Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Baseball Saved Us"

Title: Baseball Saved Us
Author: Ken Mochizuki
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Publisher: LEE & LOW BOOKS, INC, 1993
Genre: Picture book, historical fiction, multi-cultural
Age Range: 3rd grade
1993 Parents' Choice Award

Summary: A young Japanese boy recounts his time spent in a concentration camp for Japanese Americans during WWII. The boy talks about how the camp came together and built a baseball field so that they would have something to do to pass the time. The boy is not a very good player at first, but ends up hitting the winning run in the championship game. After leaving the camp, he is shunned at school. He ends up playing on the baseball team, and again hits the winning run during a game when many are screaming against him. He is finally accepted by his team.

Response: I am completely appalled by the situation the Japanese Americans were forced into by America. These citizens were simply put away because the United States was afraid of another Japanese attack. While they were fighting against Hitler in Europe, they were keeping people in camps just like he was. I find this repulsive. This is a story of hope for those who were in the camps. The baseball team gave everyone something to do instead of sitting around. The men and boys helped build it and the women were able to sCheck Spellingew uniforms. After the field was completed, the entire camp was able to forget about the war as they watched the teams play. The little boy was able to overcome his fear, not only of baseball, but of being unwanted and hated by hitting the winning run for the championship. He is able to do this twice and is accepted by his own people the first time, and his teammates the second. I feel like his experiences are comparable to Sumiko in the book Weedflower. They are both criticized and more than anything else want to be accepted by their peers. The young man in this story is able to do that through baseball. The illustrations in this book are very tattered and a bit blurry. The illustrations in the text were created by applying encaustic beeswax on paper, then scratching out images, and finally adding oil paint for color. Everything is given an orange brown tone and that is because of the dust. These camps were located in the desert and it shows just how dirty everything was. They almost seem surreal, like this was never taking place, a dream-like style. There was no set single or double page spreads, but a combination. There were often boxes that gave three different images. They allowed for snapshots of what the boy was going through. For example, when he is up to bat during the championship game, there is a close up of the guard who is always watching them, one where he is looking at the guard, and then the shot of him preparing to swing at the ball. These allow for sequential viewing, and the reader gets an idea of what the boy is going through. The text and illustrations together provide a great insight to the struggles and triumphs of Japanese Americans during WWII, and after.

Teaching Ideas: This book is a great tool to use in the classroom when discussing the discrimination of other races or WWII. I think it is important to point out the history versus the facts of the story. Having the students go online and research the Japanese internment camps and have a class discussion about them. One of my favorite sites was created by students. It is important to incorporate history and give them as much information as possible, so that they can be educated and in turn work to never let something like this happen again. Japanese Americans

1 comment:

Dr. Frye said...

I enjoyed reading your response Lauren. You are right, it is appalling, this entire series of events! Thanks for including a link to the Thinkquest created by students. I like that Internet Workshop, too! Your critique is well-written; here is a little more information you may wish to include:
Did you notice that the book begins with an Author’s Note which gives a brief explanation of the Japanese Internment Camps set up in deserts across the United States up until 1945? The illustrations in the text were rendered by applying encaustic beeswax on paper, then scratching out images, and finally adding oil paint for color. Some of the illustrations were inspired by photographs taken by Ansel Adams of the Manzanar internment camp in 1943 from the Library of Congress collection. This book is written in first person from the perspective of the little boy, Shorty. It is written on a third grade reading level. So change age level to grade level, please. Thanks Lauren!