Reviews for You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!

Booklist Reviews 2008 December #2
"*Starred Review* Winter starts out this captivating mini-bio nearly sputtering with incredulity: "You gotta be kidding! You never heard of Sandy Koufax?" He then proceeds to relate the story of arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history as if he were an unnamed teammate along for the ride, much like Kadir Nelson did in We Are the Ship (2008). After some initial setbacks and being plagued by wildness, Koufax strung together six of the most dominant seasons ever seen in baseball, from 1961 to 1966. Besides documenting Koufax s on-field heroics, Winter makes a point to emphasize that at the time of Jackie Robinson, Koufax was one of very few Jewish players, and he encountered his share of prejudice: "maybe that s one reason he threw too hard--to prove he was better than every one of those so-and-so s." Carrilho s digitally enhanced graphite artwork, which resembles highly expressionistic cartoons, emphasizes movement, particularly the violent-graceful curve of pitching, with touches of deep gold and swift strokes of red against Dodger blue. In one unforgettable scene, the aura that emanates from Koufax as he figures out his secret to pitching nearly knocks the viewer back, like a high, tight fastball. Hand this book to kids unconvinced by Koufax s mind-boggling numbers, or to the ones who know why they re so mind boggling to begin with." Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #2
As a dominant left-handed pitcher for the Dodgers, Sandy Koufax had had his greatest season ever -- leading the league in wins, strikeouts, earned run average, complete games, and shutouts -- when he abruptly resigned from the game. Equally mystifying was his earlier transformation from just-promising athlete to star pitcher, and Winter adeptly chronicles both phenomena in a colloquial first-person Brooklynese. Like his previous baseball books (including Roberto Clemente, Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates), this too acknowledges the struggles of minority players. Koufax took some abuse for being Jewish, but his decision not to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur was a source of great pride for the Jewish community. Sidebars provide interesting and relevant baseball stats (a couple reference other players, fellow pitcher Satchel Paige and teammate Jackie Robinson). Carrilho's illustrations further complement the text and are particularly notable for their use of color, line, and texture. Indeed, the drama of the sport is exquisitely captured with angular, elongated figures, the use of color -- red, blue, and, most strikingly, gold -- to accent the graphite drawings, and a variety of textures, including an attention-grabbing lenticular cover. Glossary appended.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 January #2
This book promises to be spectacular with its cover--a 3-D lenticular rendering of the great left-hander, from windup to follow-through--and largely delivers. Carrilho uses graphite on paper, with lavish use of burnished gold accents, Dodger blue and a calligraphic red line, to craft breathtakingly dramatic and dynamic pictures. Winter adopts the voice of an old-time Dodgers fan, complete with dropped gs and a liberal helping of ain'ts, to tell Koufax's story: how he was wild at the start, how he had six magnificent years, how he kept to himself, would not play on a Jewish holy day and retired at the peak of his powers before he lost use of his arm entirely. The cadences of the narration are particularly effective in showing the cost of greatness in physical pain and effort. Box-score-type inserts provide relevant stats and anecdotes, and the whole manages to be vibrant without being cluttered. Great baseball stuff, and a visual treat for young fans and their parents and grandparents. (Picture book/biography. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 January #1

The huge lenticular cover image of pitcher Sandy Koufax in action makes this book hard to ignore; Winter's fan-in-the-stands-style prose and Carrilho's high-impact, editorial-style images make it hard to forget. Neither author nor artist "explain" the famously self-contained 1960s Dodgers pitcher ("Just when you were startin' to understand him, he'd haul off and throw you a curve," says the anonymous former teammate who serves as narrator). Instead, they capture what it feels like to be in the presence of an exemplary athlete. The obstacles that Sandy Koufax faced--physical limitations; anti-Semitism ("Some of the guys said some pretty lousy things behind his back--things I can't repeat")--are portrayed with zero sentiment; readers will root for Koufax because he is an engine of pure action. Debut artist Carrilho, offering texturally complex, digitally manipulated pencil drawings, has a bold, arresting aesthetic: while his harsh shadows, distorted perspectives and angular faces speak of a hardboiled reality, the baseball field itself is a storied place, rendered not in green but gold. Koufax becomes a figure of totemic strength, his eyes narrowing to black slits underneath bushy eyebrows, his body twisting as he delivers the perfect pitch. Not just a home run, this book is a grand slam. Ages 4-9. (Feb.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 February

Gr 1-5--This picture-book biography of a pitching ace is a real treat. Much about this private man has been a mystery, so Winter focuses on how the gifted young athlete went from unpredictable to otherworldly in such a short time. Koufax spent his early years with the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he was either warming the bench or walking batters. The team moved to Los Angeles in 1957, and it wasn't until 1961 that he learned to control his pitch. He then proceeded to flummox opposing hitters until 1966, when he unexpectedly retired. The unnamed narrator, a teammate who speaks in the vernacular of an old-timer, greatly influences the voice of the book: readers can hear the spit of sunflower seeds between the lines. That Koufax was a Jew playing baseball at a time when the game was still deeply segregated is mentioned and honored, particularly with the anecdote of how he gave up his spot in the World Series rotation to observe a High Holy Day. Carrilho's caricature style is reminiscent of Al Hirschfeld's work, exaggerating everything that is beautiful and unknown about Koufax, from his extraordinarily athletic body to his private mystique. The graphite illustrations, enhanced via Photoshop, are dominated by golds, grays, and, of course, Dodger blue. While the author never offers an explanation for his subject's metamorphosis, that it should be hailed and remembered is never in doubt. This striking book deserves a wide audience.--Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole Public Library, MA

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