by Zachary Hyman & Zachary Pullen, illustrator
Tundra Books 4/1/2014
Age 6 to 9 50 pages
“It’s 1927, and ten-year-old George Henry Alexander is full of the joys of summer: long days, warm nights, and baseball, especially the greatest player in the game: Babe Ruth—the Bambino. When George’s parents surprise him with tickets to a game between his beloved Yankees and their rivals, the Boston Red Sox, he couldn’t be more excited. A real baseball game, and his first chance to see his hero in the flesh. But when the big day arrives, things don’t quite go according to plan. On what is supposed to be the best afternoon of his young life, George finds himself doing the one thing no true Yankees fan should ever do. He’s so low he’d rather kiss a girl! How can he face his hero when he feels like the biggest traitor in the world?”
“I’ll always remember the summer of 1927. I was ten, and we lived in a tiny apartment above Berman’s Bakery in the Bronx.”
Ten-year-old George Henry loved baseball. He doesn’t play the game very well and is often the last picked for a team, but George loves baseball just the same. To George, the best team in the world is the New York Yankees and the best player is Babe Ruth—the Bambino. For George’s birthday, his parents give him tickets to a Yankee home game against the Boston Red Sox, the big rival. George also gets a gift from his Uncle Alvin, who lives in Boston. He sends George a baseball cap and a jersey—for the Red Sox! George cannot wear a Boston Red Sox jersey, he’ll be a traitor, but mom insists George will wear them—else he will insult his Uncle. On game day, with his proud pop wearing a Yankee blue tie, poor George goes to the game of his life wearing a Boston Red Sox jersey. George stands out at the game, being the only one in red sitting in a sea of blue in the home-side stands. How can he enjoy the game when he is being a traitor to the Yankees and his hero?
Obviously, neither mom nor Uncle Alvin understand iota about the game of baseball, the New York Yankees, or rivalries. George stands up to mom the best he can. I was hoping maybe pop would have a change of clothing for his son, or get him a jersey at the game, but nope, poor George sits through the entire game looking like a Red Sox fan. It’s criminal.
Baseball stories are terrific and ones about Babe Ruth even better—if they are well written. The Bambino and Me is a home run! I like the story from a young fan’s point of view that explains how rabid fans can become. Little George doesn’t mouth off to his mom, but the day she insists he will wear the Red Sox jersey, he fought the best he could and goes farther against his Mom than he probably ever thought he would. So far, in fact, that the soap bar punishment falls upon George. Mom just does not get it, which is why little girls are not in baseball stories from the 1920’s.
The illustrations are great. You are pulled back to that earlier time in New York City when men wore suits and ties to baseball games. When kids played outside without a phone and read real books. People’s faces look gummy due to the intricate detail of the face. When Mom yells, her second chin tries to come forth and every muscle around her mouth is visible through the cheek. Understanding the expression on any character’s face is an easy read. Once in the Red Sox uniform, George looks like a tiny man rather than a boy, which is humorous, and I hope this is the intent. The illustrations can tell the story, making this a good choice for story hour or reading to a group of different aged kids. I wish I could have shown you the standard three spreads. Tundra has a policy of one spread, but it is a terrific spread. You can see the mushy faces that bring out the nostalgia of the era.
I love the illustrations of the stands where poor George has a horrible time in the Red Sox uniform surrounded by blue on all sides. Some of the other fans, including adults, give George looks that run from nasty to shock to humor. The text will keep you reading, wanting to know how this horrible outing will turn around for George. Of course, Babe Ruth spots him. “Two palookas” escort George and his father under the stadium where a scene unfolds that every baseball fan, young and old, would give most anything to have happen. As wonderful as the illustrations are, without the text you miss the “two palookas” and the message Babe Ruth writes on George’s baseball card
After the story, the author, a young* Zachary Hyman, gives the reader insight into why he wrote the book. There are also actual pictures from Babe Ruth’s playing days peppered in with the illustrations. If you do not feel like reading, but want to know how things turn out for little George, (big George is George Herman Ruth—Babe Ruth, the Bambino), you can listen. Jason Alexander, who played another “George” in Seinfeld, will read you the story, just pop in the included CD.If that isn’t enough, take off the book jack and turn it inside out. You will have a nice poster of Babe Ruth and one of his iconic quotes.
Young boys and girls will like this story about a young boy named George forced to be a traitor to his hero, and the hero’s response. The story is about doing you best; being your best; giving it—whatever “it” means to you—your all every time and, according to Babe Ruth, success will follow. While the story is fiction, it is not far-fetched, considering Babe Ruth’s love of children. One wonders, if George had not worn Boston red, and therefore never having stood out to Babe Ruth, would he have met his idol. Maybe Uncle Alvin did know a little about baseball after all.
*Zachary Hyman is a University of Michigan student. This year, as a Junior, Zach (ice hockey, #11), won the Bates/Deskins Award—Awarded annually by UofM to a junior student-athlete who excels both academically and athletically. I am an Ohio State Buckeye, but given the prestige of the award, I heartily say, “Congratulations, Zach!”
THE BAMBINO AND ME. Text copyright © 2014 by Zachary Hyman. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Zachary Pullen. Reproduced by permission of Tundra Books, Toronto, ON.
Learn more about The Bambino and Me HERE.
Thank you to Mr. Dan Sharpe of Random House for the illustration.
Also by Zachary Hyman
Also by Zachary Pullen