Roberto & Me by Dan Gutman 2010
IQ "If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don't do that, you are wasting your time on this Earth." Roberto Clemente pg. 104
Joe Stoshack (Stosh) has the power to go back in time whenever he touches a baseball card. The only catch is he must bring with him a pack of present-day baseball cards if he ever wants to be able to go back home. When Stosh learns that he's failing Spanish and that his Spanish teacher loves Roberto Clemente, he decides to go back in time and warn him not to get on that plane on New Year's Eve in 1972. Stosh ends up in the sixties where he meets hippies. He also ends up visiting the future. These events are all connected by Roberto Clemente.
I love Roberto Clemente. I've never watched him play and yet I love him. I love the way his playing style is described (graceful, royal, etc.), I love his humility, I love that he broke down barriers for Latino players and most of all I love how much of a humanitarian he was. He is all around amazing and every time I read about his plane crash, my heart breaks. Thus, I was surprised that the main character of this book didn't know much about Clemente. He knew a little, but not about his great humanitarian works or how he died. I wonder if part of the reason I knew about Clemente already (I like baseball but I don't know much about statistics or the history) was due to my Latina heritage? Clemente is a huge inspiration to many Latino baseball players and I'm pretty sure the whole Latino community adores him. Regardless, every lover of baseball should know about him.
As a full disclosure, I was tempted to give this book a near-perfect rating because it was about Roberto Clemente. Obviously I didn't and that's because I felt there were some small issues with the book that added up to it not being as good as I hoped. My biggest complaint was at how little time was spent on Stosh interacting with Clemente. I wanted them to talk more and really get into the issues of the day and how Clemente felt about them. Instead, the book felt more like the author trying to explain all about Clemente in a few chapters, it didn't flow, it read more like a nonfiction book with a few random bits of dialogue thrown in. I also wasn't pleased with the future aspect. I won't give too much away, but I didn't enjoy it (i wanted more Clemente time!) and felt that it came off as very preachy.
With all that being said, I was able to see the connections the author was trying to make between Clemente and the future part (hint: it has to do with social justice), I just wish it hadn't resorted to scare tactics. I did like the constant action that occurs throughout the story. And really the series is a fun way to help kids learn not only about great baseball players, but also about the time period the players lived in. Stosh goes to Woodstock, watches Clemente play and does a host of other things that should give younger readers a better idea of what life was like in the '60s. It's not a very complex look, but it provides a good building block. If I had known nothing about the '60s or Clemente before reading this book, I would have wanted to learn more ASAP.
Roberto & Me was a story that I (unfairly) had high expectations for. Thus, I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I could have. Nevertheless, everyone needs to learn about Roberto Clemente (the Incredible Quote that I shared is the true definition of incredible. So very inspiring). The story is engaging and Stosh is starting to really notice girls, which is cute to read about (and I have no doubt younger guys and girls will be able to relate. I could even relate to some of his feelings! Which is a good sign). I also like that Stosh is maturing, learning more about responsibility, helping others and recognizing his talents. In his own words, "If you could do something that nobody else in the world could do, you would want to do it, right? What a waste it would be to have a special power like this and not use it." (pg. 18). The baseball statistics and history facts aren't too in depth to make the story tedious, instead they keep it interesting. I'm pretty sure you can start anywhere with this series. I started with Jim & Me (the first official book is Honus & Me and I'm thinking I may read them all. Just not review them all).
Disclosure: My brother or my mom bought this book.
PS My younger brother adores this series and he has been pressuring me to finish reading all the ones that he gave me (we own all the ones about baseball players of color). More than anything, I love that my brother and I have now read two of the same books and we can discuss them.