cover image Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

Jonah Winter, illus. by James Ransome. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4169-4080-7

“Baseball, believe it or not, was once the biggest sport in America.... And it wasn’t just the biggest sport—it was the biggest thing.” That’s some terrific context and tone setting for Winter’s readers, many of whom may view baseball as quaint at best. Winter (You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!) writes with a casual elegance that beautifully captures the spirit of an athlete whose signatures were grace and reticence (“And the way he said nothing... only made him more noticeable”). Ransome’s (Knock Knock) watercolors of DiMaggio’s early years with his immigrant Italian family in San Francisco look a bit like a Little Rascals short film. But as Joe rises to the pantheon of American cultural heroes (yes, there’s a nod to his marriage to Marilyn Monroe), Ransome nails the Yankee Clipper’s majestic nose and magnetic, toothy grin, and the images grow in expressiveness and imaginative power. Evoke whatever baseball idioms you want—grand slam, home run—this book is it, enabling readers to understand both what made DiMaggio a one-of-a-kind talent and the special hold he had on the public imagination. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)