You never heard of Sandy Koufax?!

by Jonah Winter

Other authorsAndré Carrilho
Hardcover, 2009



Call number



New York, N.Y. : Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009.


In this striking picture book biography, an old-timer tells us what made Sandy Koufax so amazing. We learn that the beginning of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers was rocky, that he was shy with his teammates, and experienced discrimination as one of the only Jews in the game. We hear that he actually quit, only to return the next season--different--firing one rocket after another over the plate. We watch him refuse to play in the 1965 World Series because it is a Jewish high holy day. And we see him in pain because of an overused left arm, eventually retiring at the peak of his career. Finally, we are told that people are still "scratchin' their heads over Sandy," who remains a modest hero and a mystery to this day.

Media reviews

Children's Literature
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature) Koufax was “the greatest lefty who ever pitched in the game of baseball.” In a breezy, conversational style, Winter begins his story with Koufax’s youth as “a whiz at every sport he ever played.” Growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, however, he was supposed to be a doctor or lawyer. Invited to pitch for the Dodgers, Koufax proves himself to be unfortunately unpredictable. The Dodgers move to Los Angeles; Koufax leaves, returns, and finally becomes an ace. From 1961-1966, although his elbow swells painfully, he keeps throwing strikes. He becomes a hero to American Jews when he refuses to pitch on a High Holy Day. Then, he surprises everyone by retiring “at the peak of his game.” Winter celebrates Koufax as both a private person and baseball legend. Carrilho uses chiefly black and white colors, accented with some blue and splashes of gold, to illustrate the dramatic events in Koufax’s evolution. The not-completely-naturalistic illustrations were created in graphite on paper with color and texture added in Adobe Photoshop are as anecdotal as the text. For example, the single image of a baseball uniform shirt fills the page facing an illustration of Koufax surrounded by microphones as he announced his retirement. Or we are shown a double-page spread resembling a set of “how-he-does-it” illustrations about his style of pitching, using multiple images and lines representing the path of pitched balls. The lenticular cover is created with a plastic sheet using ridges. Three images are digitally sliced and printed on the sheet, with lenses allowing you to see only one at a time, so they move as the cover is manipulated. Additional facts are included in boxes throughout the text. There is also a glossary and a list of online resources. 2009, Schwartz & Wade/Random House Children’s Books, $17.99. Ages 5 to 9.

Library's rating






User reviews

LibraryThing member debnance
I loved this book and couldn’t wait to share it with the children at my school. As I’d expected, they loved the cover. They also loved the way the illustrator used gold on the pictures. The story was a little too hard for them. They were confused with the author’s use of first person plural. They did not get the way the author used the vernacular voice to tell the story. They needed more background information about Koufax.But they loved that it was about a baseball player. They liked the voice of the author and thought it was fun. When it came down to voting, the room was clearly divided: Children who loved baseball rated it a 5 and those who did not like baseball rated the book a 1.It is a book with wonderful facts about a fascinating man. I would suspect that ten and eleven year olds would enjoy the book a bit more than my young students, but I bet that a lot of the cleverness and fun of the book would elude even them. Maybe we need to create a new category of books: Picture Books for Grownups. I loved this book and would definitely recommend it to parents or teachers to read with their kids who love baseball. Not sure many children would really hang in there with the book on his own. Not even a big baseball fan. Not even a big baseball fan living in NY. A Sample: ‘One day one of our scouts, Al Campanis, invites Sandy to Ebbets Field---home of our team, the Brooklyn Dodgers---so’s he can see the hotshot pitch. After battin’ just one time against him, Campanis has seen enough. He says to Sandy, “Kid, how’d you like to play for us. Don’t think too hard.” Quick as you can say “Jackie Robinson,” this nineteen-year-old squirt was wearin’ Dodgers blue and earnin’ more dough than some of us old-timers.’Children’s Comments: You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!Elyssa, 6, said, "I liked how the words were written."Chloe, 6, said, "I liked how he did the glove."Sylvia, 5, said, "I liked the front cover.Jase, 5, said, "I liked the pictures."Children’s Ratings: 5, 1, 5, 5, 5, 5, 1, 5, 1… (more)
LibraryThing member lporsia
Winning the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Younger Readers, You Never Heard Of Sandy Koufax?! is an eye opening account of a young Jewish baseball player for the Dodgers. Written by Jonah Winter, the story is told from the viewpoint of a teammate allowing the audience the experience of a first hand report while feeling connected to the players. Approaching the reader with the assumption that they are unfamiliar with Sandy Koufax the pitcher, the author boasts about his amazing career while only hinting that his Jewish heritage or short-lived career may have been the reasons he was not a household name. Discussing the pressure of becoming a major league player, Koufax’ struggle to perform on the field was the major focus of the piece. Finding his own self confidence in the end gave him the ability to play at his best level, a story that can be encouraging to all. The illustrations by Andre Carrilho are rendered in a manner that gives a modern twist to the 1950’s and 1960’s time period, adding an element of timelessness to the event.
This story can prove to be a great resource for librarians when dealing with youths who are more interested in sports than reading. It gives them a resource that is educational, inspiring and can serve as a connection between the act of playing sports, learning about current teams as well as the history of them. Additionally, this book could be recommended to little league coaches to boast the morale of their team and lend inspiration to players.
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LibraryThing member sharty
The holographic cover of Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koulfax immediately draws in children whether or not they are interested in sports. Sports, however, is a topic of great interest, especially for boys, and the structure of this book is likely to keep them reading. It has small charts of statistics and baseball card images woven in with sharp red, blue, black, white, and gold illustrations that depict the unusual career of Koulfax. The story is one of overcoming physical limitations and religious discrimination.… (more)
LibraryThing member kthomp25
Great book for baseball fans. Addresses history and prejudice. Pair with Christopher Bing's Casey at the Bat. 3-D cover and a bold art style.
LibraryThing member anniecase
What a great non-fiction piece! This book has gorgeous illustrations and a narrator written so realistically, you can almost hear the Brooklyn accent. Great information, but told in story format rather than one fact at a time. Perfect for baseball fans, but also students of history.
LibraryThing member matthewbloome
I liked that this biography focused on the struggles that Sandy Koufax went through in becoming a great pitcher, not just on his unstoppable greatness once he hit his stride. It humanizes him a little bit. It also makes the moment when he does emerge as a great pitcher seem that much more impressive. I liked all the statistics that were included and the mini factoids that appeared on a few pages. It's a good biography.… (more)
LibraryThing member Stahl-Ricco
Great overview of the career of Sandy Koufax, who from '61 to '65 dominated baseball! I really liked this quote (from the great Willie Stargell), "Hittin' a Koufaxx fastball was like tryin' to drink coffee with a fork." Brilliant! And the cover of this book is super cool too! Love ya' Blue!
LibraryThing member MelAKnee
Jewish baseball player, Sandy Koufax amazed fans of baseball by being an awesome left handed pitcher. He still holds the title of most strikeouts by a left handed pitcher in American baseball. Sandy only played for five years for the Los Angles Dodgers.


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