What’s more exciting than cracking open a book and recognizing your own neighborhood? Here are three new picture books featuring fun and history from the Baltimore area.
First, we have Poe’s Road Trip to Ravens Gameday written by the Ravens mascot Poe and illustrated by Brian Martin. Poe begins his week pumping iron at Merritt Athletic Club, shares his favorite story (The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, of course) on the Ravens Bookmobile, visits Maryland’s capital city, goes down the ocean, visits several Baltimore-area landmarks and ends the week on game day at M&T Bank Stadium. Anyone can appreciate this jaunt around Maryland, but football fans will be especially enamored.
For another exciting tale penned by a local bird, check out The Autobiography of a Pigeon Named Pete: A True Baltimore Story by Pete the Pigeon, interpreted by Gary Meyers and illustrated by Stephanie Helgeson. This book tells the true tale of a pigeon with ordinary beginnings in an ordinary Baltimore row home who went on to live a long, happy and extraordinary life with his “person” Muriel. Although the story is largely based on news articles, author Meyers has a special connection to this special pigeon — Muriel is his mother.
Finally, we have Night-Night Maryland: A Sleepy Bedtime Rhyme by Katherine Sully and illustrated by Helen Poole. Young readers will recognize the Baltimore-centric landmarks, from sleeping animals at the Maryland Zoo and the ducklings of Patterson Park to the quiet darkness of Fort McHenry and Port Discovery at night. The short, pleasant rhymes make for a nice final book before bed.
Football season is about to kick off, and these three books are sure to get kids ready to cheer on our hometown Baltimore Ravens! Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens: Super Bowl XLVII by Michael Sandler brings kids facts from Flacco’s life and career, and also features highlights from the Ravens’ Super Bowl win in February. Photos and statistics make this an entertaining read for elementary school-age kids who want to know more about the Super Bowl champion Ravens.
Football fans will love Sports Illustrated Kids Big Book of Who: Football, which includes some astounding statistics and the stories behind them. Several favorite Ravens players make appearances in this fun read. Kids can flip through the pages to find out more about the most amazing accomplishments of their favorite players. With plenty of pictures and informative and entertaining notes, this appealing and fun book reads like a magazine. Sports trivia fans won’t want to miss it.
Highlight Reel: The Top Plays in Super Bowl History by K. C. Kelley brings readers the most exciting Super Bowl plays of all time. This book is filled with pictures of the action and fun facts from Super Bowl history. Ravens fans will be pleased to see that Jacoby Jones’ record-breaking kickoff return from Super Bowl XLVII makes the cut in this engaging book for kids.
Before he was 'Babe', George Herman Ruth was a troubled boy growing up on the familiar streets of Baltimore. These formative years are documented by Matt Tavares in Becoming Babe Ruth, his richly illustrated and engaging homage to the "Sultan of Swat". Already uncontrollable at age seven, George was left at Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys by his father. There George was forced to abide by the strict rules which were rigorously enforced. But, after all the chores and schoolwork were complete, Brother Matthias would let the boys play baseball. Under Brother Matthias’ expert tutelage, George focused on fundamentals and perfected every aspect of his game. His hard work was rewarded when he was signed to a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles. It was here that George became Babe, and Tavares is careful to share the origin of the famous nickname with curious readers. From Baltimore, Ruth went to Boston and eventually ended up with the New York Yankees, with whom he had a long and storied career. Along the way, the Bambino achieved an unprecedented level of superstardom.
Tavaras does an outstanding job of outlining important moments in Babe’s professional life, but also documents lesser known details of his life as a young boy in Baltimore. The realistic mixed-media illustrations bring Babe to life and readers get a real sense of his charm, his outsize personality, and his love of the game he played so well for so long. But even as Ruth became a household name, he never forgot where he came from. Tavares notes his repeated generosity and gratitude to St. Mary’s and the men who shaped him. An author’s note, statistics, and bibliography are appended and complete this uplifting story of the most famous baseball player in history and his connection to Charm City.
Two new titles share the story of Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to win Olympic gold. Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper is written by Ann Malaspina and illustrated by Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Eric Velasquez. Alice’s story is told in free-verse poetry and vibrant oil paintings created from photographs. Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion by Heather Lang offers more detailed descriptions of Alice’s childhood and is complemented by the sepia-tone oil illustrations of Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Floyd Cooper.
Alice grew up in segregated Albany, Georgia in the 1930s. She was the daughter of a poor cotton farmer and loved running and playing basketball. She created her own high jump with a crossbar made of branches and rags. Despite her father’s warnings that her tomboyish behavior wasn’t ladylike, Alice grew faster and stronger and was soon a star high school athlete. She was recruited by the Tuskegee Institute to join the Tigerettes as a high jumper where she achieved great success as an athlete and student.
Though she was at her best in 1944, the Olympics were cancelled because of World War II. Alice wasn’t discouraged, and continued training for the next four years. In 1948, the United States’ women’s track team was medal-less when the high jump, the last event of the day, started. Despite the pressure, Alice faced the challenge head on and not only won the gold, but also set a new Olypmic record.
Archival photographs, authors’ notes, and added information at the end of both of these books allow the reader to further investigate this remarkable life story. As the summer Olympics return to London for the first time since Coachman’s victory, these titles are especially timely and inspirational.
Christopher Paul Curtis delivers again with a Depression-era historical fiction in The Mighty Miss Malone. Readers will delight in getting to know the mighty 12 year old Deza Malone (a character in Curtis’ Newbery winner Bud, Not Buddy) and her family. Brother Jimmie is small but has a beautiful singing voice, and Mom and Dad just want the best for their kids. The family is a tight unit and even has a motto: “a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.” Deza is smart and spunky and even while her family is struggling with unemployment and illness, she has an optimistic outlook and a strong sense of self and her future. The family’s strong bond is tested when Mr. Malone seeks work in Flint, Michigan. But Deza, Jimmie and their mother decide to follow him and travel with him on his journey. There are hardships, but this story is filled with humor, a strong sense of history and place, and truly wonderful characters. Readers wanting more should check out the reading guide provided by Random House.
One of the frames Curtis uses to share Deza’s story is the boxing match of 1936 which saw German Max Schmeling face off against the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis. This match took on great significance because of Adolf Hitler’s increasingly powerful Nazi Germany. All Americans, and in particular African-Americans, pinned great hope for their future in this boxing ring. When Louis lost, African-Americans’ spirits sank even lower as they grappled with the Depression. In 1938, the two met in a rematch in Yankee Stadium in front of 80,000 fans, and Louis was victorious. The win helped boost morale across the country. Matt de la Peña shares the story of the second match in A Nation’s Hope: the Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. Kadir Nelson’s remarkable illustrations highlight this story which was a watershed cultural event. Of special note to locals – Baltimore Colts’ legend Artie Donovan’s father was the referee during this match!