June 01, 2023


Make Way for Fenway 1: Fenway and the Bone Thieves. By Victoria J. Coe. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Putnam. $6.99.

Make Way for Fenway 2: Fenway and the Frisbee Trick. By Victoria J. Coe. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Putnam. $6.99.

Make Way for Fenway 3: Fenway and the Loudmouth Bird. By Victoria J. Coe. Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Putnam. $6.99.

     Real-life Jack Russell Terriers are bundles of insatiable energy. Their adorably incessant hyperactivity can make them difficult to train and sometimes inadvertently destructive – and JRTs can be frustrating for owners without the ability to keep up with them and keep them entertained at pretty much all times. Fortunately, although Victoria J. Coe clearly knows a fair amount about JRT behavior, she knows enough to tone it down a bit for her Make Way for Fenway easy-reader chapter books. It doesn’t hurt that Fenway himself, the titular JRT, is the books’ narrator: he gets plenty of enjoyment and engagement with the world around him by telling the stories of his everyday adventures. Fenway lives with adults whom he identifies as Fetch Man and Food Lady – and their daughter, Hattie, whose name Fenway uses because she and he are paired most of the time, not just when it comes to game-playing and eating. Fenway knows just how to manipulate Hattie and the grown-ups: the first book, Fenway and the Bone Thieves, starts with him successfully begging for a store-bought bone toy. But the ways of humans are not always clear to Fenway: after Hattie’s mom agrees to get the bone, Hattie puts it in the shopping cart instead of giving it to Fenway immediately: “This isn’t fair! That bone is so close. I can smell it. I can see it. But I can’t have it. This is the worst day ever!” But never mind: Fenway, who leaps from one thought to the next incessantly, figures he’ll get the bone soon enough, and then “nobody will ever take it away.” In particular, no squirrel will take it away: Fenway has a thing about squirrels, and spends a lot of his outdoor time yelling (barking) at them, chasing them, and complaining about them to anyone who will listen – especially his canine friends, Patches and Goldie, who live next door. To protect his precious bone, Fenway buries it, but then it rains, and everything gets muddy and messy, and after the rain stops, he can’t seem to find it despite “digging in every spot I can think of. Before long, the grass is full of holes. But I still don’t have my bone.” Oh yes – definitely some JRT behavior there! The tremendously messy dog needs a bath desperately, but not by his own standards – he cannot figure out why Hattie insists on catching and washing him. He needs to find his bone – the squirrels must have stolen it! And, he decides, they must have made the yard all “messy and torn up,” with the grass “spotted with patches of mud” (Fenway has little self-awareness – young readers will especially enjoy remembering that Fenway made the mess that he is now blaming on the squirrels). Eventually, Fenway does find his bone, and everything ends happily, but Fenway and the Bone Thieves neatly sets up this pleasant little series by focusing firmly on Fenway’s personality quirks and distinctly JRT-like behavior. The illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff help a lot: they complement the story nicely, and in some cases – for instance, when they are scattered across two pages to show all the holes Fenway is digging while searching for his missing bone – they actually enrich the reading experience and make Coe’s writing more enjoyable.

     The second book, Fenway and the Frisbee Trick, begins with an activity that shows why Fenway calls one of his adult humans Fetch Man: Fenway loves a game in which he has to retrieve a thrown stick. But one day, while playing that game in the Big Park, Fenway sees a huge Rottweiler playing a catch-the-Frisbee game with her person. The dog, Carmen, is having a great time with her human, Felipe, and Fenway decides that he wants to play “Frisbee catch” too. But Fenway soon learns that the game isn’t that simple. Back home, he grabs a plastic lid from the kitchen and tries to get Hattie to throw it for him, but Hattie doesn’t understand what he wants and just puts the lid in the sink to be washed after Fenway has spent time chewing it. However, the family does get Fenway his very own Frisbee soon enough, and then the ever-willing but not-very-self-aware pup discovers that Carmen’s Frisbee-catching skill is not something that comes naturally to just anybody (or anydog). With occasional intervals for squirrel-chasing, Fenway manages to get a Frisbee-focused game going, but unfortunately it is in the house, and things do not go well – not that any of it is Fenway’s fault. He just happens to notice that, after he tries to catch the Frisbee, “the lower part of the couch is streaked with wetness. The tall lamp is lying sideways across one of the cushions. The lampshade has a tear in it.” Hattie apologizes sincerely to her mother, which to Fenway means that Hattie “must feel just as bad as I do that I didn’t catch the Frisbee.” Eventually the family goes to the Big Park, where Fenway discovers that catching the Frisbee Carmen-style just isn’t possible for him. In fact, he gets so frustrated that he tears out the middle of the Frisbee – this is the type with a soft, springy center – and ends up wearing the Frisbee around his neck. And that, it turns out, is an entirely new sort of game of fetch, one that everyone admires and enjoys, even Carmen. “There really is no other dog like me,” says a self-satisfied Fenway. How true!

