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We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball Hardcover – January 8, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3 Up—A lost piece of American history comes to life in Kadir Nelson's elegant and eloquent history (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, 2008) of the Negro Leagues and its gifted baseball players. The history of the Leagues echoes the social and political struggles of black America during the first half of the 20th century. There were scores of ballplayers who never became as famous as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb and were almost lost in obscurity because of segregation—and Nelson recreates their history here. The narrative is divided into nine innings, beginning with Rube Foster and his formation of the first Negro League in 1920 and closing with Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier into white major league baseball. In between are fascinating snippets of the events and men who formed the Negro Leagues. Listeners glimpse the pain black Americans endured because of bigotry and segregation, but the true center of this story is the joy of baseball and the joy men felt at being able to play the game. Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who began playing with the Negro Leagues, provides the foreword. Eloquent narration is performed by actor Dion Graham, and a bluesy guitar introduction and conclusion is reminiscent of the time period. Nelson's stunning oil paintings are included on a CD—but make sure to have the book available as well. Social studies teachers and baseball fans of all ages will covet this delightful winner of the 2009 Coretta Scott King author award and illustrator Honor award.—Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
*Starred Review* Award-winning illustrator and first-time author Nelson’s history of the Negro Leagues, told from the vantage point of an unnamed narrator, reads like an old-timer regaling his grandchildren with tales of baseball greats Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and others who forged the path toward breaking the race barrier before Jackie Robinson made his historic debut. The narrative showcases the pride and comradery of the Negro Leagues, celebrates triumphing on one’s own terms and embracing adversity, even as it clearly shows the “us” and “them” mentality bred by segregation. If the story is the pitch, though, it’s the artwork that blasts the book into the stands. Nelson often works from a straight-on vantage point, as if the players took time out of the action to peer at the viewer from history, eyes leveled and challenging, before turning back to the field of play. With enormous blue skies and jam-packed grandstands backing them, these players look like the giants they are. The stories and artwork are a tribute to the spirit of the Negro Leaguers, who were much more than also-rans and deserve a more prominent place on baseball’s history shelves. For students and fans (and those even older than the suggested grade level), this is the book to accomplish just that. Grades 5-8. --Ian Chipman
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Top Customer Reviews
One of the unique aspects of this book is that it avoids the hyperbole so common as regards the truly great players who were denied their rightful place in the Bigs. However, one account from a white umpire did strike me. He said that if the players in the (white) major leagues played like this, they would have to make the parks and stadiums bigger, so many more people would come out to see the games. Not an exact quote, but that was the gist of it, and it rings true. Pete Rose was known for hustle, but he would have been just another player in these leagues, because they all played their heart out. And for not much money. It has the appearance of a coffee table book, but it is so much more. It is a work of art. For any true fan of the game, it is a must-own.
But the text alone isn't what makes this book so great. The artwork is stunning in this oversize book, and hardly a page goes by that doesn't have a full page painting (including one fold-out). Some are simple poses of the men on the field and a few show them getting off trains or riding on the bus, but my favorites are the ones that show the action of the game. Several would be good enough to hang on the wall (as reprints, of course, not cut from the book). It has a look and style of the old depression-era artwork that was used in murals and public places.
My little-league son and I have been reading the book and have both learned a lot. Of course, segregation is a recurrent theme, and it's embarrassing to me that this is how things used to be, but I think it's important that my children understand how it affected real people. But we both enjoy reading not only of the challenges faced, but also the joys they had in playing the game we both love and their triumphs. The forward by Hank Aaron and the part about Jackie Robinson are nice in that regard. This is a beautiful book that baseball fans of any color will enjoy.
This book is written as if the players are telling the story. The paintings are so detailed and lifelike that it is like watching a movie. I can hear the voices of the players. I can see the plays happening. It is a historical work of art.
It's not just a book -- it's an experience. I couldn't hold back the tears.
A very personal account of what it was like to be a player in the Negro Leagues.
What these guys had to put up with is sad and embarrassing.
Somehow this was classified as a children's book? I never got that sense when I was reading it. Masterfully written & illustrated.