Baseball season is here, and while Detroiters are cheering on Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, many kids are going (pea)nuts over Sandy Koufax. Never heard of him? I hadn’t either, until I read You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! by Jonah Winter and Andre Carrilho. This picture book biography hits it out of the park. It has a conversational writing style, slick illustrations, cool statistics that sports fans love, and a subject you can’t help but admire. Sandy Koufax was a teenager from Brooklyn playing for the Dodgers back when there weren’t many Jews in professional baseball. His career took more twists than a curve ball, going from the dubious honor of throwing the most wild pitches in 1958 to becoming “the greatest lefty who ever pitched”. He struck out Mickey Mantle, Willie Stargell, even Willie Mays. Koufax was supposed to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series, but he sat the game out – it was a Jewish High Holy Day, and he honored his religious beliefs by not working that day.
I love biographies that show how long and bumpy the road to success is. Sandy Koufax threw his uniform in the trash after one awful season, basically quit the team. He returned the next season, not to instant success, but to more struggles which he had to work through in order to become the great player we now know. Reading You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! can inspire a wonderful “self smart” discussion with your kids. When have you felt the urge to give up? What did you do to get past that feeling? What are you really good at? What do you struggle with? What do you wish you were better at, and what could you do to improve? Andre Carrilho created some super-cool art for this book (the cover looks like it’s moving!) including some pieces that look like baseball cards. Have your students make a “baseball” card of themselves, a card that shows them as successful adults. Kids can draw themselves on the front in action (playing a sport, making art, doing what they love to do) and they can include statistics on the back like “2020: first author to win both the Caldecott and the Newbery for the same book”. (OK, that statistic is on my future dream card, but I’ll let others borrow it.) Kids can keep these cards as inspiration to get them through the slumps, and who knows? One day, those statistics they created might come true!
For more information, visit Andre Carrilho’s website: andrecarrilho.com