     The third Make Way for Fenway book poses an indoor problem for Fenway instead of an outdoor one. Fenway and the Loudmouth Bird takes place in the apartment of Hattie’s Nana – who has acquired a bird that lives in the apartment even though, as Fenway points out, birds “belong outside. With squirrels.” Even stranger, this bird speaks Human! And Nana is determined to have Fenway and the bird, Merlin, become friends – which Fenway knows is out of the question. Things get worse when the humans get upset as Fenway tries to get them to bring in some treats from the car and say his name in an irritated voice: Merlin starts saying “Fenway” in exactly that tone of voice! Well, Fenway and Hattie say goodbye to Hattie’s parents – Hattie is staying at Nana’s with Fenway for a visit – and Fenway does his usual duty of scaring away any squirrels that may be paying attention to his barking. Then it is time to go back into the apartment, where things just keep getting worse as Hattie, fascinated by Merlin, plays with the bird rather than with Fenway, doing a game in which Merlin rings a little bell whose sound hurts Fenway’s ears. Hattie will not stop even when Fenway repeatedly pulls at her. In fact, Hattie insists that Fenway quiet down: she holds him up to Merlin’s cage and says the word “friends.” How ridiculous, thinks Fenway: “If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was trying to get me to be friends with Merlin. Like that could ever happen!” But of course, as the book goes on, even as things go wrong again and again, Fenway learns that Merlin is not so bad after all. What happens is that when Nana and Hattie go out for a while and leave bird and dog together, Merlin becomes “clearly upset about something,” and Fenway realizes that the bell is missing. Merlin starts to make barking sounds: “Maybe he’s trying to tell me something,” thinks Fenway. So Fenway starts searching for the bell, eventually finds it where Nana dropped it while cleaning the cage, and tries to get it into the cage – but it will not fit through the bars, and ends up on top, where Merlin can peck at it but not really play with it. And there things remain until Nana and Hattie return, at which point Nana cannot figure out how the ball got on top of the cage, but Hattie realizes Fenway must have had something to do with it. And when Nana says to give Fenway a treat for whatever he did, Merlin starts shouting, “GIVE FENWAY A TREAT!” And that, of course, cements an unlikely but firm friendship – and reaffirms that Fenway is one Jack Russell Terrier whose heart is always in the right place, even if he is as easily distracted, demanding, and frequently frantic in activity as JRTs are in real life.


Malek Jandali: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra; Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra. Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Anthony McGill, clarinet; ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop. Cedille. $16.

Reiko Füting: Mechthild. Hanna Herfurtner and Olivia Stahn, sopranos; Susi Wirth, narrator; AuditivVokal Dresden and Ensemble Adapter conducted by Olaf Katzer. New Focus Recordings. $16.99.

