Sunday, November 27, 2016

Book reviews: Two children's titles from Hardball Press

Hardball Press Children’s Division Offers Bi-Lingual Titles on Equality, Strength, Sharing
Book review by John Pietaro

Hats Off for Gabbie / Aplauso para Gaby!
Written by Marivir R. Montebon, Illustrationj by Yana Murashko, Translation y Laura Flores
(Hardball Press, 2016)

The Cabbage That Came Back / El Repollo Que Volvio
Written by Stephen Pearl, Illustration by Rafael Pearl, Translation by Sara Pearl
(Hardball Press, 2016)

With the addition of these two releases, the children’s division of independent, progressive publisher Hardball Press is running eight-strong. The series is unified by engaging, moving tales of growth, self-realization and visions of social justice with a strong focus on multi-culturalism: each title is published in both English and Spanish. But the publisher is sure to avoid the preachiness that can be associated with such a mission. Instead the text is clearly driven by the experiences and expanse of the child’s world and Hardball’s artwork is inviting and often compelling.

With Hats Off for Gabbie! / Aplauso para Gaby! Hardball brings us the ongoing fight for identity and equality via the tale of an eight year-old girl wishing to become a member of the local Little League baseball team. She is confronted with open sexism when the dismissive team coach tells her, “This is for boys only”. Confronted with exclusion, Gabbie and her friend divisive a plan to have her try out for the team, in essence, in drag. Disguised as a boy, her athletic talents immediately earn her a place on the team, and when in a tight game her batting skills are put to the test, she scores the winning home run. And then in coming forward with the reality of her gender, Gabbie liberates the team for girl athletes.

The core story is an important one for girls who have so often been left out of team sports, but there is room for this to be symbolic of one’s journey for self-actualization: following both her victorious moment and acceptance by the coach, “Gabbie made a promise to herself to always tell the truth”. This is an empowering statement in any context.

The Cabbage That Came Back / El Repollo Que Volvio offers another important moral, selflessness. Here, in the face of a winter colder and more snow-filled than she’d known before, a rabbit is desperately seeking to find vegetation to eat. Discovering two heads of cabbage in the frozen landscape, she brings them home and feasts on the first. Considering a neighbor she believes to be hungry, she gives the second cabbage to the hedgehog. Multiple times, the cabbage is given away to the next animal bearing winter’s famine, but when each realizes that she has enough food, they give it to another. Eventually it returns to the rabbit, an apparent reward for her kindness to others in need. The symbolism of outreach and sharing is center-stage and brings the concept to children in an inviting and gentle manner:  the rabbit could not rest having two if she believed others didn’t have any. With our recent election and its coming fallout, this timely morality story may become a necessary tool in a field of disconnect, isolation and divisiveness.

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