"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, May 15, 2015

ReedALOUD: Barbed Wire Baseball

My fifth graders and I read Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss and illustrated by Yuko Shimizu.

Here's a synopsis from Abrams: "As a boy, Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura dreams of playing professional baseball, but everyone tells him he is too small. Yet he grows up to be a successful player, playing with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig! When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, Zeni and his family are sent to one of ten internment camps where more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry are imprisoned without trials. Zeni brings the game of baseball to the camp, along with a sense of hope.

This true story, set in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, introduces children to a little-discussed part of American history through Marissa Moss’s rich text and Yuko Shimizu’s beautiful illustrations. The book includes author and illustrator notes, archival photographs, and a bibliography."

Moss deftly delivers any subject matter and here she does not disappoint. This is a readable, moving, and in-depth look at one man's story.  Shimizu's illustrations are powerful and resonant. Her depiction of of setting, expressive faces, and use of color ensure that the story will be remembered after the book is closed.

The fifth graders are in the midst of a unit on resilience. They are learning about how characters demonstrate social, emotional and physical resilience. The book gave ample opportunities to talk about resilience. In addition, one of the books they read is Journey Home by Yoshiko Uchida, a fictionalized account of a family's experience in a Japanese internment camp in WWII. Having a few students who have read about the internment camps helped deepen the conversation. 
An unexpected bonus in reading the excellent author and illustrator notes at the back was hearing both of these people refer to their intensive and extensive research. My students are also in the midst of a Colonial America research project where they are developing their own thick questions and trying to find the answers. This is hard work and to be able to show them this real-world example was powerful.

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