We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

by Kadir Nelson (Author) Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade
In this "New York Times" bestseller, noted artist Kadir Nelson tells the story of baseball's unsung heroes. [A] sumptuous volume that no baseball fan should be without.
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School Library Journal

Gr 3 UpIn this attractive, oversized book, Nelson offers an appreciative tribute to the Negro Leagues. Adopting the perspective and voice of an elderly ballplayer, he offers a readable account that is infused with an air of nostalgic oral history: "Seems like we've been playing baseball for a mighty long time. At least as long as we've been free." With African Americans banned from playing in the major leagues, Rube Foster organized the Negro Leagues in 1920 and grandly proclaimed: "We are the ship; all else the sea." From 1920 through the 1940s, they offered African Americans an opportunity to play ball and earn a decent living when opportunities to do so were scarce. Nine chapters offer an overview of the founding and history of the leagues, the players, style of play, and the league's eventual demise after Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball's color barrier in 1947. Nelson's brilliant, almost iconic paintings vividly complement his account. Starting with the impressive cover painting of a proud, determined Josh Gibson, the artist brings to light the character and inherent dignity of his subjects. Hank Aaron, who started his Hall of Fame career in the Negro Leagues, contributes a heartfelt foreword. This work expands on the excellent overview offered in Carole Boston Weatherford's "A Negro League Scrapbook" (Boyds Mills, 2005). It is an engaging tribute that should resonate with a wide audience and delight baseball fans of all ages."Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA" Copyright 2008 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

In his first outing as author as well as illustrator, Nelson ("Ellington Was Not a Street") delivers a history of the Negro Leagues in a sumptuous volume that no baseball fan should be without. Using a folksy vernacular, a fictional player gives an insider account of segregated baseball, explaining the aggressive style of play (Those fellows would bunt and run you to death. Drove pitchers crazy!) and recalling favorite players. Of Satchel Paige, he says, Even his slow stuff was fast. As illuminating as the text is, Nelsons muscular paintings serve as the true draw. His larger-than-life players have oversized hands, elongated bodies and near-impossible athleticism. Their lined faces suggest the seriousness with which they took their sport and the circumstances under which they were made to play it. A gatefold depicting the first Colored World Series is particularly exquisitea replica ticket opens from the gutter to reveal the entire line-ups of both teams. And while this large, square book (just a shade smaller than a regulation-size base) succeeds as coffee-table art, it soars as a tribute to the individuals, like the legendary Josh Gibson, who was ultimately elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame without ever playing in the major leagues. As Nelsons narrator says, We had many Josh Gibsons in the Negro Leagues.... But you never heard about them. Its a shame the world didnt get to see them play. Ages 8-up. "(Jan.)" Copyright 2008 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

Review quotes

Through text and artwork that pulses with life, Nelson has created a book that brings personality to the Negro Baseball League. Using the voice of "Everyman" in the league, this book will attract readers because of the full and double-page vibrant, realistic oil paintings, and immerse the reader in the compelling story being told. The author brings out interesting details about the league such as bus trips where players would relieve a sleepy driver and players would entertain their teammates. The reader meets famous players, like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, and the equally talented lesser known players. One enters the world of joy in the game of baseball and the hurt of segregation through the stories that take place away from the ballpark as well as on the field. One need not be a baseball fan to enjoy this book, because it's more than a sports story. It's a story of real people enduring more than many of us can imagine, playing a game they love. The book's title comes from "We are the ship; all else the sea" a quote from Rube Foster, the founder of the Negro National League. Library Media Connection"
Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson is the Caldecott Medal-winning artist of The Undefeated and a two-time Caldecott Honor recipient for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. Among his numerous other awards are three NAACP Image Awards, two Coretta Scott King Author Awards, and three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. His work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and The New Yorker, and his paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of notable institutions across the country, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.; The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Kadir lives with his wife is Southern California, and invites you to visit him at www.kadirnelson.com.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 08, 2008
BISAC categories
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF054010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Baseball & Softball
Library of Congress categories
United States
Negro Leagues
African American baseball players
Orbis Pictus Award
Honor Book 2009 - 2009
Bluebonnet Awards
Nominee 2010 - 2010
Coretta Scott King Award
Honor Book 2009 - 2009
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
Winner 2009 - 2009
Beehive Awards
Nominee 2010 - 2010
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2009 - 2009
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2010 - 2010
Finalist 2008 - 2008

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