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Willie and the All-Stars Hardcover – September 18, 2008
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
From School Library Journal
Grade 1–4—In 1942, young Willie already knows that nothing comes easy, but he dreams of baseball fame. When a neighbor tells him about baseball's color line, he is crushed, feeling "all closed up inside." Then he's given tickets to an exhibition game between Negro League and Major League All-Stars at Wrigley Field. Though their uniforms and equipment are aged and tattered, the Negro Leaguers, led by Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, quickly impress the crowd with their hard-driving playing style. Willie notes that "from the first pitch," they seem "hungrier for the victory," and they eventually out muscle the Major Leaguers. The story ends on a hopeful note, with a handshake between two opposing players, symbolizing that the victory has brought "a nod of acknowledgment, if not acceptance, from White to Black." An author's note adds a thumbnail sketch of the Negro Leagues. Cooper's vibrant, nostalgic oil paintings, in hues of golden brown and earth tones, enhance this story's winsome appeal. Pair it with Carole Boston Weatherford's A Negro League Scrapbook (Boyds Mills, 2005) and Gavin Curtis's The Bat Boy and His Violin (S & S, 1998), both excellent introductions to this period for fans and casual readers alike.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
It’s 1942 and 10-year-old Willie, a big Cubs fan, looks forward to the day when he’ll be a major leaguer. When he hears men on the corner excitedly talking about players he has never heard of—Satchel Paige, Papa Bell—Willie thinks they can’t be that good if they’re not in the majors; he is told he wouldn’t be able to play either because he is black. Then, excitement! Willie is given tickets to an exhibition game between Negro League and major league all-stars—in Wrigley Field. Willie goes in rooting for the major leaguers but comes out with appreciation for the black all-stars. A special moment is watching players from the opposing teams shake hands. By looking at race relations through the prism of baseball, Cooper will draw readers (though a comment about segregated fountains and trolleys in Chicago seems off base). The soft-focus sepia-touched artwork, vintage Cooper, is a nice mix of action and nostalgia. An author’s note gives a brief baseball history: first the races played together, then apart, before finally coming together once more. Grades 1-3. --Ilene Cooper
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Outside his building Willie would sit on the stoop listening to the old men tell tall tales about who he thought were fictitious men. Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson sounded just a bit too phenomenal to be real, but in spite of the tall tales they really were players. Willie asked Mr. Wilson why he'd never heard about them on the radio and was told, "That's because they're Negro League players." Willie and his buddy Sean O'Carroll still had dreams together, but Willie's were a bit more subdued until Ol' Ezra gave them a very special gift, a gift that would give Willie hope.
This was a marvelous story of dreams that somehow only the very young can envision for themselves. I loved the aura of youthful hope both the story and the artwork conveyed. The artwork was beautiful and the oil paintings had that special touch that made the scenery appear surreal and "vintage." Set in 1942, this story talks about the dreams of a boy, but is very realistic about the social inequities at the time. For example Willie and Sean "had to drink from separate water fountains at the park." In the back of the book the author briefly talks about the "untold dreams that were snuffed out" and the emergence of the Negro Leagues.
Set in Chicago in 1942, a 10-year-old boy named Willie lives with his grandmother and loves the Chicago Cubs. An avid baseball fan, he and his grandmother gather round the radio to listen to the games while Willie dreams of becoming a Major League ballplayer.
Willie is very resourceful. He plays street baseball with the neighborhood kids and whenever he and his grandmother go to the store, he pretends that local landmarks are bases and that he is playing for the Cubs.
One day, Willie hears several men on his block discussing Negro League ballplayers. Willie has never heard of Satchel Paige, Papa Bell and other Negro Leaguers. Willie wonders why he has never heard of these players if they aren't in the Major Leagues. The men explain bigotry to Willie; they explain that regardless of a player's ability, the player is only accepted by Major League teams if that player is white. Sadly, Willie takes his newfound knowledge to his friend Sean, who says they'll start a team and play together. They aren't bigots!
Something wonderful happens. Willie's neighbor gives him two tickets to a Cubs game. Excited, Willie and Sean attend, cheering their hearts out. The Cubs are playing a Negro League Team! (This was five years before Jackie Robinson was accepted by Manager Branch Ricky as a Dodger, thus ending the color bar in baseball). As wonderful as that game is, it is what happens at the end of the game that will resonate in the hearts and minds of readers.
If you enjoy good baseball and history, you will love this book. It is a major league winner!
Baseball Saved Us is an ideal companion book to this one.