     Music being music has not been enough for many composers for a long time. From Bach’s insomnia-focused Goldberg Variations to Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory to Wagner’s music dramas based on re-creating (or creating) a Volk mythic history, music of all sorts has been intended to reach beyond the notes and into society at large – for a wide variety of purposes. Music that lasts, however, transcends its original purpose and continues to attract audiences even when they are unaware of (or indifferent to) its original reasons for being. Whether that will be true of contemporary works composed for extramusical purposes is impossible to know. The question for listeners, though, is whether they can respond to the music as music or only because of its stance on one non-musical issue or another. Malek Jandali (born 1972), for example, is a Syrian-American composer whose concertos for violin and for clarinet – which receive their world première recordings on a new Cedille release – are intended both to preserve Syrian culture and to affirm the struggles of various groups that have suffered hardship. The violin concerto (2014) does something, musically, that is common nowadays and actually has a long history: it incorporates “exotic” (in this case, Syrian) melodies and structural elements into a work set in a traditional three-movement Western concerto form. To Jandali’s credit, there is nothing in the concerto that sounds like exoticism for its own sake, and the soloist is not required to stretch the violin’s technical requirements to the detriment of the instrument’s communicative ability. In fact, the concerto is immediately appealing in its own right. Rachel Barton Pine, a very versatile violinist, plays it with her usual dedication and strength of characterization, while Marin Alsop provides well-balanced backup in leading the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Does the non-musical gloss matter? Are Jandali’s use of a “women’s theme” and his intent to honor Syrian women significant? Does it matter that soloist and conductor are both women? Not at all – and that is all to the good. The extramusical material, in this case, may enrich the listening experience for audiences wanting to know more about the genesis of the concerto, but knowledge of the work’s raison d’etre is thankfully not needed to appreciate the skill with which the music is created and performed. The clarinet concerto (2021) is dedicated to Anthony McGill “in memory of all victims of injustice,” but here too the music does not require knowledge of its underlying rationale to be appreciated for its own sake. This work is shriller than the violin concerto, with which it shares Jandali’s penchant for Syrian elements. Its rhythms are more angular, its percussion more pronounced, its use of the clarinet not fully engaging – the soloist spends a great deal of time in the instrument’s higher register. But these elements, although they may somewhat limit the concerto’s appeal on a strictly musical basis, have to do with Jandali’s compositional choices, not his societal concerns. Both these concertos are very much worth hearing on a strictly musical basis, and in fact it is good to know that some contemporary composers can subsume their concerns about the world around them within music that can attract listeners simply through its quality as music, without requiring the audience to be aware of and supportive of the composer’s underlying motivations in writing the works.

     The chamber opera Mechthild by Reiko Füting (born 1972) asks more of listeners and is less likely to resonate with a wide audience. This is partly a matter of the topic, partly the reality of contemporary opera’s appeal or lack thereof, and partly tied to Füting’s compositional techniques. The title refers to Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1207-c. 1282), the first mystic to write in German: her book Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (“The Flowing Light of Divinity”) contains prayers, visions and dialogues. Theologian Christian Lehnert created for Füting a libretto about faith, the ascetic life, and the balancing act between freedom and security. These are weighty topics, to be sure. But here they are tackled in bits and pieces rather than head-on. The Middle and High German words, which will scarcely be familiar to most audiences, are often given in pieces rather than their entirety: much of Mechthild is a work of fragments. Common contemporary vocal techniques – whispering, electronic modification, the use of breathing as vocalise, the layering of voices on a kind of cloudlike background sound – are integral to the opera, as is extensive repetition. The work is in three acts and a total of nine scenes, some of whose titles may help guide listeners to and through what would otherwise be obscure sounds: “In the Room of Divinity,” “Dumped,” “Where Will You Be Then?” Melisma, Sprechstimme and Sprechgesang create a sonic environment from which occasional individual words emerge with surprising clarity, their meaning and the purpose of their clarity, however, not always being clear. Readily audible narration above a choral background is used from time to time, as in “Descent into Hell,” and there are occasional touches of lyricism, whose presence contrasts strongly with the material surrounding them. In truth, the score is a very rich one stylistically, and certainly Füting capably uses a wide variety of vocal and instrumental techniques to highlight different elements of Lehnert’s libretto. But the philosophical and frequently obscure elements of Mechthild’s writings and their presentation here, along with the requirement that the audience in effect know everything in the opera’s purview before hearing it (since the presentation itself is far from straightforward), make this (+++) CD a frequently fascinating but equally frequently frustrating listening experience. A staged version with surtitles would make some of the material easier to follow and understand, but not all of it. This is a piece on which the librettist and composer clearly worked diligently and with appreciation of Mechthild’s visions and the language in which she communicated them. But the piece is fraught with more weight than it is really able to bear, and more than it is reasonable to ask most listeners to bear on its behalf. It is a very rarefied experience, something of a contemporary Passion Play for an audience that is highly committed both to the subject matter and to the verbal and musical techniques used to explore it.


