Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

Nelson, Kadir. 2008. WE ARE THE SHIP: THE STORY OF NEGRO LEAGUE BASEBALL. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 978078680832 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-12]

Kadir Nelson’s Siebert and Coretta Scott King winning book is a delight. The narrative format is reminiscent of a grandfather telling his grandchild the story of a time long past and the words flow from the page in an almost poetic cadence. The book is divided into innings rather than chapters as the history of the Negro baseball leagues unfold. The story begins, as any good story should, with the Beginnings. Subsequent innings describe the different brand of baseball the Negro Leagues played, life in the Negro leagues, Negro league owners, the greatest of the league baseball players, Latin American players and playing in Latin America, exhibition games between Negro and White leagues, World War II and the Negro League all-star game, and Jackie Robinson. All good baseball games go into extra innings and this book is no exception. The end of the Negro Leagues is detailed and appendices list Negro Leaguers who made into the major leagues and the Baseball Hall of Fame. An author’s note, a bibliography, a filmography, and an index are included.

Nelson’s paintings of famous Negro league players and events add to the specialness of the volume. Even non-sports fans will much to love in this delightful and informative book.

Use this book as a read aloud or as a discussion starter about discrimination. Pair it with other books about the African American experience such as Mildred Taylor’s ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY. ISBN 9780140384512. Share excerpts during baseball season in spring or the World Series in early fall.

Other baseball books that deal with breaking tradition:
Gratz, Allen. SAMURAI SHORTSTOP. ISBN 9780142410998
Konigsburg, E.L. ABOUT THE B’NAI BAGELS. ISBN 9781416957980
Slote, Alfred. FINDING BUCK MCHENRY. ISBN 9780064404693

By Janet Hilbun

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