Background: I don't review much nonfiction on this blog. This is because I'm a story person - I live and breathe stories, the longer and more complex the better. However, what I've come to realize is that if the true goal of my blog is to help people to grow bookworms, then I need to highlight more nonfiction titles. Because many readers, especially boys, prefer nonfiction. So I was feeling fairly receptive when someone from Bearport Publishing approached me about receiving review titles. Especially when she said that the books were "written and designed for reluctant readers in grades K-8". I checked out Bearport's website and their books did look engaging. And then I saw that their new series, World Series Superstars, features a book about Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox. And I was sold.
I was inspired to save this post and publish it on a Monday, as part of the new Nonfiction Mondays championed by Anastasia Suen. You'll be able to find a roundup of nonfiction reviews every Monday at her blog, Picture Book of the Day. I'll be back next week with another Bearport title.
Review: Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox, by Michael Sandler, is a nonfiction picture book aimed at elementary school kids. The book begins with a key moment in the career of slugger Manny Ramirez, as he faces the Cardinals in game three of the 2004 World Series. The author quotes Manny saying: "When I'm going things right, I have no fear". The story then moves back to Manny's childhood, his days playing high school baseball, and his early days playing in the major leagues, before arriving at Fenway Park. Some context is given for the 2004 playoffs and the Red Sox - Yankees rivalry, before the book concludes in triumph and a victory parade.
As a fan, I enjoyed seeing the historical details in this book, like a photo of high-school-aged Manny sliding into second base, though the later facts were well-known to me. I think it's wonderful that the book shows kids how hard Manny worked to make it to his level of success. I also enjoyed the well-chosen pictures, and the brief mentions of some of the other key players from the 2004 team (though the absence of Jason Varitek's name is a sad omission).
As a fan, I would have liked to see more detail in the book, especially for the author to have conveyed to the kids what an epic event that 2004 victory was for all of New England. Then again, I'm not sure if anyone could get that across in a few short pages. Sandler definitely hits on the highlights. I think that kids, whether Red Sox fans or not, will enjoy this title.
Content aside, Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox is a beautiful production. Chock-full of vivid photos, it features several easy-to-read paragraphs on each page spread, as well as information nuggets displayed in text boxes adjacent to the photos. The baseball theme is carried throughout, in even the smallest of details. The text boxes have a scoreboard-like border, and patterned grass in the background. The page numbers are set inside baseballs. Some of the pictures have frames, and are set at unusual angles, like baseball cards dropped on the page. It's a very inviting publication.
One thing that I really liked about this book is that at the end there is a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. The words included in the glossary are bolded in the main text, and include both difficult words and baseball-specific jargon. Pronunciation guides are included. The bibliography and index are short, but they are a wonderful introduction for kids to what it means for something to be nonfiction. When we write nonfiction, we reference where our facts came from. We give people sources of further information. We index what we're doing, so that readers can look up particular facts quickly. Even in this, a book in which the facts are fairly well-known, the author both sets a good example for and shows respect for his audience, by taking the attribution and indexing seriously.
Recommended for early elementary school-age fans of sports, especially baseball, and for Red Sox fans of all ages. This book would make an excellent library purchase.
Publisher: Bearport Publishing
Publication Date: January 2008
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.