Growing Up Pedro
Written and Illustrated by Matt Tavares
(Candlewick Press, 2015, Somerville, Massachusetts, $16.99)
Pedro Martinez was one of baseball’s most unbeatable pitchers in the 1990s and 2000s. In 2004, he helped the Boston Red Sox secure their first World Series victory in eighty-six years. But before he became one of Boston’s favorite adopted sons, he was a small boy from Manoguaybo, a little village in the Dominican Republic. He idolized his older brother, Ramón, the best pitcher he’d ever seen.
In Growing Up Pedro, writer and illustrator Matt Tavares tells the story behind Martinez’s sparkling career. In simple, present-tense prose, Tavares relates – and occasionally implies – the many obstacles Martinez overcame to achieve baseball stardom: poverty, injuries, his slender frame. But the picture-book biography is more than the familiar tale of hard work trumping hardship; it is a poignant account of two brothers who have never lost their love for each other or their home despite their success. (Ramón also won fame as a big league pitcher.) Tavares has a gift for capturing facial expressions and body language, and the book’s most arresting illustrations are those that convey the bond between Pedro and Ramon: a shared look, a quiet moment tossing a baseball at the mango tree near their childhood home.
Baseball fans will enjoy Growing Up Pedro, an inspiring biography of a modern legend. However, even readers who are less interested in sports will be moved by Martinez’s story and his abiding love and respect for his older brother.
-Dorothy A. Dahm