Barbed Wire Baseball: How One Man Brought Hope to the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII

Barbed Wire Baseball: How One Man Brought Hope to the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII

by Marissa Moss, Yuko Shimizu
     
 

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 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

Overview


 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.

Praise for Barbed Wire Baseball
"In language that captures the underlying sadness and loss, Moss emphasizes Zeni’s fierce spirit as he removes every obstacle in order to play his beloved baseball and regain a sense of pride. Shimizu’s Japanese calligraphy brush–and-ink illustrations colored in Photoshop depict the dreary landscape with the ever-present barbed wire, with that beautiful grassy baseball field the only beacon of hope."
Kirkus Reviews

"As this expressive picture book makes clear, Zenimura never allowed his small stature to diminish his dreams."
Booklist

"Moss is a skilled author of historical narrative nonfiction for young readers; her tale is both well researched and well told. But it’s the visually stunning, sensitive illustrations by the hugely talented Shimizu that make the book a standout."
New York Times Book Review

"Text and illustrations mesh to create an admiring portrait of an exemplary individual who rose above his challenges and inspired others."
School Library Journal

"In her picture book debut, artist Shimizu finely crafts pen-and-ink illustrations with a calligraphy brush to help portray a true story of resilience during WWII."
Publishers Weekly

"Shimizu’s Japanese brush and ink illustrations, digitally layered with dusty colors suggestive of the arid relocation camp, are a visual feast, from the patterned swirls of battleship steam and desert dust, to the series of depictions of Zenimura in motion, to the rhythmic composition of the female detainees stitching the potato-sack uniforms."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Yuko Shimizu’s arresting illustrations, evoking the firm lines, dramatic curves and color wash of Japanese prints, add drama and authenticity to this memorable account."
The Wall Street Journal

"This is a beautifully designed and inspirational sports story about the power of American dreams, even when such dreams are sometimes deferred."
HornBook

Award
2013 California Book Award Winner - Juvenile Category
California Reading Association’s Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Awards - HONOR
Notable Children's Books from ALSC 2014
 

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Pamela Paul
…[Moss's] tale is both well researched and well told. But it's the visually stunning, sensitive illustrations by the hugely talented Shimizu that make the book a standout.
Publishers Weekly
In her picture book debut, artist Shimizu finely crafts pen-and-ink illustrations with a calligraphy brush to help portray a true story of resilience during WWII. Born in Japan, Kenichi Zenimura, nicknamed Zeni, grows up in Hawaii and California loving and playing baseball. When WWII sees him, his wife, and teenage sons sent to an Arizona internment camp, Zeni "felt as if he were shrinking into a tiny hard ball." The bulk of Moss's (Nurse, Soldier, Spy) descriptive narrative centers on Zeni's efforts to build a baseball diamond at the camp. Thick brush lines create heavy textures in the digitally colored pictures, giving some the appearance of woodcut prints. All of the scenes occupy full spreads, echoing the expansive nature of Zeni's plan: unwilling to settle for a dusty dirt field, he irrigates it and grows grass; benches are made from wood scavenged under dark of night, and uniforms sewn from potato sacks. This triumphant story of how the father of Japanese-American baseball brightened the dark days of war concludes with an afterword, b&w photos, and notes from both author and illustrator. Ages 6–10. Author's agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Apr.)
The New York Times Book Review
"Moss is a skilled author of historical narrative nonfiction for young readers; her tale is both well researched and well told. But it’s the visually stunning, sensitive illustrations by the hugely talented Shimizu that make the book a standout."
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—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
Kirkus Reviews
Kenichi Zenimura built a baseball legacy in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. Zeni grew up loving everything about the game of baseball and made a career as a successful player and manager in local leagues around California. Small but mighty, he played in exhibition games in Japan with the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. After Pearl Harbor, he and his family were sent, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, to heavily guarded internment camps to live in barracks behind barbed wire. He was determined to provide a hint of normalcy and pleasure to his people amid the hardships, and what better way than to build a baseball field and organize teams. With hard physical labor and loads of ingenuity, he and his sons and fellow inmates did it all, creating a sense of community along the way. In language that captures the underlying sadness and loss, Moss emphasizes Zeni's fierce spirit as he removes every obstacle in order to play his beloved baseball and regain a sense of pride. Shimizu's Japanese calligraphy brush–and-ink illustrations colored in Photoshop depict the dreary landscape with the ever-present barbed wire, with that beautiful grassy baseball field the only beacon of hope. Much-needed biographical and historical information is provided in an afterword. A worthy companion for Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee's Baseball Saved Us (1993). (author's note, artist's note, bibliography, index) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781419705212
Publisher:
Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
04/09/2013
Pages:
48
Sales rank:
1,161,421
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile:
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Meet the Author


Marissa Moss is a bestselling author who lives in Berkeley, California. Yuko Shimizu is an award-winning illustrator whose work appears in the New York Times, New York magazine, and Rolling Stone. This is her first children’s book. She lives in New York City.

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