Tuesday, January 27, 2009

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

I don't like baseball, and while I vaguely know about the racial injustices in American baseball I had never actually read a book about the Negro Leagues before I read We Are the Ship. From the first words on the page I was drawn into the story—not because of the baseball but because of the history and human drama. The author writes as if he was one of the many players in the Negro Leagues, and this narrative voice drew me in. I could see the crowded buses, the restaurants and hotels that turned away black players, and the clowning moves of some of the early players. The artwork in this book is stunning and took the author/illustrator eight years to complete. This book is written at a perfect level for middle school students, but I'm afraid that they won't pick it up because at first glance it looks like a picture book for younger readers. If this book made me want to keep reading, anyone who actually likes baseball will be absolutely riveted. It should be read by anyone of any age who wants to learn about the history of the Negro Leagues. Teachers, this book would make a fantastic read aloud, either the whole thing or any one of the nine chapters (Nelson calls them "innings"). I was happy to see that this book won both the Coretta Scott King Award and the Sibert Award for children's nonfiction. It deserves it!

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