Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet

illus. by C.F. Payne. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101933527.
RedReviewStarGr 2–5—The cover image of a steely-eyed Mickey Mantle, bat aloft over his shoulder, sets the stage for an intimate look at the Hall of Famer. Mantle (1931–95) shattered records but struggled throughout his life to live up to expectations. ("Where Mickey came from, you had to be strong—tough, too.") Mantle battled childhood injuries and illness, but his father was determined to train him to be a ballplayer. In his teens, Mantle "shot up like Jack's beanstalk" and signed with the Yankees the day he graduated from high school. After a stint in the minors, he arrived in New York along with news of his speed and hitting prowess. He was slated to replace the great Joe DiMaggio ("The torch was being passed. [GULP] Greatness would be expected."). Winter relates the ups and downs of Mantle's career with zest: "Oh, if only, if only, Mickey could have stayed the way he was on that day, forever young, forever healthy, forever limitless in what he could do." Instead, there were slumps and injuries, including the horrific knee injury in the second game of the 1951 World Series. Mantle battled back: "What Mantle had was EMOTION, a FIRE inside that caused him to CRUSH the ball." Payne's mixed-media illustrations convey emotions and character. In one spread, DiMaggio and Mantle pose for photographers: well-mannered DiMaggio a half-step behind Mantle, who smiles shyly, eyes distant. Payne varies perspective to great effect: an image of Mantle's famous "tape-measure home run" zeroes in on the ball at the apex of its flight, with the ballpark far in the distance.
VERDICT Highly recommended for school and public libraries, this nuanced look at one of baseball's iconic players has lessons for fans young and old.

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