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Barbed Wire Baseball: How One Man Brought Hope to the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII Hardcover – April 9, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Focusing on her subject's strength of character and love of baseball, Moss introduces readers to Kenichi Zenimura (1900-'68). At barely five feet tall, Zeni was hardly a natural athlete; nonetheless, he developed great prowess as a player and coach. Before World War II, he played exhibition games alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and toured Japan, where he was born. His family moved to Hawaii when he was a child and later to Fresno, California. When war broke out, Zenimura, his wife, and teenage sons were sent to the Gila River internment camp in Arizona. In the barren desert environment, Zeni determined to build a baseball field and rallied others to his cause. Shimizu's artwork, created with Japanese calligraphy brush and ink on paper and Adobe Photoshop, depicts Zeni hoeing and pulling weeds in the hot sun. He made a field with real grass; a fence of castor beans; and, in an ironic twist, bleachers with wood scrounged from the barbed-wire fence posts surrounding the camp. In an afterword, Moss notes that Zenimura won posthumous induction into Japan's Shrine of the Eternals, the equivalent of baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Text and illustrations mesh to create an admiring portrait of an exemplary individual who rose above his challenges and inspired others. Pair this picture book with Ken Mochizuki's Baseball Saved Us (Lee & Low, 1995) for an excellent read-aloud, or use it to introduce Kathryn Fitzmaurice's chapter book A Diamond in the Desert (Viking, 2012). Together these books offer insightful portrayals of the Japanese American internment experience.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This story begins in the early 1900s, when tiny Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura attends a baseball game with his parents and falls in love with the sport. Fast-forward to his adult years, when five-foot Zeni plays, coaches, and manages teams in California’s Japanese American leagues. Ordered to report to a Japanese American internment camp in the Arizona desert in 1941, he works with patience, determination, and ingenuity to build a baseball field there, complete with grass, sprinklers, and bleachers. In the closing scene, his home-run ball soars over the barbed wire fence. The informative back matter includes a historical afterword, an author’s note, an artist’s note, and a source bibliography. One of the many effective illustrations shows Zeni seated on his bunk, gazing at a photo (based on an actual picture) of himself standing between Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. As this expressive picture book makes clear, Zenimura never allowed his small stature to diminish his dreams. A fine historical counterpart to Ken Mochizuki’s fictional Baseball Saved Us (1993). Grades 2-4. --Carolyn Phelan
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The illustrations are well done colour drawings and there are facts in the back and a few photos of the real Zeni. There is also a bibliography page that would give you ideas for more reading on this subject.
This is a book designed for ages 6 to 10, but younger would appreciate it being read to them and older would gain too from the facts and spirit presented in its pages.
Most recent customer reviews
The words are simple and easy read for 3rd grader.
The book doesn't explain about camp, but "afterword" explains a...Read more