From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3–5—This picture book pays homage to Aaron's strength of character and determination to play major league baseball. In 1940s Mobile, AL, young Aaron dreamed of playing though ballparks posted "Whites Only" signs and his father warned him, "Ain't no colored ballplayers." Then Mobile opened a "Colored Only" ball field, and, in 1947, Aaron learned that Jackie Robinson would play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After high school, Aaron joined a Negro League team, the Indianapolis Clowns. It was apparent that his talents would take him to the major leagues. Older teammates cheered him on, though "it was already too late for them." A large watercolor illustration captures the poignant scene as his teammates watch Aaron, who has just hit a towering fly ball, start to circle the bases. In both the Negro Leagues and the minor leagues, Aaron and his teammates met racism and hardship. White fans jeered, segregated restaurants and motels turned them away, and ballplayers often slept on buses while traveling between games. Tavares ends his account in 1954 when Aaron, having won a starting position on the Milwaukee Braves, met his hero in an exhibition game in his hometown. Well-written text and brilliantly composed art highlight the poignancy and triumph in Aaron's story. This rousing tribute should resonate with a wide audience.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
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The opening page presents a stark reminder of baseball’s shameful past: a chain-link fence, its sign emblazoned with“WHITES ONLY,” separating the viewer from the field. This reality is echoed in the narrative, which opens with Aaron’s childhood. After seeing Jackie Robinson play his first game as a Dodger in 1947, the skinny boy who could hit the ball harder than anyone around—even though he held the bat with the wrong hand on top—knew he had a chance to live his dream. But, as Tavares pointedly relates, it was anything but an easy road. Aaron weathered racism with steady perseverance and outstanding play from the Negro Leagues to his Milwaukee Braves debut. Tavares’ vibrant artwork brings viewers into dingy dugouts, on cramped busses, and into the dust of the diamond as Aaron works his way into history. Though the book ends just at the outset of Aaron’s record-making big-league career, a final spread of stats shows how good he was, and for how amazingly long. The home-run record may have been stolen, but books like this ensure that Aaron’s legacy remains intact. Grades 2-4. --Ian Chipman
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