Save the next generation of politicians, ball players, and world citizens by reading real books like this one

I swear, so many picture/board/early readers about baseball end with the short guy hitting a game-winning home run, that my son is going to grow up thinking that that’s just how baseball games end.  But this one goes a lot deeper–a LOT deeper–than most of them, so not only do I love reading it, but my son, who loves any book with pictures of bats and balls in it, loves hearing it.  The great thing about this book is that it has a strong message and an important historical lesson without sounding too preachy.  The illustrations are beautiful, although I do have a slight issue with books that differentiate between the past and the present with the number of colors used.  I mean, seriously, history was NOT actually in black and white.  Or sepia.

Title: Baseball Saved Us
Author: Ken Mochizuki
Genre
: Picture Book, Historical Fiction
Age: 0 – 9

Summary and Review:

The book follows the story of a young Japanese-American boy who struggles to play on a baseball team in America with kids who are often taller than him.  Then he starts to hear a lot of things about “some place far away” called Pearl Harbor and all of the sudden, his school friends hate him and call him awful names.  Before he knows it, his family is shipped off to a “camp” with other Japanese-Americans, forced to leave their homes and most of their belongings behind.

The book describes some of the basic details about camp life and then describes how they decided to start baseball games.  Our young hero gets better with practice and finds his strength by wanting to defy the armed guard in the tower above him, watching his every move on the field.  Later, he returns home and joins another baseball team.  He’s still one of the shortest players, but he’s gotten much better.  Over all, it’s a story of human strength and perseverance in the face of terrible obstacles.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

Most people would say you can’t read a story like this to a younger kid–they won’t get it, they won’t sit for all the text, or the issues are too deep.  I say “bullocks”.  Or “bollocks”.  I’m not sure because I’m not British.  At any rate, I don’t believe that.  When I started reading this to my son, he wasn’t even one, but he liked the baseball picture.  I would summarize the text on each page to about one sentence and read the book that way.  (I read a lot of books this way and eventually lengthened the summaries until I was reading the entire text.)  As far as introducing deep issues goes, I believe that kids will understand what they are ready to understand.  By being honest with them from the beginning, we give them a framework in which to analyze the complicated world they eventually must navigate for themselves.

For older kids in grades 3 and up

Even though it’s a picture book, much older kids will relate to this book.  Do you have an elementary student–or even a middle school student–struggling to understand something in history class?  Too often classroom history takes issues like geography, war, and politics and disassociates them from the reality of people living in that time frame.  Ask your kids to read this book and then talk about why the United States created policies and camps like this.  Talk to your kids about what they think about that.  Talk to them about what these camps did to the people living in them.  Then ask them a crucial question–what would they think if something like this happened today?  Helping kids relate characters from history to characters today can help them realize that history isn’t just a list of dates–it’s real people living real lives, with all the love, hatred, heartbreak, and adventure that comes with that.  Then go back to the issue in history with which they were struggling to understand.  Can they picture the people who were going through that?  Can they imagine what kinds of things they were doing and how they would have felt?  If so, chances are they understand their issue a lot better.

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