Do you love baseball? Spring training is about to begin in warmer climates than here in the northeast. But if you are thinking green grass, breezes blowing the sweat off a brow, and the crack of a bat, have I got a book for you!
This year’s best work of nonfiction (which was awarded the Sibert Medal) is We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson. Nelson’s artistry has been recognized with his past Caldecott honor awards and Coretta Scott King Illustrator awards. This is the first time he has been honored for both words and pictures. First and foremost, the illustrations are rich, beautiful oil paintings. The colors resonate right off the page while you dream of sitting on the grass yourself. There is a double spread of a night game that takes you back to a simpler time. The night sky has a few stars, the lights barely shine on the outfield, yet you can’t take your eyes off the page. You are there, in that game, trying to follow the pitch that has just been thrown. In other paintings you notice that the players stand tall with absolute dignity. These men were left out of major league baseball, yet the endured hardships are history.
Each chapter is an inning, and each starts off with a quote. Nelson writes the book from the point of view of an “everyman” player. The title of the book is from a quote by the founder of the Negro National League, Rube Foster. “We are the ship; all else the sea.” The book is well researched with a bibliography, endnotes, and an index. All baseball lovers will want to read this, but for the youngest T-ball players, please read it to them! ~Joyce Laiosa