- Pub. Date: February 2005
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
- Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
- Age Range: 4 to 8
- ISBN-10: 0689862733
- ISBN-13: 978-0689862731
If you lived in Brooklyn in 1951, your life revolved around the Brooklyn Dodgers. Come summertime you bled Dodger blue.
For the young Brooklyn Dodger fan in this story, the summer of 1951 was a summer for heroes. The Dodgers, with players like Jackie Robinson, Carl Erskine, and Clem Labine, faced off against the New York Giants in a pennant race that no one had seen the likes of and no one would ever forget.
On October 2, 1951, the New York Giants of the borough of Brooklyn held its breath as the Dodgers faced the Giants for the third, tie-breaking game to determine which team would go on to play the Yankees in the World Series.
More than just a story about baseball, this is a sweeping view of life in Brooklyn in the summer of 1951, from its streets, to its Cyclone, to its stadium. Phil Bildner pitches the ball and C. F. Payne hits a shot to be heard ’round the world giving this renowned story new life.
The title of Bildner and Payne’s latest collaboration (Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy) refers not to the beginning of the Revolutionary War, but rather to the end of the Dodgers’ 1951 run for the pennant. Affectionately calling the team “Dem Bums” and Ebbets Field, where they played, “Brooklyn’s cathedral,” the boy narrator sets the scene, then explains that all three New York teams were in a race to the World Series that summer. The Yankees had already secured their place, and on October 3, 1951, all of Brooklyn was holding its breath to see whether the Dodgers or the Giants would win the final game of the “best of three” tiebreaker to face the Yankees in the Series: “Up on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, the rabbis recited special hymns and prayers, and down at Lundy’s in Sheepshead Bay, the fussy old ladies, forever complainin’ about their flounder and snapper, put a fork in their whinin’.” Payne’s mixed-media paintings take on Norman Rockwell-like qualities as he portrays cheering teenagers gathered around radios and a glimmering Ebbets Field; it’s as if readers view the scenes through a soft-focus lens or the haze of distant but treasured memories. Just as effective are his portraits of the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson sliding into first, and the Giants’ Bobby Thomson, who, with the crack of his bat, signals the end of the Dodgers’ season. This author-artist team ably captures a moment in sports and cultural history that will have certain appeal for sports fans across generations. Ages 5-8. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Bildner takes us back to Brooklyn in 1951, when “life revolved around the Brooklyn Dodgers.” Baseball fans can probably best understand the excitement of the young fans that summer when the Dodgers seemed headed for the pennant, until their arch rivals—the New York Giants—forced them into a play-off. But all readers can get swept up into the drama of the final game. The winner would go on to the World Series. The tension all over Brooklyn rises until the last half of the ninth inning, when Bobby Thomson’s home run wins the game and the pennant for the Giants, and we are as let down as all of Brooklyn. Payne’s single and double-page mixed media scenes are almost photographic in their effort to accurately recreate that fateful year. He designs each to provide some information about clothing, or street scenes, or even the Coney Island Cyclone ride. But each goes well beyond what a snapshot might offer in its use of color plus the artistry to depict gestures as well as settings. For example, the scene of the end of Thomson’s ultimate swing, repeated on the jacket, is shown from a low angle against black background to emphasize the peak of the drama. Note the cover picture of Ebbets field on the cover, and actual photos from the game on the back of the jacket. 2005, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, Ages 5 to 9.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-The creators of Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy (S & S, 2002) again turn a nostalgic eye toward baseball’s past. Here, an unnamed narrator looks back on the summer of 1951 when his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers appear headed for the World Series. Then, the New York Giants go on a winning streak, forcing a playoff with the Dodgers to determine who will face the Yankees. This reminiscence combines baseball lore with a fond glimpse of a time when a big game could cause shops to close and fans to huddle by their radios. The folksy storytelling, strongly supplemented by the mixed-media artwork, conveys a warmly sentimental picture of that era. The painterly illustrations do a nice job of depicting both the action and the setting. Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t fare as well. Slowed by the shifts from ballpark to Brooklyn neighborhoods, the story fails to engage readers as it moves to a predictable climax. Though Bildner slips in authentic phrases and details, the tone is sometimes forced and annoying in phrases such as “-down at Lundy’s in Sheepshead Bay, the fussy old ladies, forever complainin’ about their flounder and snapper, put a fork in their whinin’.” This book will hold its greatest appeal for fans looking to relive the events of an earlier time.
“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” The words of announcer Russ Hodges reverberated through New York as Bobby Thompson hit that home run that dashed the hopes of Brooklyn Dodger fans for yet another year. Bildner captures the spirit of Brooklyn in 1951, as well as the details of the ups and downs of its hapless team and that incredible playoff game. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants were fighting for the privilege of playing the mighty New York Yankees in the World Series, and it brought the entire city to a standstill. The narrator, a nameless, ever optimistic young fan, speaks in a casual, careless manner, intended to reflect the slang and syntax of the era. However, Bildner’s technique of leaving off the final “g” of each and every verb in the “ing” form is overkill. Payne’s detailed, slightly misty illustrations perfectly enhance the text and provide beautifully realized visions of Brooklyn. Baseball history brought to life.