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Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Unforgettable Season, written by Phil Bildner and illustrated by S. D. Schindler. Penguin, 2011. $21.00 ages 8 and up

"Yes, baseball fans know their
numbers. And they also know
that all records  - even the
unbreakable ones - will one
day fall. But two of the biggest
still have not."

We are within three weeks of the All-Star break for this baseball season and I am pinning all of my hopes on Jose Bautista to win the home run derby! I have always been a baseball fan, and would beg my parents to let me stay home from school to listen to World Series games on the radio. Funny, the begging never produced the result I wanted!

My friend Kurt has an incredible store of baseball lore and knowledge about the game, and I know he is going to love this book about the Summer of '41! He will already know all the facts but he always enjoys a good book about baseball.

At  the beginning of that record-setting season no one was pinning hopes on New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio or Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. But that season, DiMaggio hit in an amazing 56 straight games and Williams maintained a batting average that in the last game of the season went over .400. They faced challenges in setting those records, just as the many who have followed them through the years do. To date, neither record has been broken! 'Joltin' Joe' and 'The Splendid Splinter' maintain their place in baseball history.

Phil Bildner makes this book accessible to fans, young and old. He packs it with all those statistics that avid baseball fans want to know and love to quote. Grandparents and parents who follow the game will be happy to share this lively and memorable recounting of that still famous season. It has great appeal, made more so with the detailed artwork of S. D. Schindler who captures the mood of the fans and effectively takes us back to that time and place.

I like the way Bildner chooses to tell his story in alternating glimpses. He gets to the real excitement of the season and makes sure that his readers feel some of the drama as it unfolds. In the end I felt that I knew the two players featured, as well as the hopes and dreams of a baseball nation as they cheered them in everyday play. He highlights their sportsmanship with admiration for their handling of the pressures that they faced. I like its conversational style while also giving us 'the dope' on all that led to the records being set. 
 In an author’s note, Bildner describes other records set and and surpassed and those who have come close, and observes: “you never know when a player just might start a quest to bat .400 or begin a record-breaking hitting streak.” . So, keep your eyes open and your hopes high!

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