Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball's Negro Leagues

by Leah Henderson (Author) George Doutsiopoulos (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Mamie "Peanut" Johnson had one dream: to play professional baseball. She was a talented player, but she wasn't welcome in the segregated All-American Girls Pro Baseball League due to the color of her skin. However, a greater opportunity came her way in 1953 when Johnson signed to play ball for the Negro Leagues' Indianapolis Clowns, becoming the first female pitcher to play on a men's professional team. During the three years she pitched for the Clowns, her record was an impressive 33-8. But more importantly, she broke ground for other female athletes and for women everywhere.

Publishers Weekly

In this biography of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson (1935-2017), "the first female pitcher in professional baseball," Henderson focuses on Johnson's determination and passion for the sport. "Swinging a tree limb for a bat, she knocked homemade balls of stone wrapped with twine and masking tape." Playing professionally was unlikely ("She already had two strikes against her./ She was a girl./ She was black"), but barred from trying out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League--even after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers--she eventually landed an opportunity to pitch for the Negro League's Indianapolis Clowns, where she earned a 33-8 record. Johnson's grit appeals: "She would say, 'Don't emphasize the hardness of it, ' because she and the other players were doing what they wanted to do--playing the game they loved." Smoothly exaggerated realism gives Doutsiopoulos's illustrations an engaging cartoon flair. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 4--Mamie Johnson grew up loving baseball, but she knew she wanted to do more than just watch men have all the fun. Johnson, motivated by the loving encouragement of her family, learned about the game and played alongside local boys on her family's farm in South Carolina. After moving to New Jersey, she earned her place on an all-white, all-boys Police Athletic League Team. Johnson led her team to two division championships. As she grew older, her skills and love of the game grew. After being effectively shunned at the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League tryouts, Johnson finally became a pro for the Indianapolis Clowns, a traveling Negro League team. The colorful, expressive artwork highlights Johnson's joy while also showing the oppressive racism faced by the ball player and her teammates. The afterword explains how Johnson's contributions to the sport have resonated through the years, earning recognition from Presidents Clinton and Obama. VERDICT Readers who are unfamiliar with Johnson will walk away from Henderson's thoughtfully written picture book biography as fans of this resilient, über-talented ballplayer. An important purchase for most collections.--Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Leah Henderson
Leah Henderson writes for young readers of all ages, and her books have been named a Children's Africana Book Awards Notable and a Bank Street Best Book. Leah holds an MFA in writing and is on the faculty of Spalding University's graduate writing program. She resides in Washington, D.C. Floyd Cooper has received a Coretta Scott King Award and three Coretta Scott King Honors for his illustrations. Mr. Cooper received a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma. He lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
January 20, 2020

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!