“Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game.” By Chris Crowe, illustrated by Mike Benny, c.2012, Candlewick Press$16.99/$19 Canada, 32 pages.
Everybody loves being first.
You know how great it is to be the kid at the head of the line. You like being first to speak up, first to finish your assignments, and it’s even fun to be the first kid on the playground or ball field because you get first choice for the equipment.
But not everybody can be first. Somebody has to be second and, as you’ll see in the new book “Just as Good” by Chris Crowe, illustrated by Mike Benny, coming next in line can be pretty awesome, too.
Homer and his Daddy loved the Cleveland Indians baseball team.
It was 1947, and they knew that baseball season was going to be great because Larry Doby joined the team that year. Doby wasn’t the first Negro pro ball player — Jackie Robinson was first overall — but Doby was the first in the American League and to Homer, that was miracle enough.
Because of some bad news lately, Homer needed a miracle.
It started when Coach O’Brien kicked him off the Little League team because Coach said Negro ballplayers weren’t “worth a spit!” That made Homer mad and sad, but now Larry Doby gave him hope.
By fall, Homer’s dreams had come true: the Cleveland Indians were in the World Series! Everybody was excited, but nobody was more excited than Homer. On game day, he finished up his paper route and raced home to do his chores. He had to be at Standard Drug to get his spot near the radio, or he’d miss the big game.
But Daddy had a surprise: he bought a radio just so they could listen to the action on the field. The sound was crackly but they found the station and they could hear every hit, every run, and every yell from the announcer, Mel Allen. As the game played out, Homer and Daddy paced and danced and urged the Indians to hold on to their one-run lead. And you can bet the Indians did!
The morning after the game, Daddy helped Homer fold newspapers for the paper route. That was nice, but Homer knew that Daddy really only wanted to be first to see the newspaper. There, he found a picture of two faces, one black and one white, smiling as big as Lake Erie...
Sometimes, it’s hard to remember how much has changed in the past few decades. Your young sports fan, for instance, will never know a color line in any sport, and this book helps to explain why.
Based on a true event, this often-overshadowed tale is spun into an exciting fictional story that kids can relate to, and author Chris Crowe also includes a nice set of historical notes as well as a bibliography that will send you running to the library. I liked that, and I liked the rich illustrations from Mike Benny.
I think that, if your 4- to 7-year-old slugger loves a good read-aloud, this is the book to catch. For him (or her), “Just as Good” will be up first.