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All Star!: Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever Hardcover – March 4, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 2–5—This smartly crafted picture-book biography brings to life the Hall of Famer whose rare baseball card sold for three million dollars at a 2007 auction. Honus Wagner played for more than 20 seasons, most with the Pittsburgh Pirates; today he is recognized as one of the greatest shortstops ever. Born in 1874 to hardworking German immigrants, he lived in a hardscrabble suburb of Pittsburgh, whose skies were darkened by smoke from the city's many steel and iron mills. After sixth grade, Wagner and his brothers followed their father into the coal mines, where "he worked loading two tons of coal a day for 79 cents." Baseball offered a way out of the mines, and Wagner's natural talent and work ethic won acclaim throughout his career. With a storyteller's voice, Yolen's prose depicts the homely, bow-legged athlete: "it was said he could tie his shoes without bending over." Together with Burke's masterfully composed oil paintings, Yolen limns the athlete's strength of character whether in protecting an umpire from an unruly crowd or teaching his beloved daughters to play the game he loved so much. Another delightful oversize illustration finds Wagner awkwardly posed in a photographer's studio, his huge fielder's glove on his knee, as a group of young fans gather outside. Yolen and Burke have created an affectionate tribute to a baseball great and his times.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
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From Booklist

Yolen opens her picture-book verse biography of one of baseball’s most revered shortstops with a quick account of how his incredibly rare baseball card sold for almost three million dollars. She then firmly plants the story in Wagner’s working-class upbringing, where the bowlegged boy packed on muscle loading coal in the mines and developed a love of baseball playing with his German immigrant family after church on Sundays. A handful of tall-tale-worthy anecdotes (picking up a frustratingly slow base runner and carrying him to the plate; loosening a couple of mouthy Ty Cobb’s teeth) make for memorable lore, each ending with a folksy “How about that!” In stating the obvious, that Honus did everything “without drugs / or fancy training programs / or million-dollar incentives,” Yolen comes off as more grouchy than admiring, but she is in particularly fine form with her sharp baseball-specific descriptions (“the dust from a sliding steal curling up into his nose”). Burke’s spacious and painterly artwork is a little static but nicely evokes a simpler era in this stately tribute to the early diamond hero. Grades 1-3. --Ian Chipman

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 880L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel Books (March 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399246614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399246616
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 0.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,077,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. Active in several organizations, Yolen has been on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988, is on the editorial board of several magazines, and was a founding member of the Western New England Storytellers Guild, the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Bay State Writers Guild. For twenty years, she ran a monthly writer's workshop for new children's book authors. In 1980, when Yolen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the citation recognized that "throughout her writing career she has remained true to her primary source of inspiration--folk culture." Folklore is the "perfect second skin," writes Yolen. "From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world." Folklore, she believes, is the universal human language, a language that children instinctively feel in their hearts. All of Yolen's stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding. Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille. With a versatility that has led her to be called "America's Hans Christian Andersen," Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: "I don't care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told."

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Book Nosher on August 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
All Star! opens with the story of how a Honus Wagner baseball card sold at auction for three million dollars in June 2007. It then goes back 134 years to a small town in Pennsylvania where a baby was born to a mining family. From here it chronicles Honus's humble beginnings in this impoverished town where boys entered the mines after the sixth grade. On their only day off, they played baseball. With all the work in the mines, Honus was strong. One legend has it that when he was twelve he came to bat and belted the ball out into the outfield. While running around the bases, he caught up to the other runner, picked him up and slung him over his back and dropped him on the brick they used for home plate.

The story has lots of moments about Honus as he worked his way up through the minors and finally to a place on a Paterson, NJ team. Kids will enjoy hearing that he was paid $125 per month (the average yearly pay for a worker then was $439). When he ultimately joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1900, Honus won the National League batting championship eight times. There are many legends about Honus out there, and the book tells a few of them. He was considered one of the greatest baseball players ever. When he had the famous baseball card made of him, he had it pulled when he realized that it was sold in cigarette packs. He thought it would give his young fans the wrong idea about cigarettes. So the cards became very rare, and very valuable.

Honus Wagner was a player who played baseball for the sheer love of the game. In 1936, when the Baseball Hall of Fame was established, he was one of the first five men inducted into it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Barker on May 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Your child will hardly realize he's learning as he reads All Star!. Jane Yolen masterfully recounts history like a the true storyteller she is and Jim Burke's illustrations add a homey, warm touch. This would be an ideal gift for baseball fans of any age.
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