04 December 2008
Baseball season is still months away (71 days till pitchers and catchers, but who's counting?) And before it returns, look out for this gorgeous picture book biography of the enigmatic lefty Sandy Koufax. Now, you can't tell from the image here, but the front cover is one of those animated pictures that, when you move it about, looks like it's live action. Anyone opening the book is going to get a Koufax fast ball up-close. Not quite chin music, but a cool effect to start the reading experience.
I've read this galley a number of times now, and I still can't decide what I like best, the old-timer tone of the narrator (an unamed veteran teammate of Koufax's) or the caricature style of the illustrations (think Al Hirschfeld.) When the narrator talks about the scouts sniffing around the promising young pitcher, the flow of the lines makes them look like they actually are sniffing. Fabulous! There's so much style to this book, despite the muted pallet (greys, golds, and Dodger Blue) and often unreadable expression of the hero. Of course, Koufax himself was unreadable, both as a man and as a pitcher. Although the title suggests incredulity that anyone might not know who Sandy Koufx is, he was such an intense and brief flash of brilliance, he's almost easy to miss, if one did not live during his time of dominance. I actually thought he was dead, but was put right by a brief author's note at the start of the book (and I call myself a baseball fan!) This should find a large audience, with fans of the game, non-fiction readers, and anyone drawn to the eye-catching cover. Look for it in February.