Sunday, November 13, 2011

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


Nelson, Kadir. We Are The Ship The Story of Negro League Baseball. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children, 2008.


This is the story of Negro League Baseball. It is a story of their owners and athletes who loved baseball (America's favorite pastime). It shows the reader how difficult it was to play the game due to our history of racial segregation. The athletes persevered and would not let racial segregation stop them from playing the game they loved! Kadir Nelson's oil painting are amazing how they are woven into chapters that are the nine innings of baseball. The book ends with Jackie Robinson being admitted into the major leagues and that was the downfall of the Negro League.

Critical Analysis:

This book was written on a sixth grade reading level. The story of the Negro League is told by an anonymous narrator who could have been any Negro baseball player. Every inning opens with a quote from a Negro player. The title of the book comes from the quote of Rube Foster, founder of the Negro National League "We are the Ship; all else the sea."

The book is organized into the nine innings of baseball. Nelson does a wonderful job of weaving the Great Depression and WWII in the story and explaining how they contributed to the story. WWII was also segregated and black men played baseball or had cooking or cleaning jobs instead of fighting. This story is about a subject of interest to many young readers. Even if you are not the world's biggest baseball fan the reader will be intrigued how the author wrote the story with zest. I found the actual accounts from the early 20th century interesting. It is told from the point of view of a baseball player who loves the game and had to endure discrimination, name calling, death threats to play the game they loved.

The innings are short and build on each other. They are appropriate for a young reader to want to know more about that time in history, or more about their baseball heroes.The illustrations are my favorite part of the book. I agree with Booklist that the players appear "like the giants they are." The open out of the first colored World Series is impressive. The details and the vivid colors in the oil paintings help bring the book to life!

Strengths and Weaknesses:
I did not find any weaknesses in this non-fiction story. One of the strengths is definitely the illustrations. They aid in the understanding of the text.

Awards and Reviews:

2009 Coretta Scott King Award

2009-2010 Texas Bluebonnet Award

New York Times stated "Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008"

School Library Journal states "The history of the Leagues echoes the social and political struggles of black America during the first half of the 20th century."

Booklist states " If the story is the pitch, though, it’s the artwork that blasts the book into the stands."

Booklist "With enormous blue skies and jam-packed grandstands backing them, these players look like the giants they are."

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