Swinging for the Fences: Hank Aaron and Me by Mike Leonetti and David Kim (amazon)
Swinging for the Fences is story of a young fan and baseball player named Mark watching closely as his idol Hank Aaron attempts to break the home run record. Mark gradually learns how to improve his own baseball game as he follows Aaron’s winning season. Kim’s illustrations are rendered in soft pastels, giving the pictures a hazy nostalgic quality, and most importantly managing to make the 70’s not look ugly. There are little details that keep the reader reminded of the time period, like a woman’s feathered hair cut and the wideness of a man’s suit collar. Even though this is a fictional story, I think the book would likely appeal to any kid who enjoys sports or reading non-fiction. As someone who is not a big fan of baseball myself, the drama of Aaron trying to break the record maintained my interest, and the illustrations captured the excitement of Mark and his fellow fans watching baseball. Swinging for the Fences includes supplementary material – a brief biography of Aaron, a mention of what happened when his record was broken by Barry Bonds, and a bibliography listing books and articles consulted by the author.
The Lonesome Puppy by Yoshitomo Nara (amazon)
Giant dogs loom large in fiction. You’ve got Clifford the Big Red Dog, Big Dog and Little Dog, and there’s always Marmaduke. They are now joined by the Lonesome Puppy who is so gigantic that when he stands on top of the earth he dwarfs cities. He is so huge, no one even knows that he exists so this naturally makes him very lonesome. One day a girl notices him, and after spending an eternity climbing up his leg, crossing the vast expanse of his body, and falling against his nose she sings the puppy a song and they become friends. The story is sweet, but it is probably the weakest aspect of the book. Nara’s illustrations show the girl and the puppy with wry expressions on their faces that act as a counterpoint to the simplicity of the story. This is a picture book that functions as an art object, which makes sense as the author is a pop artist in Japan. There are several illustrations after the main story, showing the girl and puppy in various settings like outer space. If you enjoy Nara’s aesthetic and have small children, you have the perfect excuse to check out this extremely cute book.
Review copies were provided by Chronicle Books