Saturday, November 6, 2010

Module 11: Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, Illustrated by Dom Lee

Baseball Saved Us tells the story of a Japanese boy living in an internment camp during World War II. In an effort to liven up the bitter experience of the camp, the boy’s father initiates the creation of a baseball field where adults and children can engage in baseball games. Men, women and children across the camp do their bit to make the baseball field. In a crucial baseball game the boy makes the game winning hit. We see him return to his home at the end of the book. He tells of how he faces discrimination from neighbors and classmates, but also how baseball helps him to find acceptance.

As a baseball lover, I was very excited to read Baseball Saved Us. This book is a fantastic example of non-fiction information being conveyed in a way that is interesting and accessible to the reader. The text is succinct, understated and easy to read. The illustrations not only show the story, they set the mood of the book. I think that this book is a must read for children interested in World War II. The Japanese internment camps are an under taught section in American History. This book is a great tool for introducing the topic.

Review: Horn Book Magazine
Mochizuki's moving story opens with a note telling readers about the internment camps the United States government established in 1942 to house, against their will, people of Japanese descent. The author's parents were sent to the Minidoka camp in Idaho; this story, told in the first person, is inspired by actual events. A young boy and his family are prisoners, living in crowded barracks in a dusty camp surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. His father, in response to the growing boredom and resulting bad humor of the camp's residents, decides to build a baseball field. Everyone in camp contributes, and soon bleachers, bases, and uniforms are ready. The narrator, teased back home for his lack of ability in the game, now has the opportunity to shine, since he is the same height as so many of the other Japanese-American boys. The normally impassive guard From Grandmas at Bat. C) 1993 by Emily Arnold McCully. in the tower gives him a grin and a thumbs-up sign when he hits his first home run. When he returns home, the boy again feels insecure: "Nobody on my team or the other team or even anybody in the crowd looked like me." The racist taunts of the crowd spur him on to another homer and acceptance by his teammates. The story effectively conveys the narrator's sense of isolation, his confusion about being a target of prejudice, and the importance of baseball in his life. Dom Lee's pictures, executed in a scratchboard and oil paint technique, are highly accomplished. At first glance they seem monotonous and depressing, since they are suffused with the brown dust that was ever-present in many of the internment camps, located in the middle of deserts. In fact, these somber scenes provide a telling contrast to the last few pages in which the sky, as well as the boy's world, brightens as he is welcomed to his team. A suitable introduction to Sheila Hamanaka's The Journey: Japanese Americans, Racism and Renewal(Orchard), which deals with the same subject for slightly older readers.

Suggested Activities

I would include Baseball Saved Us in a display of sports books with the aim of introducing the book to readers who enjoy reading about sports.

Mochizuki, K (1993). Baseball Saved Us. New York: Lee & Low books, Inc. ISBN: 1880000199.

Fader, E. (1993, August). [Review for the book Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki]. Horn Book Magazine, 69(4), 453-454.

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