When Jackie and Hank Met by Cathy Goldberg Fishman

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Of course, this book caught my eye!  A book about a collision (literally) between two future members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame – one the first black Major League Baseball player and the other the first Jewish baseball star. When Jackie and Hank Met by Cathy Goldberg Fishman is a terrific new picture book about that moment on May 17, 1947 when Robinson and Greenberg met during a close play at first base.  Fishman’s book focuses on the two men who broke racial and religious barriers, and it’s a story that should inspire kids to learn more about both players.

The story of their meeting opens my biography of Hank Greenberg. Years ago, when I first heard the story I remember thinking that I had “found” my first page. Most kids know about Jackie  Robinson, but Greenberg’s story is less familiar. The thought was to get them hooked with a story about Jackie Robinson and hope they continued reading.

Fishman’s idea was a good one – this story deserves its own book.

To read more about When Jackie and Hank Met, The Whole Megillah has a review:

http://thewholemegillah.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/book-review-when-jackie-and-hank-met-by-cathy-goldberg-fishman/

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Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick

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My favorite thing about sports is the stories. Not the scores or the rankings or the championships. Truthfully, I can’t name the two years (in this century) that the Red Sox won the World Series without looking it up, but there are so many great stories – and this is one of the best.  The Acerra family, who lived in New Jersey during the 1930s, had sixteen children – twelve boys and four girls. It’s kind of hard to get your head wrapped around meal time and the laundry, isn’t it?

But anyway…the Acerra boys played baseball, all of them. They had an entire team – with backups!  Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team is the story of the Acerra family. The most striking (get it?) thing to me about their story is how incredibly supportive the boys were of one another. Their father was their coach and as Vernick writes, he “never missed a game.” This is a sports story, but more importantly, a warm family story.

Steven Salerno’s illustrations fit the feel of the book perfectly. They look like the 1930s and complement the text in every way. Later in the story, you see one of the boys returning home from World War II. It shows just the back of one of the Acerra brothers returning home (six of them served) and their mother standing at the front door. It’s a beautiful picture – evocative of a different era.

Speaking of baseball in the 1930s, my biography of Hank Greenberg was selected as one of the Best Children’s Books of the Year by Bank Street College of Education. I’ve appreciated and relied on Bank Street’s recommendations for many years so I’m grateful to be included on their list.  One last thing…I just looked this up. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and in 2007.

Friday Happiness

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So much to be happy about today….I visited a friend today and we went to Starbucks, the sun is shining, and Pandora is playing Golden Slumbers (my favorite Beatles song) as I write this. On top of all that, my editor just sent me a link to Junior Library Guild’s list of “Baseball Book Hits,” and Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg is on the list.  Opening Day is next Thursday, so kids of all ages will be getting out their baseball caps. I always begin the season kind of excited to hear Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy broadcasting the Red Sox games. Even though I’m not often paying close attention to the score, just hearing their voices as I move around the house makes it feel like summer. My favorite part of watching the game is seeing the miniature Wally the Green Monster sitting in his white adirondack chair in front of their microphones. 

Here’s the link to the Junior Library Guild/School Library Journal list:

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/894060-312/on_the_radar_top_picks.html.csp

Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg’s Big Week

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Over this past week, there have been a couple of nice articles about my book, Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg – one from Boston.com and the other from the Patriot Ledger.

Here are links to both:

http://articles.boston.com/2012-01-23/yourtown/30656287_1_calkins-creek-jewish-holidays-baseball-hall

http://www.patriotledger.com/topstories/x117070778/Scituate-resident-to-get-award-for-Hank-Greenberg-biography

Last night I read half of  My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson. Edwardson’s young adult novel was a finalist for the National Book Award.  I’m including School Library Journal’s review of the book, but I can tell you that reading this story is not easy. It’s a beautiful and compelling novel, but my heart aches for the kids who share their painful experiences, especially since you know they are based on true stories. I would recommend this book to mature middle school students.

Here’s the review from School Library Journal:

“Prior to the Molly Hootch Act of 1976, which required Alaska to build and staff high schools in even the smallest of the rural villages, children who wished to continue their education beyond what was offered in their communities traveled to BIA or church-supported boarding schools in the lower 48 or more populated parts of Alaska. Luke’s Inupiaq experience of leaving his home near the Arctic Circle in 1960 to journey with his two younger brothers to the Catholic sponsored Sacred Heart School is based in large part on Edwardson’s husband’s memories of boarding school. The author unflinchingly explores both the positive and negative aspects of being away from home at such a young age. Nothing is familiar to Luke and his fellow students; the terrain, the food, the language are strange, and their struggle with feelings of homesickness and alienation is heart-wrenching. Edwardson’s skillful use of dialogue and her descriptions of rural Alaska as well as boarding-school life invoke a strong sense of empathy and compassion in readers as they experience Luke’s emotions along with him. It is rare that an author can write about a controversial subject such as this without prejudice. Edwardson is to be applauded for her depth of research and her ability to portray all sides of the equation in a fair and balanced manner while still creating a very enjoyable read.”

An Award and a New Book

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When the representative of the Sydney Taylor Book Award called to tell me that Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg is a 2012 Honor Book, it took me a minute to fully “get it.” For years, I have eagerly read the list of the winners of this award, along with the other children’s book awards announced each January. It never occurred to me that my book would join the respected list of authors and illustrators who receive Sydney Taylor Awards.  

