Friday, February 10, 2012

Guy Friday-- Baseball

Smith, Charles. Stars in the Shadows: The Negro League All-Star Game
Well illustrated by Frank Morrison, this is an interesting combination of poetry and pictures, although not quite a graphic novel. The play by plays of the game are interspersed with advertisements that give a window into black culture at the time. The players in the game are described, and comments from fans in the stands add to the narrative with input from a woman just starting to work for the NAACP, a young boy who is following Jesse Owens’ career with interest, and others who just like the baseball. End notes tell a little more about how the All-Star game was put together, and the effect that it had on the black community.
Strengths: This will appeal to elementary students as well as struggling middle school readers who like baseball, and will sneak a bit of poetry into their reading!
Weaknesses: I’m not quite sure where to put this-- regular fiction? Baseball nonfiction? Graphic novels? It is an unusual piece of work.

Fitzmaurice, Kathryn. A Diamond in the Desert.
Tetsu, his mother, and sister Kimi have been moved from their home in California to the Gila River Relocation camp in Arizona after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His father is imprisioned because he was very active in the Japanese community and therefore considered a threat by the US government. Tetsu is worried about his dog, Lucky, who was given to a farmer but ran away, and might have been sighted back at his old house by a neighbor. Tetsu is also unhappy about having to give up baseball, but one of the other prisoners was a baseball coach, and he has the boys working on constructing a diamond. Tetsu’s mother gets a job in the kitchen, the wait to hear from his father, and do their best to survive the horrible conditions at the camp. His little sister gathers small animals to be her pets, but doesn’t like the open latrines-- she always brings a pillowcase to put over her head when using them. When Tetsu forgets the pillowcase and gets angry at his sister for being so needy, she runs away and gets lost in the desert overnight, and gets very ill. As she slowly improves, Tetsu works with the baseball coach and soon their team is playing other internment camps. Eventually, the war ends, they are reunited with their father, and the family prepares to go on with their life after the internment camp.
Strengths: Details of every day life in the camp are well presented, and the inclusion of baseball will add more readers.
Weaknesses: This seemed a little unfocused; I prefer Dean Hughes’ Missing in Action for similar coverage of both the Japanese camps and baseball.

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