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Barbed Wire Baseball



by
Marissa Moss
illustrated by
Yuko Shimizu

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
Abrams
Imprint
Abrams
ISBN
9781419705212

Awards and Honors
Booklist Top 10 Books for Youth 2013, Sports; ALA 2014 Notable Children’s Books, Middle Readers; 2013 Cybils Awards, Nonfiction: Elementary and Middle Grade, Finalist; 2014 IRA Teachers’ Choices, Intermediate Readers
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$23.94   $19.95
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Though small in stature, Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura became an accomplished baseball player. Even in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, he found a way to keep playing ball. Afterword. Author’s and illustrator’s notes. Bibliographies. Index. Full-color illustrations were created with Japanese calligraphy brush and ink and colored in Adobe Photoshop.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
None

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

48

Trim Size

9" x 11"

Dewey

796.357

AR

4.5: points 0.5

Lexile

800L

Genre

Nonfic

Scholastic Reading Counts

3

JLG Release

Aug 2013

Book Genres


Topics

Baseball. Twentieth-century history. Evacuation and relocation of Japanese Americans (1942-1945). World War II (1939-1945).

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Booklist, The Horn Book Magazine, The Horn Book Guide^, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal

School Library Journal

Focusing on her subject’s strength of character and love of baseball, Moss introduces readers to Kenichi Zenimura (1900-’68). At barely five feet tall, Zeni was hardly a natural athlete; nonetheless, he developed great prowess as a player and coach. Before World War II, he played exhibition games alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and toured Japan, where he was born. His family moved to Hawaii when he was a child and later to Fresno, California. When war broke out, Zenimura, his wife, and teenage sons were sent to the Gila River internment camp in Arizona. In the barren desert environment, Zeni determined to build a baseball field and rallied others to his cause. Shimizu’s artwork, created with Japanese calligraphy brush and ink on paper and Adobe Photoshop, depicts Zeni hoeing and pulling weeds in the hot sun. He made a field with real grass; a fence of castor beans; and, in an ironic twist, bleachers with wood scrounged from the barbed-wire fence posts surrounding the camp. In an afterword, Moss notes that Zenimura won posthumous induction into Japan’s Shrine of the Eternals, the equivalent of baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Text and illustrations mesh to create an admiring portrait of an exemplary individual who rose above his challenges and inspired others. Pair this picture book with Ken Mochizuki’s Baseball Saved Us (Lee & Low, 1995) for an excellent read-aloud, or use it to introduce Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s chapter book A Diamond in the Desert (Viking, 2012). Together these books offer insightful portrayals of the Japanese American internment experience.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Horn Book

Based on the real-life story of Kenichi Zenimura, known as the father of Japanese American baseball, Moss’s story relates Zeni’s love of the game and his accomplishments in the Fresno Nisei League and the Fresno Twilight League. Only five feet tall, he was a star, and even played in an exhibition game with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1927; later he became a coach and manager. But after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Americans of Japanese descent living on the West Coast were sent to internment camps, Zeni found himself at the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona. The only way he could make this desolate place feel like home was to create a baseball field and organize teams to play there. Bold, digitally colored Japanese calligraphy brush and ink illustrations depict the painstaking work of clearing rocks and brush, leveling the field, irrigating, planting grass—even building a backstop and bleachers—and finally Zeni’s joy at playing the game again. Author’s and illustrator’s notes and an extensive bibliography will take readers beyond the text. There is a minor discrepancy between an illustration showing Zeni batting right-handed and information in the notes that indicates he batted left-handed, but like Ken Mochizuki’s Baseball Saved Us (rev. 7/93), this is a beautifully designed and inspirational sports story about the power of American dreams, even when such dreams are sometimes deferred. dean schneider

Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

Focusing on her subject’s strength of character and love of baseball, Moss introduces readers to Kenichi Zenimura (1900-’68). At barely five feet tall, Zeni was hardly a natural athlete; nonetheless, he developed great prowess as a player and coach. Before World War II, he played exhibition games alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and toured Japan, where he was born. His family moved to Hawaii when he was a child and later to Fresno, California. When war broke out, Zenimura, his wife, and teenage sons were sent to the Gila River internment camp in Arizona. In the barren desert environment, Zeni determined to build a baseball field and rallied others to his cause. Shimizu’s artwork, created with Japanese calligraphy brush and ink on paper and Adobe Photoshop, depicts Zeni hoeing and pulling weeds in the hot sun. He made a field with real grass; a fence of castor beans; and, in an ironic twist, bleachers with wood scrounged from the barbed-wire fence posts surrounding the camp. In an afterword, Moss notes that Zenimura won posthumous induction into Japan’s Shrine of the Eternals, the equivalent of baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Text and illustrations mesh to create an admiring portrait of an exemplary individual who rose above his challenges and inspired others. Pair this picture book with Ken Mochizuki’s Baseball Saved Us (Lee & Low, 1995) for an excellent read-aloud, or use it to introduce Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s chapter book A Diamond in the Desert (Viking, 2012). Together these books offer insightful portrayals of the Japanese American internment experience.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Horn Book

Based on the real-life story of Kenichi Zenimura, known as the father of Japanese American baseball, Moss’s story relates Zeni’s love of the game and his accomplishments in the Fresno Nisei League and the Fresno Twilight League. Only five feet tall, he was a star, and even played in an exhibition game with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1927; later he became a coach and manager. But after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Americans of Japanese descent living on the West Coast were sent to internment camps, Zeni found himself at the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona. The only way he could make this desolate place feel like home was to create a baseball field and organize teams to play there. Bold, digitally colored Japanese calligraphy brush and ink illustrations depict the painstaking work of clearing rocks and brush, leveling the field, irrigating, planting grass—even building a backstop and bleachers—and finally Zeni’s joy at playing the game again. Author’s and illustrator’s notes and an extensive bibliography will take readers beyond the text. There is a minor discrepancy between an illustration showing Zeni batting right-handed and information in the notes that indicates he batted left-handed, but like Ken Mochizuki’s Baseball Saved Us (rev. 7/93), this is a beautifully designed and inspirational sports story about the power of American dreams, even when such dreams are sometimes deferred. dean schneider

Grades 2-6
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