cover image The Funniest Man in Baseball: The True Story of Max Patkin

The Funniest Man in Baseball: The True Story of Max Patkin

Audrey Vernick, illus. by Jennifer Bower. Clarion, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-544-81377-9

Growing up, Max Patkin had big baseball dreams, but was also “a funny guy, a goofy guy, always looking for a laugh.” In this picture book biography, Vernick (Brothers at Bat) details Patkin’s brief career as a ballplayer, first in the minor leagues and then with a team of enlisted players during WWII. During one game, he pitches against, then pokes fun at Joe DiMaggio, earning a reputation as a jokester in the process. A shoulder injury forces Patkin to retire from the game, but his talents as an entertainer land him an official role as a “baseball clown” and performer in the big leagues. Vernick writes in energetic prose that is well matched to debut illustrator Bower’s cartoons, which depict Patkin’s exaggerated movements and clownlike expressions on and off the field. Readers learn little about Patkin’s personal life, though a quote from Patkin provides insight into how he felt about the unconventional role he filled: “In my heart I would have rather been a big-league baseball player. But then I’d have never made so many people happy.” An author’s note includes photographs and additional insight into Patkin’s life and outsize personality. Ages 6–9.[em] (Apr.) [/em]