Title: Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man
Author: David A. Adler
Illustrator: Terry Widener
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997
Genre: Biography picture book
Age Range: 1-3 Grade
Summary: Lou Gehrig was born in 1903, and his parents always encouraged him to do his schoolwork. He never missed a day; however, his passion was sports. He played baseball in high school, then at Columbia University. He was signed by the New York Yankees where he became one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. He played in 2,130 consecutive games, but soon he began having problems hitting and fielding. Lou took himself off the starting roster. He soon found out he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He continued being a part of the team, until he could no longer do anything but stay in bed. He passed away being an MVP and a member of the Hall of Fame.
Response: I have heard of Lou Gehrig's Disease, and that it was named for a famous baseball player who contracted it; however, I never realized the great impact Lou Gehrig had on the world. He played the same time as Babe Ruth, one of the most well-known players of all time, but it was Gehrig who received the MVP awards. He never missed a day of school or a baseball game, playing in 2,130 consecutive games. I am amazed at his tenacity and strength as a person and a ball player. He accomplished a great deal in his short thirty-seven years. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame and was a part of one of the best Yankee teams of all time. I like that the beginning of the book sets up a little background of what is going on in the world when Lou is born. I find it fitting that the same year he was born was also the inaugural year of the World Series. Like so many people at the time, his family had immigrated to New York in order to find a better life. His mother really was passionate about his schooling, just as much as he was passionate about baseball. He not only played baseball, but also attended college. His nickname Iron Horse really is fitting because he was so strong and resilient to every ail and ache in order to keep playing. One of the most intriguing things to me is the fact that he was so very shy and modest about his athleticism. Unlike many of the players of today, he really just played the game. He did not care about fame and money; he just wanted to play the game. Lou's slump came not because he was struggling in his talent, but rather his body was trying to tell him that something was not right. Many teams would pull a player if they continued in a slump, but Lou literally had to put himself on the bench. I loved that he continued to come to the games and be a part of the team. He was soon diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system, which is very traumatic and fatal. The disease is known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, which shows the great fame he really held. I found some very interesting information about the disease on this web site http://www.alsa.org/. A day was named for him at the stadium, and he was the first player to give a farewell speech, as well as the first to have his jersey to retire. He lived the rest of his life positive, although he could barely get out of bed. It was also very fitting that the Yankees did not play on the day of his funeral because of rain. He often said he was a lucky man, even if he was slowly dying. The text of this book gives so much detail, including specific names and dates, that really help the reader to understand the timeline of Lou's short life, and his many accomplishments. The illustrations are done in Golden acrylics on Strathmore Bristol board. The colors are very rich and special attention is paid to shadows and the size of objects. The objects that were most noteworthy to me were the depiction of Lou and the other baseball players. They had enormous bodies, showing large muscles and great physique. The people drawn in the story did not have very detailed faces, and it was only the number on Lou's uniform, 4, that separated him from the other players. This shows just how humble and real that he was. He did not try and separate himself from others. There are pictures on each page; however their sizes vary. There is plenty of white space around each picture; they are almost given a border, and this draws the reader's attention to what is going on in them. They are very simple drawings, usually coinciding with the text on the page. This is an amazing story about an ordinary man who touched the lives of the many, and made himself the symbol of hope for a terrible disease.
Teaching Ideas: I can see this as a great way to get students, particularly those interested in baseball, excited about non-fiction and biographies. Children may not know the story of Lou Gehrig because he lived in the early 1900's; however, they can gain great insight into what is going on in the world at that time, which can help with an American History Unit. They also show great characterization of Lou Gehrig. Children can research Lou Gehrig's Disease, and really get an idea into what he dealt with. I think that this is a great way to have children write a biography about his life. If they can read this and do some researching on the computer or in other books.
Courageous, Humble, Strong, Resilient
Friend of Yankee Fans Everywhere
Lover of Baseball, Family, Life
Who feels Grateful, Lucky, Blessed
Who finds happiness in playing baseball
Who needs nothing but a day in Yankee Stadium
Who gives his heart, body, and soul to the game
Who fears letting his family and fans down
Who would like to see a cure for his disease
Who enjoys living each day to the fullest
Who like to wear his pin striped uniform when hitting another home run
Resident of New York City