Friday, September 12, 2014

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America's Hero by Barb Rosenstock

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America's Hero by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Terry Widener

Rating: 4 stars

Of course I'm a sucker for a baseball book.  And, like I've written so many times, baseball is a wonderful vehicle for teaching about life--history, character, decision making, consequences...  You name it, you can explain it through baseball.  None of this is very helpful for those of you with kids who dance or play hockey, but... This one goes out to all of you who have, like we do, bats and gloves and balls either in use or planted in the middle of the yard, ready at a moment's notice.

This isn't my favorite baseball book, but it does teach a wonderful American history lesson and provides insight into one of the greats, Joe DiMaggio.

In the summer of 1941, Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees began a hitting streak in which America happily got swept up. In one game after another, DiMaggio came to bat and earned hit after hit.  Thousands became followers of this streak, and they didn't have to love the Yankees. Why? Well, it's not like they had a ton of distractions like we do today, and Americans were happy to be distracted that summer because the country was readying itself for war. Up to this point, the biggest streak in American baseball stood at George Sisler's 41 games and Wee Willie Keeler at 44 games. When DiMaggio tied and then surpassed these streaks, everyone took notice.

Now the papers shouted Streak loud and clear,
pushing back news of the war marching overseas.
Rosenstock writes in a thrilling way, and she builds suspense well. This suspense builds nicely to the problem in the book, when DiMaggio's lucky bat, named Betsy Ann, goes missing. Up to this point, she writes as if the streak was a partnership, with equal responsibility going to man and bat. She doesn't talk of the superstition in baseball--or in all sports--but I'm guessing many kids understand the need for a certain bat, a certain hat, certain shoes or certain socks that they need in order to win. She remains missing throughout the game, and the streak looks dead in the water until "DiMaggio went to work anyway." And he got the job done.

It's a good story and I like that baseball is placed accurately in the context of a war that kids will soon learn about.  Even if kids don't fully appreciate the difficulty--the near impossibility--of a streak of 56 runs, this is a fun book to read to any baseball-loving kid (and his big sister). The end of the book is filled with statistics and a longer Author's Notes for parents or kids who want more information.

Baseball books are some of my favorite to review. For a list of all reviewed baseball books, click HERE.

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