Jack and LarryReviews
Jack Graney was born in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, and played baseball for the Cleveland American League team (now known as the Indians) from 1910-22. As leadoff batter, Jack had a life full of firsts, particularly first hit and first run scored in a game or a season. He was the first player to face a young Red Sox pitcher named Babe Ruth — and the first player to collect a hit off the Bambino, too. Jack was also the first former major leaguer to become a sports announcer. For decades he was the voice of the Cleveland Indians, and when he retired in 1953, Cleveland celebrated Jack Graney Day in his honor.
Jack was also the first, and only, major league player to own a dog that was the team's official mascot. That dog was Larry, a bull terrier. At the time that Larry became Jack's dog and joined the Cleveland team, appearing in all the official team photos, bull terriers had only recently been imported to the United States from England, where the breed was developed. Newspaper reporters incorrectly called Larry a bull dog. He was not: he was a bull terrier.
All major leaguers dream of winning their league's pennant and, beyond that, the World Series. Jack and Larry is the story of a man, a dog, a team, and the pursuit of the pennant: a pursuit filled with joy and sorrow. To read an excerpt, click here.
Behind the Book
Some books come easily, some don't. Jack and Larry took me a long time to write, mainly because, without really knowing it, I was looking for the right form. And in looking for the right form, I was also looking for the story that went with it. This sounds circular, I know, but it isn't. Sometimes the story comes first to the writer, and sometimes the form (picture book, say, or adult novel) comes first. What's best for the writer is if the right form and the right story arrive at the same time, hand in hand.
That wasn't the case with this book. When I first started the book that became Jack and Larry, I thought the story was Larry's. And I thought the form was a picture book. That didn't work out: the story just wouldn't go into a picture book format. So I tried another form: middle grades nonfiction, straight prose. That didn't work, either.
I tried an adult magazine article, but that wasn't right: the form didn't allow the story to come to life. Somewhere along the way, though, the story had made itself known. It wasn't just Larry's story, and it wasn't just Jack's story. It was the story of Jack Graney, Larry, and the struggle of the Cleveland team to win the pennant.
Okay, I had the story. Now where was the form that would bring the story to life? One day I was writing poetry (about cows, actually), and suddenly I found myself writing a free verse poem about Jack and Larry and the Cleveland team. And I knew immediately: this form would bring the story to life.
Once I had both my story and my form, the rest was . . . not at all easy. I wrote and rewrote and submitted the story to my critique group so many times I think they know it by heart. But, finally, I wrote the story I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell it. — Bg