys of summer. In a series of poetic present-tense images, readers see the Babe at play (""there is only the echoey, nothing-quite-like-it sound and soft feel of the fat part of the bat on the center of the ball""), while a congruent series of old-fashioned baseball cards provide baseball aficionados with detailed information about George Herbert Ruth Jr., his statistics and his life (""Many people know that Babe's top home-run season was 1927, when he bashed 60 big ones for a record that would stand for more than 30 years""). This clever juxtaposition provides Burleigh with abundant creative latitude, and he makes the most of it, delivering a solid biographical snapshot tucked inside a valentine to the sport. Wimmer's larger-than-life oil portraits, marvels of realism tinged with idealism, recall Norman Rockwell. His elastic use of perspective plants readers behind the home plate to watch Babe's pop fly head skyward, at the base line as his feet round the bases, and even in front of his bat, just spitting distance from the mound where the pitcher cocks his leg to wind up for the throw. Wimmer indicates two brief flashbacks to Babe Ruth's youth in sepia tones, while the rest of the artwork is full-color, bathed in glorious light. It's a superlative tribute, and most definitely a grand slam for this talented duo. Ages 6-10. (Aug.)