This picture book for older readers tells the story of famed Jewish baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax. Narrated by a fictional, unseen, “old-timer” who played alongside Koufax on the Dodgers, the book mentions few details of his life either before or after his major league career. The narrator tells his tale in an exaggerated Brooklyn accent, full of slang, grammar mistakes, and mispronunciations. (Examples: “Back when Koufax was a kid, growin’ up Jewish in Brooklyn, no one woulda guessed what he was about to become.” And, “He don’t look worried.”) The striking illustrations are caricature-like cartoon drawings mainly in shades of gray and metallic gold, with some red and blue highlights that will surely appeal to children. The eye-catching cover was designed by a special process with three different images imprinted on plastic so that it appears to be moving. The book mentions that Koufax was sometimes the target of anti-Semitic comments, and retells the well-known incident when he refused to pitch the first game in the 1965 World Series on Yom Kippur because, “if you’re Jewish, you ain’t supposed to work on a High Holy Day.” Details of Koufax’s career will be of interest to baseball fans, and the book’s message of persevering in spite of failure is an inspiring one. But, it’s hard to imagine this book appealing to a child who doesn’t already have a fascination for sports history or baseball statistics. Recommended for ages 7 – 11.
Hillary Zana has a BA and teaching credential from Princeton University. She was a day school librarian for many years and has written many Hebrew textbooks available through Behrman House Publishers. She currently teaches English and history in the Los Angeles public school system and is a National Certified teacher.