Thursday, April 14, 2016
Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares
Rating: 5 stars
I'm so happy it's baseball season again. I'm thrilled to spend many afternoons throwing the ball around with now both of my sons, and sometimes pitching to them in our backyard. I love watching Ben practice, and I love watching the games.
I've said it before here, but one of the things I love so much about baseball is that there are so many wholesome, heroic, hard-working, and dedicated ballplayers. Many of these great men lived and played in the past--but their memories live on through their stats and their lore, so their lessons are still accessible and easy to discuss with my sons. But how great to find a man from the present whose life and character are worth knowing and emulating.
The talented Matt Tavares shows and tells us of how Pedro Martinez grew up in the Dominican Republic. He followed in his big brother Ramon's footsteps as he played baseball, practiced pitching by aiming at mangoes in trees, and dreamed big. Ramon made it to the minor leagues, then the major leagues, and soon Pedro, despite his small size, got a chance. He pitched his way through the Dodgers' minor league system and finally played alongside Ramon. The two boys were ecstatic--it's a big dream come true!
Then what always happens happened: Pedro got traded to the Montreal Expos, but Ramon's advice to the upset Pedro turned out to be true. Ramon explained how the Dodgers would never make Pedro their starting pitcher, but the Expos will. The Expos do, and Pedro started to make headlines as a great pitcher, possibly even better than his brother.
The two brothers continue to play and excel and win awards--Pedro even more so than Ramon--until they finally play together again, this time on the Red Sox, and this time with Pedro as the star pitcher with heaps of talent and grit. The two return to the Dominican Republic often, where they've paid for a fantastic gathering space for their whole family in the spot on which they first learned to play the game.
I know this post is long enough, but the best part of the book for me is the brotherhood part. I know Kiefer keeps choosing this book because of the story of two brothers, making it to the big leagues together--and the little brother comes out on top. But I hope he's listening to the fact that the brothers don't care who is a bigger star. They love each other fiercely still now. When the boys were young, Ramon always looked out for him, and Pedro was smart enough to recognize this and humble enough to keep working hard. The brotherhood bond is awesome and strange right now for my boys--they can't stand being apart even when they can't figure out how to get along at that minute--but it's so important that they figure it out and trust in and believe in and root for each other...
I hope my boys continue to play baseball and be good team players and role models, but I hope even more they continue to be good brothers to each other.
Matt Tavares has several other great baseball (and non-baseball) picture books. Click HERE for a list of titles.