You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! By Jonah Winter

Starting with the line, You gotta be kidding! You never heard of Sandy Koufax? the author outlines the career of Sandy Koufax in a kid-friendly voice. The author was very aware of his intended audience and used improper grammar and structure and instead wrote as if he was in a conversation. It never felt like I was sitting down to leran. Rather, I read a story in which many facts and bits of information were intergrated. In talking about his sudden retirement, the author states, You should seen it when he made the announcement. A room full of reporters' mouths fell open. It made no sense. It was this tone that made the book quite enjoyable.
I think this book would be a great read for younger baseball lovers. In addition to the wonderful use of voice, the pictures are captivating. The use of color makes specific components stand out to the treader. For those that are interested in baseball to a great degree, the book includes sidebars with statistics and facts related to Sandy's career. I would recommend this book for use with third and fourth graders. 0375837388 Booklist 2009 Editors Choice Review 0375837388 This was a fun one. I read it out loud to my youngest while my son was in the room and he kept weighing in with additional baseball facts. He even quizzed her the next morning on what she remembered about the story. I like stories that inspire family togetherness and it was neat to hear about this baseball player's brief but incredible success. 0375837388 Two things really lowered this book in my eyes. The first one being the most important: the author writes Sandy Koufax was like the Greek god of baseball. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of history and/or Judaism would know how offensive that is. The amazing part is that this is written 2 pgs after describing Koufax's famous refusal to play during High Holy Days. The second thing that I find bothersome is that some of the stats are described as taken from Wikipedia. Baseball stats can be very subjective to begin with; why would any respectable author, or editor for that matter, take stats from a source that is not known for being the most reliable? 0375837388 Great book! 0375837388

In this striking picture book biography, an old-timer tells us what made Sandy Koufax such an amazing baseball player. We learn that the beginning of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers was rocky, that he was shy with his teammates, and experienced discrimination as one of the only Jews in the game. We hear that he actually quit, only to return the next season—different—firing one rocket after another over the plate. We watch him refuse to play in the 1965 World Series because it is a Jewish high holy day. And we see him in pain because of an overused left arm, eventually retiring at the peak of his career. Finally, we are told that people are still “scratchin’ their heads over Sandy,” who remains a modest hero and a mystery to this day.

Accompanied by sidebars filled with statistics, this Parents Magazine Best Book of the Year and Booklist Top of the List is sure to delight budding baseball fans. You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!


Download Æ PDF, eBook or Kindle ePUB free À Jonah Winter

I was thrilled when a baseball biography landed on the North Carolina Children's Book Award list for the year. But I have to admit, I judt didn't really get this one. I mean, I've heard of Sandy Koufax, and I'm thrilled to get his name out to a new generation of fans. Or, for that matter, to build a new generation of baseball fans. But this book just didn't work for me. The unnamed first person narrator concept did not work for me. I didn't care for the art. I found the side bars with extra information, usually something I love, to be kind of odd in what they highlighted and how. Sorry, I just didn't like it. 0375837388 In picking out baseball books for my week ahead, I was drawn to the cover of this one - as I anticipate my students to be on Monday. There were a few in this series about baseball greats. Surprisingly, I never heard of the series! However, it's a great approach to biographies for young students. I really like the layout, narration, and presentation. It's easy to get into, you learn a lot about the player, and for those that want to learn more about baseball and the stats, opportunities are provided.

Very nicely done, and I look forward to checking more out in this series! 0375837388 I had heard of Sandy Koufax prior to this book. I could tell you he was something to do with baseball and that's about all. I may not have even gotten the sport right, but I knew he was an athlete.

Now, however, I can tell you that Koufax earned his star status as a Dodger through hard, hard work. He was Jewish, and proud to be so in a time and place that didn't necessarily accept him. He had lots of potential as a youth but once he made it to the major leagues he didn't get the chance to really explore that potential, so he asked to be worked more. He threw wild pitches but once he finally relaxed and let himself do what he did, he became a force to be reckoned with. Not bad for someone who kinda sorta knew who he was, and it's thanks to this book.

While this isn't an on the day he was born biography, we do get a snapshot of his youth before turning our attention to his career as a Dodger through his retirement. Throughout, we learn about who Sandy Koufax was as a person, not just a baseball player. That he was proud of his heritage and knew that hard work was the only way to compete. Very good sentiments to convey to today's children.

