PPBF! You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! by Jonah Winter

Susanna Leonard Hill has a feature on her blog called Perfect Picture Book Friday. It is a list of “perfect” picture books recommended by all sorts of people. I chose this book because I never heard of Willie Mays before I found this book in a bookstore! Plus, February is Black History Month and I thought this was a good choice to end the month. 🙂

willieYou Never Heard of Willie Mays?!

by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Terry Widener

40 pages – ages g+

Published by Schwartz & Wade on January 8, 2013

Theme/Topic – nonfiction/sports/history

Opening and Synopsis –

“You never heard of Willie Mays?! THE Willie Mays?! Oh, geez, where to begin? How about… Birmingham, Alabama. 1941. A kid with his ear glued to the radio.”

This book tells the story about how young Willie wanted to be “the next Joe DiMaggio” and practiced VERY hard. When he was growing up, African-Americans were treated unfairly and weren’t allowed to play in the National League. They had to play in the Negro League. The thing is, a lot of the Negro League teams were better than the National League teams, but the African-American players weren’t allowed to play. Willie started to play in the Negro Leagues at age 15 with the adults until “the major leagues ended their stupid rule barrin’ black guys“. Willie was signed to play with the New York Giants and lead them to the World Series! He could do it all, bat, run, throw. He became the best player of his time and he was a nice person.

Why I liked this book –  Well, first off, just LOOK at these illustrations! They’re MARVELOUS! –


I like the way the story is narrated, I love the ‘voice’ of the book! I can totally hear someone telling the story! The message is totally awesome – I hear the message “with great power comes great responsibility” in the story… oh wait that was Uncle Ben in Spiderman. Well, you still get that message in this book. Mr. Mays had great powers and he used them for good. The story says that if you work hard, you get great rewards even if you are up against tough things! There is a baseball glossary in the back of the book and all of Willie Mays statistics. I like how there are little fact boxes spread all throughout the book to tell you different facts about baseball at the time Willie Mays was playing. I think kids 6+ will enjoy this book!

Activities and Resources –

If you can’t visit the baseball hall of fame in real life, you can visit the website by clicking HERE and learn about Willie Mays. There are video biographies about Mr. Mays.

You can also visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to learn more about the history of African-Americans in baseball – click HERE.

Check out all of Willie Mays baseball statistics HERE!

How about going out and playing baseball with your kids or taking them to a game (I suggest the Philadelphia  Phillies 😉 ) ?

To find more Perfect Picture Books please visit Susanna Hill’s blog  HERE!

Categories: Age 6-9, Age 9+, Perfect Picture Book Friday

Tags: , , , , , ,

38 replies

  1. I see your point. Those are some great illustrations. And yes, with great powers come great responsibility…for Spiderman, Superman and for a young man being the first to break barriers.

  2. Erik, you are right, those illustrations are awesome. I have to admit, I know little about baseball history, but this book about Mays looks like a fun way to learn. I also have Jane Yolen’s book on Honus Wagner to read right now for my nonfiction class.

  3. Good one, Erik…especially for boys. They continue to need good role models. So this one is perfect for the job!

  4. This looks very sporty with a super lesson for everyone. Love the action in the illos, it’s like 3D.

  5. Nice pick, Erik! Just in time for spring training. 🙂 And I hope you’re right about the Phillies. Experience is one thing but last season they had more aches and pains than I did!

  6. Brilliant review, Erik, and like you I had not heard of Willie Mays. yes, those illustrations are inspirational.

  7. Great pick for boys, Erik. And, girls — baseball is the only sport I really like to watch. And, I love reading biographies about some of the greats. You know, if you look at the author/illustrator I reviewed today, you’ll find he wrote a book about a great baseball player.

  8. This is a great choice, Erik! If you are interested in baseball, you might enjoy Dan Gutman’s Baseball Card Adventure Series…the first one is Honus & Me and there are 10 other ones, too.

  9. Since I’m waaaaaaay older than you, I *have* heard of Willie Mays. So good to know there’s a picture book about him, and what a great picture book it is! Marvelous illustrations. Thanks for introducing us to this book!

  10. I’d probably read it because of your comment on the illustrations, but now more so because you liked the voice so much!

  11. The message is such an inspiration for a young person.

  12. This sounds like a fun book. I think baseball is something like fetching…..

    Love and licks,

  13. Beautiful! I love this one!

  14. This is an interesting selection. I like sports history. I’m kind of into sports myself. A ripping game of ball is just my cup of tea! I like the artwork in this book to go along with a fascinating story. thanks for sharing!

  15. Such an inspiring story, Erik, and with so much to teach. What a great choice! And an almost brand new book! I’m so glad to be adding this one to our list! And you are right – those illustrations are magnificent!

  16. Isn’t it fantastic that picture books can also teach wonderful things, especially about people we should all know something about? Great review, Erik. 🙂

  17. I have to get this book for my classroom. I think my 5th grade students wil love it. The illustrations look amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  18. I may not understand the rules of baseball (and most other sports except for basketball), but like you I am a huge fan of great illustrations and wonderful storytelling, so I’d probably still look out for this book. 🙂

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