Friday, August 19, 2016

Booknote: 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente

Wilfred Santiago, 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente. Seattle, WA; Fantagraphics Books, 2011.  ISBN: 978-1056097-892-3.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: biography, Puerto Rico, baseball, sports
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.

I stayed up late to read this one, and it was definitely worth it. Roberto Clemente rose from poverty in Puerto Rico to play Major League Baseball. Despite facing racism and discrimination in the United States, he found fame and fortune, becoming one of the greatest to play the game. He was also a great philanthropist who used his fame and fortune to help others in need. He died on December 31, 1972 as he lived, serving others, when the plane he was in for a relief mission to Nicaragua crashed. In 1973, he became the first Latin American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The comic tells the story in a concise yet very evocative way. Santiago not only tells the story, but he also catches the little details of growing up in Puerto Rico in the 1950s and onward, even the jingle of the local radio news station WKAQ. Granted, the jingle has been translated into English, but believe me that Puerto Ricans like me who grew up listening to it on the island can still hear it. Santiago goes on to take us from Clemente's childhood to his rise in baseball. It is a story of hard work and sacrifice, of athleticism and service to others.

The book is very easy to read. I got through it in one night as it is a captivating story. My only issue was the art. The art is very good; it captures the era and his life very well. But it is also very cramped at times, and some of the frames can be a bit busy because the author tries to pack so much into the story. Perhaps a larger book, or more pages could have solved some of that issue.

The library I borrowed this from has it as juvenile title, and it is definitely a good title for young people to read. Santiago presents Clemente as he was. He also does a good job of depicting Puerto Rico at the time in a pretty accurate way. In addition, this is a book that adults will enjoy as well, especially fans of baseball. While not a definitive work, it is a solid biographical graphic novel that educates and honors the great man. It is one that I am glad to recommend, and it will likely make my end of year best reads for 2016. Definitely a great addition to any library. This is one I would add to my personal collection.

5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

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