Music for Oboe, Clarinet and Piano by Bach, Schubert, Eduardo Destenay, Christos Tsitsaros, and Bill Douglas. Talea Trio (Dan Willett, oboe; Wes Warnhoof, clarinet; Natalia Bolshakova, piano). MSR Classics. $14.95.

Vaster Than Empires: Astral Crosswind; Seaward Galaxy; Empyrean Tides; Upcoast Drift. Vaster Than Empires (Erica Dicker, violin; Allen Otte, percussion; Paul Schuette, synthesizers and guitar). Panoramic Recordings. $16.99.

Jake Heggie: Force of Nature; Rene Orth: Weave Me a Name; Nailah Nombeko: Many Facets of Womanhood; Steve Rouse: Morreale Monologues. Emily Albrink, soprano; Kathleen Kelly, piano. Lexicon Classics. $20.

     Not all trios are string trios, or piano trios, or any other usual-combination-of-instruments trios. Listeners who would like to hear the combinatorial effect of three instruments that are not usually combined can occasionally find works written or arranged for less-than-typical instrumental groupings – such as oboe, clarinet and piano. Those are the instruments in the Talea Trio, whose MSR Classics release is an interesting amalgam of arrangements by famous composers with works originally written for this instrumental combination, albeit at very different times. The arrangements are a Bach chorale from Cantata No. 140 (arranged by the trio’s oboist, Dan Willett) and Schubert’s Das Hirt auf dem Felsen (“The Shepherd on the Rock”), originally for soprano, clarinet and piano and arranged by the Talea Trio for its instruments. The Bach is the very well-known Zion Hört die Wächter Singen, and it sounds rather odd in this arrangement. The Schubert is his last-composed work and is less familiar, and perhaps for that reason is more effective: it is an extended scena (12½ minutes) with, in the original, considerable parts for soprano and clarinet and rather less for the piano. The Talea Trio’s version is a fine adaptation that is, however, somewhat less effective than the original because of the absence of text to carry the music along. Of greater interest for an audience seeking works for this specific instrumental combination are the three pieces written for exactly these forces. The Trio in B Minor, Op. 27 by Eduardo Destenay (1850-1924) dates to 1906 and is thoroughly Romantic in approach and outlook. It is the longest work on the disc, almost 23 minutes, and sustains quite well: the first movement is intense, dramatic and generally dark in sound; the second is plaintive and on the sweet side, with an overall impression of delicacy; the finale returns to the mood of the first movement but leavens it with some brighter sounds and pleasant contrasting lyricism. A much more recent approach to these three instruments is heard in the 2017 Fantasy by Christos Tsitsaros (born 1966), which drifts along pleasantly toward no particular destination. Also from the 21st century is the Trio by Bill Douglas (born 1944), a three-movement piece written in 2007. Intriguing, rather bluesy rhythmic changes in the first movement, Bebop cantabile, are followed by a fluid Lament that speaks more of pathos than tragedy, and then a Rondo con brio with a touch of swing and an overall jazzlike sensibility. None of the music on this disc is especially captivating, although Destenay’s Trio is something of a find. The main attraction here is the very fine playing by three performers whose instruments are not often heard together and that, for that very reason, create an attention-getting musical experience.

     Speaking of attention-getting, the three-performer group known as Vaster Than Empires (a phrase from the poem “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell) certainly bids for it with combinations considerably more outré than those of the Talea Trio. The mixing of violin with percussion is an unusual one in itself, but combining those instruments with guitar and synthesizers leads to sound creation that is quite far from what most audiences will likely expect from a trio of musicians. The Panoramic Recordings disc featuring Vaster Than Empires is unusual in another way: all four pieces on it are improvisations, which means they are captured in the versions heard on the CD but would never again sound the same even if the performers chose to play them (or something like them) again. There is quite a bit of music here – the disc runs 78 minutes – but as so often with avowedly avant-garde material, there is no significant respect in which the works’ titles bear on or reflect their sounds. All the pieces are 19 to 20 minutes long, and all seem longer because, again as is common in avant-garde material, they offer no particular sense of progression or shape through form: they simply start, do various things, sound in various ways, and then stop. Astral Crosswind includes everything from distorted wind chimes to percussive flower pots, and frequently leads the ear to very high pitches. Seaward Galaxy has a vaguely wavelike opening with honks more-or-less resembling foghorns, but soon loses any possible reference to its title as it becomes a series of squeals and the sound of static. Empyrean Tides combines tambourine sounds with much-distorted guitar notes before moving to high-pitched electronics – those seem to be favorite sounds of these performers. Upcoast Drift fades in, its background-like sounds emerging into the foreground before a series of chords and emphatic attacks turn into a chaotic section that eventually gives way to an exploration of multiple percussion performance techniques. These pieces will appeal only to existing fans of avant-garde electronic and electronic-plus-acoustic music: the works would likely be more interesting if heard and seen in live performance, since there is a visual element involved in multi-player improvisation that is missing on a CD. Two of the Talea Trio’s performances are of 21st-century music, but that three-player music is as different from the three-player material heard here as the 21st century is from the distant past – or distant future.