When I first read this, I didn't notice all the details of the illustrations. Once I did, I loved them. I loved how Dodger blue was the primary color and tied into that was the gold you can see in the first picture of Koufax's glove. Add a bit of the red found on the Dodger uniform and that completes the color palette--everything else is in muted, grey-ish colors. (Although check out the red in the illustration when Koufax does relax!)

Put it together and you have a great book that's sure to interest sports fans and not-really-sports fans (like myself) because Koufax is a really interesting character that I'm glad received some attention from the Winter/Carrilho team.

Recommended, grades 1 to 2 and up. 0375837388 I loved this book and couldn’t wait to share it with the children at my school. As I’d expected, they loved the cover. They also loved the way the illustrator used gold on the pictures.

The story was a little too hard for them. They were confused with the author’s use of first person plural. They did not get the way the author used the vernacular voice to tell the story. They needed more background information about Koufax.

But they loved that it was about a baseball player. They liked the voice of the author and thought it was fun. When it came down to voting, the room was clearly divided: Children who loved baseball rated it a 5 and those who did not like baseball rated the book a 1.
It is a book with wonderful facts about a fascinating man. I would suspect that ten and eleven year olds would enjoy the book a bit more than my young students, but I bet that a lot of the cleverness and fun of the book would elude even them.

Maybe we need to create a new category of books: Picture Books for Grownups. I loved this book and would definitely recommend it to parents or teachers to read with their kids who love baseball. Not sure many children would really hang in there with the book on his own. Not even a big baseball fan. Not even a big baseball fan living in NY.

A Sample:
‘One day one of our scouts, Al Campanis, invites Sandy to Ebbets Field---home of our team, the Brooklyn Dodgers---so’s he can see the hotshot pitch. After battin’ just one time against him, Campanis has seen enough. He says to Sandy, “Kid, how’d you like to play for us. Don’t think too hard.” Quick as you can say “Jackie Robinson,” this nineteen-year-old squirt was wearin’ Dodgers blue and earnin’ more dough than some of us old-timers.’

Children’s Comments:
You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!
Elyssa, 6, said, I liked how the words were written.
Chloe, 6, said, I liked how he did the glove.
Sylvia, 5, said, I liked the front cover.
Jase, 5, said, I liked the pictures.

Children’s Ratings: 5, 1, 5, 5, 5, 5, 1, 5, 1
0375837388 Mmf. Baseball. Symbolic sports of its ilk get all the good press when it comes to children's books. Tiki Barber books aside, if I were to place odds I'd have to say that a full 50% of kids books about sports concentrate on baseball. After all, its fans are inclined to view a regular game as nothing short of epic. Men in a field. Duking it out under a blazing sun. The intermingling of strength and smarts. Yeah. So basically baseball bores me to tears. I'll sit in on a game anytime you like, but that's just as something to pass the time doing. So when I pick up a book like You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! I'm looking at it the same way any bored nine-year-old might. I place it on my lap and yell at it, Okay, book! Impress me! Make me care! It's a tall order. Lesser books have scuffled their feet and slunk away from the challenge. And for all that the cover of this book is a holographic wonder, I wasn't gonna let some pretty Johnny-come-lately charm me into thinking it was any good right off the bat. You want my love? Thrill me. And darned if Jonah Winter throws that request right back in my face. He's taken Sandy Koufax, a guy I've only vaguely heard mentioned before alongside the word Dodgers, and has woven a tale of becoming the best through time, effort, and grotesquely swollen limbs. So I am telling you here and now that if you have a kid that loves baseball, or a kid that couldn't care less, whatever the case may be this is the book for them. You never heard of Sandy Koufax? Get ready to.

He was just a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, really. Growing up he seemed to be good at every sport he did, but when it came to pitching that Koufax kid was something else. Before long he was hired by the Dodgers and trying to earn his keep. The problem? He wasn't the world's greatest pitcher. He could throw strikes, but mostly he was nowhere near the strike zone. Even after the Dodgers moved to L.A. he wasn't quite living up to his potential. After the 1960 season he left, even going so far as to throw away his outfit. Fortunately for everyone, when spring training rolled around he was back and in a preseason game against the twins he gave a powerhouse performance. Really let 'em fly. After that, no one could stop him and when he retired young he was a legend in his own right. As the book says, Who was Sandy Koufax? Sandy Koufax was a guy who finally relaxed enough to let his body do the one thing it was put on this earth to do. And what a thing of beauty that was. A glossary of baseball terms and information on the statistics in this book appear at the end.

