cover image Coming Home Story of Josh Gibson Home Run Hitter

Coming Home Story of Josh Gibson Home Run Hitter

Nanette Mellage. Troll Communications, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8167-7009-0

Mellage (See Me Grow, Head to Toe) brings a homespun grace to her tale about a hero of the Negro Leagues. ""The best hitter I ever saw?"" a grandfather says to his grandson. ""Bet here's one you won't know."" And he tells the boy about Josh Gibson, a powerhouse hitter for the Homestead (Pa.) Grays, and how the fans would roar, ""Thunder's comin'!"" when Gibson stepped up to bat. The highlight of the reminiscence is the grandfather's boyhood trip with his own father to Yankee Stadium to see Gibson play in one of the final games of the unofficial Negro League Championship of 1930. ""No player in any league, before or since, has hit the ball as far as Josh did that day,"" he says of the game's finest moment, when Gibson slams a home run right out of the stadium. Mellage's easy conversational rhythm accommodates natural-sounding descriptions (""When Josh went back to the dugout and laid his bat down, my heart sank right along with it""). The opening pages describe segregation and racism, with further discussion relegated to an afterword. Sensitive watercolor portraits by Van Wright and Hu (Mei-Mei Loves the Morning) capture the vigor of the sport, the edge-of-the-seat thrill of the fans and the affection between the characters. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)