     The viewpoint is also female but is ultra-modern and secular rather than Medieval and mystical on a new Lexicon Classics release featuring soprano Emily Albrink and pianist Kathleen Kelly presenting world premières of song cycles by four contemporary composers. Although only two performers are involved here, the emotions explored, moods communicated and feelings conveyed are intended to stand for a multitude of female voices. Indeed, the title of the three-song cycle Many Facets of Womanhood by Nailah Nombeko could stand for the entire disc. The texts by Mary McCallum focus on one element of women’s lives: motherhood, especially its complexities in the modern world. The desire to Be brave, be bold, be free! (the title of the first song) comes up against the realities of everyday modern life: schedules, overwork, difficult introspection, guilt and more. The settings are expressive in traditional art-song mode, somewhat overdone in light of their quotidian topics: they convey a greater sense of drama and intensity than do the rather winsome words themselves. And it is actually not this cycle but the one by Jake Heggie, Force of Nature, that lends its title to the entire CD. Heggie’s work, with texts by the two performers, has the most direct and personal connection of those here, being a tribute to Albrink’s mother, Nancy Albrink, who died in 2017 at the age of 65. Force of Nature is the title of the three-song cycle, of the entire disc, and of the first song in the cycle, which begins with the words, yes, “Force of nature.” The point is made more than clearly through this multitude of uses of the phrase – as well as within the song itself, which describes Nancy Albrink as a tornado, rain, sun and wind, all of them changing as weather does. Heggie’s slightly acerbic setting indicates that there are difficulties to having a force-of-nature parent, along with the pleasures. The second song, about Emily Albrink’s visit to Disney World at age five and her choir audition at age 11, is lighter in tone while still showcasing underlying strength; the third, Now I See You, is the most lyrical and sweetest, trying just a bit too hard to appreciate, thank and love this human “force of nature.” The other two song cycles on this (+++) disc are longer but scarcely more varied. Rene Orth’s Weave Me a Name (words by Jeanne Minahan) has a family connection of its own, being inspired by Minahan’s grandmother. Its seven songs trace the typical-yet-individual life of a woman of an earlier generation, starting with a cascade of piano notes that sound like raindrops or the flow of water, and by implication of life. The songs progress through a marriage that did not go well, the need to work and be separated from three children, and the economic and emotional difficulties of fulfilling life’s necessities, eventually leading to Handiwork in the form of what happens to the next generation. The piano part participates significantly in the story, offering comments on the words at times, underlining them at others. The words themselves are heartfelt if frequently a bit overdone: the settings tend to be more earnest and emphatic than the content really justifies. The fourth work on the CD is Steve Rouse’s Morreale Monologues (texts by Vin Morreale, Jr.) – and it is as focused as Orth’s cycle is extended. These five songs could all take place within a single day; certainly they are “everyday” in their topics. Their orientation is interior rather than outward-facing, and there is a great deal of repetitiveness in them – the words “thank you” seven times in one song, multiple repetitions about keeping a secret in another. The essentially trivial material allows a more-lighthearted approach to the music than in the other cycles on this disc, but Rouse’s vocal settings keep trying to make the thoughts more portentous than by rights they can or should be. In fact, one thing missing from the entire CD – but surely as worthy as other elements of modern women’s lives – is anything lighthearted. The whole disc is so insistent on the seriousness of its topic that it comes across as rather dour. The material is well-crafted and well-performed, but the music as a whole is much more often downbeat than uplifting.

May 25, 2023


The Nature Journal: A Backyard Adventure. By Savannah Allen. Viking. $18.99.

