Becoming Joe DiMaggio

by Maria Testa and Scott Hunt

Joseph Paul was born in 1936, and named for the Yankees new center fielder, Joe Dimaggio.... read more

Joseph Paul was born in 1936, and named for the Yankees new center fielder, Joe Dimaggio. “I should have been Alfonso / by right / The first son / after three beautiful daughters / should always be named for / the father / wherever he may be.” But Joseph Paul’s unreliable father is in jail, and it is his beloved grandfather, Papa-Angelo, who whispers the name Joseph Paul to his relieved mother at the baptism. “ 'Joseph Paul,’ Mama said out loud, / loving the name from / the beginning, / accepting the promise.” Over the years, Joseph Paul’s father makes occasional appearances, a confusing embarrassment to his son—never quite staying out of trouble, creating fear and tension at home. But it is Papa-Angelo who stuffs the boys pockets full of tomatoes so his mother can stretch the sauce. It is Papa-Angelo who nurtures his dream of playing baseball, and, later, of becoming a doctor. Maria Testa’s moving novel spans the first 16 years of Joseph Paul’s life, as he speaks in first-person poems of moments that define his sense of self and family, and, above all, his love for the grandfather who gave him the courage to dream. (Age 12 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003

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