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Just Like Josh Gibson Hardcover – January 1, 2004
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From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3--A young narrator opens this story about her grandmother with an anecdote about the legendary Josh Gibson, a Negro League player who once hit a baseball so hard in Pittsburgh that it landed during his game in Philadelphia the next day. That was the day Grandmama was born. Her father brought a Louisville slugger to the hospital and vowed that his daughter would "make baseballs fly, just like Josh Gibson." She became as good a player as the boys on the Maple Grove All-Stars, and sometimes she was invited to practice with them. When her cousin hurt his arm during a game, Grandmama got her chance to hear the cheers as she ran the bases, "stealing home." Peck's well-designed, richly colored pastel artwork, which shows people with emotion and depth, is clearly the highlight of the book. Young Grandmama, in yellow pedal pushers or a pink dress, stands out among the boys' white uniforms and the burnt orange chest protectors of the catcher and umpire. A close-up at the end shows the narrator holding the very ball her grandmother hit, as the older woman looks on, her hand on a photo of the team. Information about Hall of Famer Gibson is appended. Although the story is slight, it imparts the message that a girl can succeed at a "boy's game" if she sets her mind to it.--Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
PreS-Gr. 2. Johnson pays tribute to Negro Leagues legend Josh Gibson in this poetic picture book about a girl who longs to play ball. The narrator is a young girl, who tells her grandmother's story. Grandmama's father, a die-hard Gibson fan, teaches his daughter to play baseball, even though there were no teams for girls in the 1940s. When her cousin Danny is injured in a game, Grandmama fills in. Wearing her "pink dress with a white bow," she bats and catches "just like Josh Gibson," earning cheers that she still cherishes. Johnson tempers what could have been a sentimental tale with Grandmama's contagious enthusiasm and sense of empowerment, and her text has a baseball announcer's suspenseful rhythm: "the balls sailed away, sailed away, gone." Peck's angular pastels, while occasionally awkward in the details, skillfully capture the nostalgic sports action and celebration as well as the pride the girl feels in Grandmama's accomplishments. A closing note offers a brief, nicely documented biography of Gibson. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Enter "Just Like Josh Gibson". Another worthy picture book from the multi-talented and remarkably gifted Angela Johnson. Book editors like to pair Johnson with an array of different illustrators, and it is just our luck that the one chosen for this particular book is the multi-talented Beth Peck. The story is told by a grandmother to her granddaughter about her baseball playing past. Here we see the grandmother as a skinny black child in a long pink dress. Taught to play baseball by her father she's a natural at the game. The balls she hits soar out of sight, though those watching her chant to themselves, "But too bad she's a girl... Too bad she's a girl...". The girl's chance comes at last when one of the boys, her cousin Danny, on a local baseball team hurts his arm. Changing into her cousin's shoes (pink dress still firmly in place), she wins the game and remembers years later how good it felt to hear the cheers while stealing home. The book ends with a historical note about the legendary Josh Gibson (a player that the Grandmother always idolized) as well as additional information (well cited) about the role of women in the game. I was especially interested in learning that a woman once played in the Negro Leagues when slugger Hand Aaron left to join the Braves. But as the book itself points out, "the gender barrier to the `big leagues' still exists". It's refreshing to read a book that identifies and decries an inequality that exists to this very day. Few books written for adults make such charges, let alone picture books for kids.
Accompanying Johnson's narration are Peck's pastels. Set against a backdrop of stark houses and outhouses, the pictures are beautiful. One picture in particular caught my attention. There's a moment where the little girl has swung her baseball bat and is looking off into the distance with the catcher and the umpire as it soars. Just look at the drawings in this scene. Peck's careful use of lines slash and cut to make the girl's dress appear to have folds, stretched fabric, and momentum as well. Now that's just good drawing.
In the end, I suspect "Just Like Josh Gibson" will be relegated to the pile of forgotten children's classics someday. But if you know any child that loves sports, and baseball in particular, I urge you pick up this book. It does more to advance the cause of women in sports for little children than anything else I've read in a long time.
This is mostly the story of a young girl who wants to play with the kids in her town, but girls aren't supposed to play ball. Still, she practices and she's good, and she does get to play.
**Note to publishers and authors -- that's enough free verse.** If it were not for Beth Peck's illustrations (looks like oil pastels) in this book, I would have rated it lower. We need books written in standard English.