Can We Play Baseball Mr. DeMille? By Mark Angelo. Illustrated by Patricia and Robin DeWitt. FriesenPress. $21.99.

     The past always seems to look rosier in hindsight, and some children’s books take advantage of that to create or re-create stories steeped in nostalgia. Savannah Allen’s The Nature Journal mixes the sweet scent of older times with the time-tested notion of a young child’s dreaming to create a lovely little paean to the close relationship within a father-and-son family unit. The boy, Tim, follows in his father’s footsteps by enjoying small outdoor excursions, during which he keeps journals of his mundane-but-fascinating discoveries: flowers, worms, rocks, insects, and so forth. There is nothing extraordinary about any of these “finds,” but there is something special in doing what his father did in the past. In fact, Tim prefers to do his explorations with his father; but one day his dad just can’t join him – he has work and chores to do – so Tim decides to go through his father’s actual journals, which are stored in their home’s attic and “full of the adventures that his dad took before Tim was born.” While reading the journals – which Allen ensures look a lot like the ones Tim himself keeps – Tim eventually falls asleep, and sure enough, he dreams of far-flung journeys with his dad. Those wordless travels, each illustrated as a double-page spread, take up much of the book and are filled with a child’s notion of visiting an exotic forest, a desert encampment, undersea caves, mountains – all places far removed from the quotidian backyard of Tim’s home. After awakening, Tim “scribbled down his dreams as fast as he could” so as not to forget any of the delightful times. And soon afterwards, Tim’s dad finishes his adult-things-to-do, apologizes for not having more time for Tim that day, and arranges to go on a real adventure with him the next day – in the backyard, where both can make new nature-journal memories. It is an open question whether the make-believe adventures to fascinating realms, or the real ones a few feet from the house, are more meaningful – or maybe not so open, since Tim’s smiles are even broader when hanging out with his father than they were while imagining all the places that the two of them visited in dreamland. A simple and lovely little paean to father-son bonding over a shared experience, The Nature Journal nicely shows ways in which kids and parents can make and enjoy special times together even if they have no way to take trips to the forests, deserts, mountains and oceans.

     Can We Play Baseball Mr. DeMille? is a backyard story of a different sort, and a real-world one at that: it is a memoir in the form of a children’s book. Mark Angelo was seven years old in 1958 when he and some neighborhood friends developed a fanatical devotion to the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, which had moved from the East Coast to California the previous year. The problem the kids faced was that they wanted desperately to play baseball themselves, but had nowhere to do so. However, there is a huge lawn at a massive house nearby – reachable through a hole in the surrounding hedge – and the kids think that lawn would be just perfect for some ball games. So they sneak in “one hot afternoon in late June, when we were feeling especially courageous,” and play some ball. And they keep doing that until, inevitably, they are caught by the gardener and tossed unceremoniously out. What to do? The only possible solution is to ask the owner of the home – who happens to be the world-famous film director and producer Cecil B. DeMille – if they can please, please, please use a little bit of his huge lawn area for baseball now and then. Deputized to go to the palatial home and ask that question, Angelo recounts what happened and how enormously surprised and pleased he was when DeMille actually agreed to let them play. DeMille (1881-1959) died not long afterwards, and the land was sold off for homebuilding, so the permission did not last all that long. But then, presumably the childhood dreams of becoming professional baseball players did not last that long, either. Still, the whole story makes for a lovely bit of time travel to an era when major-league baseball was something other than a 100% money grab for entitled millionaires. Angelo’s storytelling is nicely paced (although the absence of a comma after “baseball” in the book’s title is decidedly peculiar). The illustrations, however, are less successful: the impressions of real people (including once-famous baseball players and DeMille) are well done, but the portraits of the neighborhood kids and other characters (such as the gardener and butler) are oddly proportioned in terms of head size, facial features and (especially) hands and fingers. The book looks as if illustrators Patricia and Robin DeWitt could not quite decide whether they wanted to do realistic renderings or comic-style art, so they compromised by creating pictures combining bits of each. Still, it is the story rather than the visuals that will appeal to 21st-century children who have any sense of (and interest in) old-style baseball and, for that matter, old-style moviemaking. There may not be many such kids anymore, but for those who do still gravitate to these topics, Angelo’s personal history will be a highly enjoyable saunter down memory lane.