Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!
Barbed Wire Baseball
Author: Marissa Moss
Illustrated by: Yuko Shimizu
Published April 9th, 2013 by Harry N. Abrams
Goodreads Summary: As a boy, Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura dreams of playing professional baseball, but everyone tells him he is too small. Yet he grows up to be a successful player, playing with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig! When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, Zeni and his family are sent to one of ten internment camps where more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry are imprisoned without trials. Zeni brings the game of baseball to the camp, along with a sense of hope.
This true story, set in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, introduces children to a little-discussed part of American history through Marissa Moss’s rich text and Yuko Shimizu’s beautiful illustrations. The book includes author and illustrator notes, archival photographs, and a bibliography.
Review: World War II is the most infamous war and it is taught to all students at some point in their career. They learn about Pearl Harbor and the Atomic Bomb and the Holocause and Hitler, but way too often what happened here in the US is not discussed. All of the Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the US (62% were US citizens) were interned because our fear overwhelmed us so much that it was the only solution that seemed plausible. I felt that the fear that was felt after the Pearl Harbor bombings is very similar to what was felt 12 years ago today.
Barbed Wire Baseball does discuss the internment camps, but I think that the theme of this book is not about the camps but about how a love of something can turn a poor situation into something else if you are determined.
The story is just one part of the book. What moves it to a higher level is the author and illustrator. Marissa Moss has someone captured the tone of the story. It begins with hopefulness then to hopelessness and finally back to joyousness. Her ability to manipulate the tone throughout makes the story touch the reader even more. Yuko Shimizu’s illustrations are done with a Japenese calligraphy brush and ink adding to the connection the reader will feel with the story. Just beautiful.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I think this book mostly leads to a discussion about the historical event that is shared in the book. In my classroom, I would share it as a read aloud and then jump into a discussion about Zeni, baseball, the internment camps, and World War II. The bibliography in the back of the book gives great websites to visit to continue the discussion.
Discussion Questions: Zeni doesn’t listen to his parents and went for what he wanted: baseball. He overcame his height and those who didn’t believe in him and was able to work towards his dreams. What is something that you’ve overcome even though others didn’t believe in you?; How can you compare/contrast how US citizens responded to Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor to how US citizens responded to American Muslims after 9/11?
We Flagged: “Zeni stood staring at the dry earth, which was broken up every now and then by a few scrubby bits of green. In all the brown and gray, with a dull, coppery sky overhead, he felt as if he were shrinking into a tiny hard ball.
There was only one thing that could make the desert camp a home – baseball. Zeni unpacked his favorite photo, the one that showed him in uniform, lined up with baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig towering like redwood trees beside him. He had played with the Yankee stars in an exhibition game back home in Fresno, and he hadn’t felt small at all. He pinned the picture up over his bed. He was going to play baseball again. Here, in the desolate middle of nowhere.” (p. 9-10)
Read This If You Loved: Something to Prove by Robert Skead, Silent Star by Bill Wise, Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick, Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park, Nonfiction books about World War II or Japanese Internment Camps