New children’s book tells story of giving, proclaims union justice
Good Guy Jake/Buen Chico Jake, Hardball Press
Book review by John Pietaro
“Good Guy Jake”/“Buen Chico Jake” Written by Mark Torres; Illustrations by Yana Murashko; Translation by Madelin Arroyo Romero (Hardball Press, 2017 www.hardballpress.com)
Hardball Press is an independent publisher founded by writer and union activist Tim Sheard which specializes in books with humanitarian, pro-labor messages. Eighth in Hardball’s series of children’s books is “Good Guy Jake”/ “Buen Chico Jake”, just in time for the holiday season. Here’s the tale of a New York City Sanitation Worker who collects discarded toys from the trash in order to repair them and bring them to needy children living in a shelter. Like all of Hardball’s releases, “Jake” is a story told bilingually, with Spanish language translations of each English language paragraph, hence, this volume could be the perfect gift for the young child in your life who speaks either language. More so, the Hardball Press catalog, thoughtfully translated, is an excellent means to introduce children to the other language.
The rich, colorful artwork is another standard Hardball has set high, and another example of how the publisher always hit the mark. “Jake” is no exception: the characters, circumstances and backgrounds are appealing if not a little compelling to the eye. Of course, the concept of multi-culturalism is a staple of each book and even the casual reader notes the details of skin tone, dress and hairstyle appropriate to a character’s culture. And while each release thus far has included strong pro-worker statements of unity within a carefully spun plot, this latest volume takes this concept to the next step. In the book Sanitation Worker Jake is fired from his job for taking the discarded toys in the trash, a violation of city regulations. The author brings in the reality of the grievance process, right up to arbitration. The hearing is held a week before Christmas and Jake’s character witnesses include many of the children he’s brought refurbished toys to as well as their parents, testifying to the difference Jake has made in their lives. This peek into the often grueling struggle between union and management is not only unique to children’s literature, but something rarely seen in novels for any age reader. For parents who suffer the indignity of wrongful discipline or termination from a job and are awaiting arbitration, “Good Guy Jake”/“Buen Chico Jake” is a powerful tool to allow children to understand what’s happening as much as it continues the message of giving to others.
Hardball Press books are available directly from the company’s website www.hardballpress.com or via Amazon and—best of all—via indie bookstores everywhere.