Monday, February 8, 2010

'Henry Aaron's Dream'


I was at an author's reception at a book industry event called 'Winter Institute' hen I saw the poster for this book on as easel. The very first thing I thought was, "Kadir Nelson has a new book"? The artwork was THAT stunning. Working on that wrong assumption, I made my way over there. Imagine my surprise when I did not see bald-headed, caramel colored, quiet brotha' named Kadir, but rather a regular, full head of hair guy named Matt.

I picked up a book and... guys I'm telling you... the artwork was simply breathtaking! When you open this book, you see a picture of neighborhood baseball players playing behind a fence. On the fence is a sign that says "Whites Only". Even that picture with all of the ugliness and that it represents is somehow beautiful.

I know I'm not telling you guys much about (if anything) about the story but I will. I promise. As soon as I get off my e-high from the art.......................... OK I'm ready: this is a mini-bio. It does not tell Henry's entire life story, but rather his childhood to his first major league game. Matt gives us a nice, brief history of Mr. Aaron's life punctuated with fun facts here and there. One of the things I did not know was that Henry held his bat wrong. He batted right-handed but his LEFT hand was on top. Awkward!

One of the most moving passages was when we read that Henry and his team in Jacksonville won the pennant. Because of the overwhelming racism, Henry (who was MVP by the way) and his Black teammates had to stay in the kitchen while the rest of the White team partied in the restaurant. The way Matt drew this particular picture speaks to the proud, and undaunted spirit of these extraordinary individuals. The story, honesty, was a good one. However, what kept drawing me from page to page was the exceptional artwork.

I also want to give a personal thank you to the author, Matt, for signing a copy for my boys and for actually holding a conversation with me. All too often, I have seen authors shoo people along through a book signing just to get it over with, not Matt. He took time; he had a smile, and was happy to share his talent. Thank you. This booklover, father, and reviewer appreciated that.

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