cover image The Babe & I

The Babe & I

David A. Adler. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201378-3

In the Bronx in 1932, a boy out walking with his friend discovers that his ostensibly employed father is actually selling apples on the street. Shocked, the boy numbly follows the friend, a ""newsie,"" to work and ends up learning a great strategy for selling papers: go to Yankee Stadium and shout the latest about Babe Ruth. Adler, previously paired with Widener for Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man, creates an empathic but unsentimental portrait of life during the Depression. He conveys the father's humiliation and pride, but the boy's satisfaction in his own job and the family's general happiness keep their lot from seeming pitiful. After selling a paper to the Babe himself, the boy feels new kinship with him: ""He and I were a team.... His home runs helped me sell newspapers."" But baseball isn't really what drives the book--more importantly, ""I knew Dad and I were also a team. We were both working to get our family through hard times."" Widener's acrylics have a striking presence: their massy forms and jaunty, exaggerated perspectives achieve a look that's both nostalgic and edgy. Adler and Widener score big--their book reads like a labor of love. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)