cover image Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way

Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way

Peter Golenbock. Gulliver Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202093-4

This picture book biography of one of baseball's greats inspires as well as informs. Golenbock (Teammates) deftly winnows his material to suit his audience, keeping the story line focused and lean while allowing the theme perseverance in the face of obstacles to shine through. As the author tells it, Aaron is born during the Depression and grows up in a poor but loving family. His father teaches him ""the joy of playing baseball in open grassy fields,"" while his mother stresses determination (""Set goals for yourself and don't let anyone stop you from achieving them""). Young Hank dreams of playing in the major leagues (which excluded black players until the year he turned 13). In time, his talent and drive take him to stardom with the Milwaukee Braves, where he sets a new goal for himself, to break the career home run record of Babe Ruth, ""baseball's most beloved hero."" Receiving hate mail and death threats, Aaron becomes even more determined, and breaks the record at the beginning of the 1974 season (with the now Atlanta-based Braves). Golenbock's prose is straightforward but full of drama and poignancy, qualities reflected in the quiet dignity of Lee's (The Good Luck Cat) spare, muted acrylic portraits, which transcend mere athleticism to capture the essential humanity of this compelling tale. Ages 6-9. (Apr.)