From School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Most readers of this picture-book biography will not know about "Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud," which has been used to prepare baseballs before every game for the past 75 years. However, once they hear this tale, they will never again look at a game ball in the same way. Blackburne was never an outstanding player, but he will go down in history for developing a solution to the wet, soggy baseballs that could be difficult to throw during a game. One day after fishing, he stepped in some soft, gooey mud and an idea was born. Because the mud took the shine off any new white baseball, he began to sell it. Dominguez's illustrations, which are painterly in style, look as if pastels were used to draw the dramatic baseball poses in a variety of perspectives. The author appends a note about why baseball players prefer a dirty ball to a bright white one. Front endpapers show squeaky clean balls while the back endpapers exhibit balls after they have used Lena's Rubbing Mud. This accessible story with be enjoyable to a larger audience than just baseball fans.-Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kids looking for a quirky topic to fill an assignment on inventors are going to appreciate this picture-book biography. The invention of baseball mud came about because new baseballs were too shiny and slick for pitchers to get a good grip, and the sheen blinded batters. Many methods were used to remedy this, from soaking the balls in dirty water, which made them soggy and soft, to using spit and tobacco juice, which was just, well, nasty. Enter Lena Blackburne, a baseball player with limited success who eventually settled into coaching in the early part of the twentieth century. While he was fishing near his home, the mud sticking to his boots gave him the idea of rubbing it on baseballs, and Lena Blackburne’s Baseball Rubbing Mud was born. Today all baseballs used in major league games are rubbed with this mud. The colorful, exaggerated paintings artfully (and comically) capture the full allure of ballpark ambiance by including plenty of behind-the-scenes activity. The information provided in the minimal text is bolstered by a solid two-page author’s note. Grades 2-4. --Randall Enos