You might be wondering how it is that I feel I'm qualified to review this book since I have, right from the start, admitted that I'm a baseball naïf. Well, I'll tell ya. I know me some baseball fans. The kinds of people who will tell you breathlessly where they were when such n' such a game played at such n' such a time. The kinds who know the story of Sandy Koufax inside, outside, and upside down. And you know what? They like this book. Boy howdy yeah do they. One adamant fan told me that she was particularly interested in the mention of the time when Sandy sat out the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on a Jewish High Holy Day. Now as she pointed out to me, Sandy wasn't observant. So if Mr. Winter had gone about saying that Sandy did it because he wanted to observe the day just as he always had, that would have been a bit of a stretching of the old truth there. Instead, Winter tells it like it is. Sandy sits out the game to show he's proud to be Jewish. There you go. Open and shut case.

Sandy Koufax may have been the strikeout king of baseball, but if you ask me Jonah Winter's the current strikeout king of the non-fiction picture book set. Examine this man's 2009 year alone. This guy's juggling a bio of Sandy Koufax alongside one of Gertrude Stein (Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude) with enough time to spare to give a tip of the hat to, of all people, Gilbert and Sullivan (The Fabulous Feud Of Gilbert And Sullivan). No two books sound alike. No two books look alike. Really the only thing they have in common is that they're fabulous. The man's on fire and I'll level anybody that tries to put that fire out. Mind you, I would have liked to have seen a Bibliography at the back of the book in some way. Just something to tell me where Winter was getting his facts.

It important to me that the book doesn't show the entire life of Koufax from mewling babe to doddering old man. Instead you get the sense that you are seeing his whole life, when in fact Winter has cleverly limited himself to pretty much only identifying that moment in Koufax's life where everything changed. That single pinpoint in time when he went from mediocre to legendary. Not everyone has that moment, and when you find someone who does it's probably all a writer can do not to put pen to paper and talk about it nonstop. The book is also written in an easygoing, seemingly off-hand style. It reads like a conversation you might have with a friend at a party. It's not hokey, and it sure isn't folksy either. Just . . . comfortable. You are inclined to trust the narrator, even if you've never met him before. And kids reading this book will find in it an exceedingly accessible tale of a brand new (which is to say, quite old) hero.

As for illustrator Andre Carrilho, I'm sure I've seen his work in various magazines and newspapers around the country. But the first time he really caught my eye was when he illustrated Patricia McKissack's Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters Tricksters and other Wily Characters. In that book Carrilho's style was stretched, pulled, and rounded out to accommodate the tallest of very tall tales. You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! may prove to be a more natural fit for Carrilho though. After all, he's made a name for himself doing caricature. How much more of a stretch is it really, then, when he portrays real historical figures in a child-friendly non-fiction manner? And while the characters in Porch Lies looked fine within their context, there's an air of authenticity around these Sandy Koufax folks. Sandy himself is portrayed as a lithe fellow with permanently squinting eyes and thick luscious eyebrows. These eyebrows do much of the work, indicating with a tweak or a curl whether or not Koufax is feeling particularly downtrodden or focused at any given moment.

Random House also apparently wasn't feeling the pinch of the economic downturn when they filled this book to brimming with gold and movement. The cover, as I may have mentioned before, moves. Turn it this way and Sandy's throwing a pitch. Turn it another way and he's straightening up again. The interior spreads are also laced with gold. It's what would happen if Demi ever got obsessed with baseball, I guess. Actually the first time you notice it is when you first open the book to find a mock pair of baseball cards on the endpapers. It's subtle, but Sandy's glove is a golden hue, as is the Los Angeles, Dodgers part of the image. Turn another page and the gold hits you upside the head, highlighting a single baseball glove and a signed Sandy Koufax ball nesting inside. A look through the book reveals other colors as well, and they all fit the mood of a given page. The spread showing the major league scouts contains dark reds and a blue cloud-shot sky. Ebbets Field cranks up the blue, highlighting the red lines of Sandy's new outfit. From there on it it's all blues, reds, and golds. From the riot of red coming off of Sandy standing on the mound to the golden sand of a given ball field, Carrilho uses his colors judiciously and in keeping with the mood of each scene.

And I haven't even mentioned the early 1960s authenticity of the furniture, clothing, and hair. Or the seemingly effortless design that constantly manages to integrate the words with the pictures in such a way that to remove one or the other would be to render the entire project moot. In form, in function, and in sheer fun You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! is a class act from start to finish. It is everything a biography for a young reader should be. This is a book that declares loud and proud that the people working on it cared about what they were doing. We would consider ourselves lucky if other books do half so much. A must read.

Ages 5-9 0375837388