The first thing I did after hearing the news was to purchase a hard cover copy of Sydney Taylor’s classic novel, All-of-a-Kind Family. Of course, I read the book as a young girl, long before I anticipated any association with Sydney Taylor.  Published in 1951, Taylor’s book (and its four sequels), follow the adventures of five Jewish sisters and their parents living in New York City during the early 1900s.  I don’t recall the details and am looking forwared to re-reading it, but I can remember the peek into another world that Taylor’s books provided and looking for pictures of  New York City after reading them. Taylor’s world was “foreign” and exciting  – in the same way as Laura’s life on the prairie. I grew up in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio and, quite frankly, many of the people I knew shared common backgrounds and beliefs.  I didn’t visit New York until I was an adult, but Taylor’s books were one of my first literary experiences of that city.

Like the family in Taylor’s novels, I grew up with sisters and books with families of girls had special appeal. Little Women, The Little House books, and Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family.  These stories were my gateway into other worlds and inspired my life-long love of reading. I’m going to curl up soon with Taylor’s novel – the real book, not an e-book. When I read the books for the first time in the 1970s, a Nook was something you “sat in.” When I revisit Ella and her sisters, I want to read it the same way I read it the first time.

Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg Selected as a Sydney Taylor Honor Book!

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2012 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced Press Release
Association of Jewish Libraries Selects Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens
Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book!  Here’s the official press release about the three winners – and the eight (including Hank) Honor Books…………………………
 Michael J. Rosen and Robert Sabuda, author and artist of Chanukah Lights, Susan Goldman Rubin, author of Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, and Robert Sharenow, author of The Berlin Boxing Club,are the 2012 winners of the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award. The awards were announced at the mid-winter meeting of the School, Synagogue and Community Center Division of the Association of Jewish Libraries.
 
The Sydney Taylor Book Award honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience. The award memorializes Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series. The winners will receive their awards at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Pasadena,California this June. 

 

For Younger Readers Rosen and Sabuda will receive the 2012 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers Category for Chanukah Lights,published by Candlewick Press.This exquisite bookcelebrates Jewish history by pairing poetic prose with intricate paper cut pop-up art. Barbara Bietz, Chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, said: “From the shtetl to skyscrapers, the white pop-up scenes against a background of deep rainbow colors illuminate Jewish life for the eight nights of Chanukah. Together, children and adults will marvel at the stunning scenes that magically unfold with each turn of the page.”
 
 

For Older Readers The gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Older Readers Category will be presented to Susan Goldman Rubin for Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein,published by Charlesbridge Publishing. This biography shares the inspiring story of the young musician and his commitment to succeed in spite of his family’s opposition.Through hard work, determination and a spirit that won’t quit, Bernstein’s dream is realized as he takes the stage as a conductor at Carnegie Hall. Numerous photos help bring Bernstein’s journey to life. Committee member Barbara Krasner commented: “Music Was It shows the struggle between the old and new worlds – the immigrant generation and the American generation. Susan Goldman Rubin’s well-researched and polished narrative was filled with tension that today’s kids can relate to.”
In 2000, Goldman Rubin received theSydney Taylor Honor Award for Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Her book, The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin, was a 2006 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. 
 
For Teen Readers Robert Sharenow will receive the 2012 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen Readers Category for The Berlin Boxing Club, published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishing. This historical novel reveals the history of Nazi Germany through the eyes of Karl Stern, a typical 14-year-old German boy. Karl never gave much thought to being Jewish and had little connection with any religious life. When classmates bully Karl, he is forced to face the dangers in his own community. Given the opportunity to learn boxing from German champion Max Schmeling, Karl jumps at the chance. He grows strong and learns to defend himself. But as the Nazi’s gain power and his family is in peril, Karl questions who he can trust. Aimee Lurie, incoming Chair of the Award Committee noted: “The superb writing, meticulous research, and dramatic look into the world of boxing pack a punch that will leave teens mesmerized! Readers will be captivated and inspired by Karl’s transformation from being the victim of anti-semitic violence to a strong, confident young man who is able to protect his family.”
 
Honor Books & Notable Books

Eight Sydney Taylor Honor Books were named for 2012.
 
Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti with illustrations by Holly Meade (Candlewick Press) and Around the World in One Shabbat written and illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard (Jewish Lights Publishing) are recognized in the Younger Readers Category.  
Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Older Readers include: Lily Renee, Escape Artist: from Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer by Trina Robbins with illustrations by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh (Graphic Universe, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.), Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg: Baseball Pioneer by Shelley Sommer (Calkins Creek, an imprint Boyds Mills Press), and Irena’s Jars of Secrets by Marcia Vaughan with illustrations by Ron Mazellan (Lee & Low Books). For teen readers, the Honor Books are Then by Morris Gleitzman (Henry Holt and Company) and The Blood Lie by Shirley Reva Vernick (Cinco Puntos Press).

The Whole Megillah

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Thanks to Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah for her support of my book, Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg: Baseball Pioneer. The Whole Megillah is a website totally devoted to Jewish-themed books for children. Recently, Barbara asked Carolyn Yoder (my editor) and me to answer a few questions about Hank Greenberg.

Here’s the link:

http://thewholemegillah.wordpress.com/