Introduce young readers to friendly new biographies

By Various UT Authors Modified: February 26, 2010 at 1:38 pm •  Published: February 26, 2010
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A boy who worships Elvis, baseball great Ted Williams, acclaimed literary icon Virginia Hamilton and a young boy with autism are presented with strength and grit in these new children's books.

"Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down! How Elvis Shook Up Music, Me and Mom" by Mark Alan Stamaty; Knopf Delacorte Dell; 40 pages; $17.99.

Cartoonist Stamaty revisits his childhood's most pivotal musical moments in this lively biographical picture book. A fun journey back to the mid-1950s, when rock 'n' roll came alive, is told through young Mark's tongue-in-cheek remembrances and the importance of a radio as a birthday gift. At first pleasantly happy with the gentle soothing melodies his parents listened to, Mark is bolted alive by "a howling thunder of sound that took me over and made me want to move and dance like nothing before." A hilarious time capsule picture of Mark's mother's horror — "she burst into my room looking like a cornered hostage in a vampire horror movie" — brings alive the impact Elvis Presley had on music and families in the 1950s.

Happily for Mark, his mother learns to tolerate rock 'n' roll and even comes to enjoy Elvis' ballads. An empowering moment arrives when Mark performs as Elvis at a Cub Scout dinner, receiving much applause. From then, even through adulthood, Mark has performed Elvis from time to time, even while on assignment as a political cartoonist and at the White House for President Bill Clinton.

A truly fun ode to the joy of rock 'n' roll's early days and the power it held over one boy, Stamaty's cartoon-designed tale should get readers "all shook up."

"No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season" by Fred Bowen; illustrations by Charles S. Pyke; Dutton Children's Books/Penguin; 32 pages; $17.

Sports heroes and sports stories are becoming the new legends and myths of our culture, whether about a racehorse that inspires millions or a golf hero seeking redemption. Bowen, a sports columnist for the Washington Post, says he wrote this straightforward, classic picture book biography to show how Ted Williams achieved his dream through hard work and never taking the easy way out.

With authentic, retro sportswriting and dramatic illustrations, "No Easy Way" brings a period feel to the true tale of hitter Ted Williams' quest toward the unprecedented .400 batting average in 1941.