Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back
by David A. Adler and illustrated by Terry Widener

Stealing Home — Jackie Robinson: Against the Odds
by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Mike Wimmer
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman

This pair of picture book bios of baseball greats — Robinson, the intense pioneer, and Paige, the quick-with-a-quip Methuselah — makes for as interesting a contrast as their subjects themselves.

Burleigh and Wimmer (who previously collaborated on biographies of Charles Lindbergh and Babe Ruth) offer the more stylish of these two new titles. Accompanied by Wimmer’s near-photographic oil paintings, Stealing Home‘s main text consists of a brief burst of free verse describing Robinson’s daring theft of home plate during the 1955 World Series, with the title serving as a metaphor for a person’s taking what rightfully belonged to them all along. Each spread includes micro-text squeezed onto the back of a baseball card, offering up conversational anecdotes about various aspects of Robinson’s life and career.

For Satchel Paige, Adler and Widener (who have teamed for books on Joe Louis and Lou Gehrig, plus a Ruth book of their own) offer not an ounce of flash. Their telling of Paige’s life’s story is straightforward and chronological, and no less effective for it. Despite Widener’s loose-limbed depictions of Paige — and to Adler he’s always “Paige,” compared to Burleigh’s use of “Jackie” — their subject is no clown. Only a season and a half separated Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s color barrier and Paige’s big-league debut on his 42nd birthday, and the struggles that Paige faced will be accessible to readers younger than Stealing Home‘s likely fans.