Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Growing Up Pedro, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $19.00 ages 8 and up
and he starts studying English
In 1988, when he is sixteen,
Pedro is back at Camp Las Palmas.
He is ready to try out for the Dodgers.
Dozens of other boys are trying out, too."
Baseball has started in earnest, the sun is shining brightly and spring is in the air. Our attention is not only focused on baseball, but on hockey playoffs and soon it will be basketball, too. What watching the Jays did for me today was remind me of Matt Tavares' excellent new picture book biography about the terrifically talented Martinez brothers, Ramon and Pedro.
I have read Matt's other books about Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron; I have shared them many times. When you are finished reading this newest book, I think you will find that you have developed a much greater respect for the two brothers whose dedication to each other, their family and their sport is evident on every single page.
It is the Dominican Republic and it is 1981:
One sunny day in the
village of Manoguayabo,
Pedro Martinez sits in the shade
and watches the older boys play.
He wants to play, too.
But his big brother, Ramon, says he is too little.
The boys are using a hard ball,
and Ramon says it is too dangerous.
Pedro is mad, but he knows
Ramon is just looking out for him."
Pedro is very proud of his brother, believing that he is the best pitcher in the world. Pedro wants to follow in his big brother's footsteps. To do so, he much work diligently to improve his skills. At 17, Ramon plays his first season with the Dodgers, while trying to navigate the many difficult adjustments of a new culture and language. He passes on everything he learns to his little brother, believing that his baseball dream will also come true.
In 1990 when Pedro gets his first contract, his brother is already the ace for the Dodgers. Pedro has big shoes to fill! Trades and hard work lead to Pedro finding his own place in the spotlight, and the two brothers playing together once more with the Boston Red Sox. An injury leaves Ramon on the sidelines watching his brother play.
"On days when it's not his turn to pitch,
Pedro never stops talking and dancing
and laughing and joking with his teammates.
One night, to get him to settle down,
his teammates tape him to a pole in the dugout.
Pedro loves every minute of it.
But when it is his turn to pitch,
Pedro is very serious.
All day, he is quiet and focused.
When he takes the mound, he imagines
he is a lion fighting for his food."
Every fan of baseball will find much to love in the emotionally charged artwork, done in watercolor, gouache and pencil. We see Pedro's intensity at every point in his life. The focus is on Pedro throughout and, as readers, we can only be awed by his love for family, his outgoing personality, and his love for the game of baseball.
An author's note is much appreciated and heartwarming. Through his research for this book, Matt Tavares made discoveries that makes Pedro even more exceptional to this dedicated fan.
"I learned about all the work he had done for the people of his hometown of Manoguayabo. When he made it to the big leagues and became a millionaire, he could have left the past behind. But he stayed in Manoguayabo and donated his time and money to help improve the lives of people there, especially the children. He convinced the government to pave the main road. He built houses, churches, baseball fields, and a new elementary school, and he started academic programs."
A hero, indeed!