Graphic Novel Review 233: “21” The Story of Roberto Clemente

Please keep up with all of my old Graphic Novel Reviews here as I quest for 365 in 365 days! Or search #365GN on Twitter.

Hey, all! I have some cool things coming your way in March, so make sure that you are checking back every day. I appreciate you for reading.

I’m on a competitive trivia team.  Nothing nationally famous or anything, if that’s a thing that can even be nationally famous, but we have fun.  And believe it or not, during this blog quest, I’ve learned a few things, and today I learned that in 1973, Roberto Clemente became the first Latin American inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Title: “21” The Story of Roberto Clemente 

Author(s): Wilfred Santiago

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (2011)

Age Rating: 13+

My students always ask me for “more sports” books, and I must admit, it’s a genre that should be exploding in the medium with so many teachers trying to get boys reading, but in my findings thus far, sports graphic novels are more scarce then they should be.  Maybe it’s because kids that play sports are not the ones majoring in art.  Maybe it’s because, wait, no…it’s probably the first thing.

Anyway, today, I present you with an exceptional graphic novel that not only features a Hall of Fame baseball player, but he’s also a hero that’s a person of color: Roberto Clemente.  Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente is excellent subject matter for a graphic novel: he came up in a time in sports that wasn’t completely open-arms accepting; he has an interesting family history; and he was a beast on the diamond.

The book is done in traditional Pittsburgh Pirate colors: black and yellow…with shades of gray.  Graphic Novelist Wilford Santiago allows the Spanish to be in traditional white word bubbles, and the English is in yellow speech bubbles.  The splash of color in the dialogue bubbles is both creative and visually interesting.  He also does a number of interesting things with the page/panel layouts.  Arguably a bit too much at times.  The pages can be slightly confusing, but the effort to create something different is appreciated.  He slants panels across the spine; he places panels on top of panels; he utilizes special effect lettering for emphasis.  But the book is physically small, so that’s where some of my confusion might be coming from.  I’d like to see a ten-year anniversary version of this book with large pages and page numbers.

Looking to start your graphic novel sports collection?  You can start here.  Now…let me go find more titles for you.

Happy reading!


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