A worthy companion for Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee’s Baseball Saved Us (1993).

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BARBED WIRE BASEBALL

Kenichi Zenimura built a baseball legacy in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.

Zeni grew up loving everything about the game of baseball and made a career as a successful player and manager in local leagues around California. Small but mighty, he played in exhibition games in Japan with the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. After Pearl Harbor, he and his family were sent, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, to heavily guarded internment camps to live in barracks behind barbed wire. He was determined to provide a hint of normalcy and pleasure to his people amid the hardships, and what better way than to build a baseball field and organize teams. With hard physical labor and loads of ingenuity, he and his sons and fellow inmates did it all, creating a sense of community along the way. In language that captures the underlying sadness and loss, Moss emphasizes Zeni’s fierce spirit as he removes every obstacle in order to play his beloved baseball and regain a sense of pride. Shimizu’s Japanese calligraphy brush–and-ink illustrations colored in Photoshop depict the dreary landscape with the ever-present barbed wire, with that beautiful grassy baseball field the only beacon of hope. Much-needed biographical and historical information is provided in an afterword.

A worthy companion for Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee’s Baseball Saved Us (1993). (author’s note, artist’s note, bibliography, index) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0521-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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