written by Willie Perdomo; illustrated by Bryan Collier
(Henry Holt) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library
I was just starting to become a baseball fan when Roberto Clemente died in a tragic airplane crash on New Year's Eve of 1972. I remember that adult fans spoke of him with reverence and awe and it is in that same spirit that Willie Perdomo writes this picture book biography. Clemente could do it all. He hit for power (240 home runs), average (.317 and 3,000 hits), and had a howitzer for an arm. He was a man of courage on and off the field. Clemente became a major league player at a time when not everyone was ready for diversity in the lineup. Perdomo writes a lovely yet bittersweet phrase when he talks about not forgetting Clemente's "last sacrifice fly." Roberto was on a plane with supplies for earthquake victims in Nicaragua when it crashed into the ocean. A life that ended too soon will continue to be remembered with texts like Clemente!
The rhythm of this text is amazing. Perdomo plays with language like a masterful pitcher plays hitters with a curveball. You don't know when the ball will drop with a curve and you don't know when this text will drop into rhyme. The author follows a list of statistics with these lines "... and a statue in the Hall of Fame- Roberto Clemente was born to play the game." If you are working on biographies, find a sports minded kid and put this book in their hands. In a time where baseball is recovering from the steroid era, read about a real hero from its past.
Other reviews of Clemente!:
Kiss the Book
Go to You Tube and type Roberto Clemente in the search engine to find video of one of the baseball greats.