Mochizuki, Ken. Baseball Saved Us: 25th Anniversary Edition. Illus. by Dom Lee. Lee & Low, 1993/2018. [32p.] $17.95. 978-1-88000-001-4.
In this picture book for older readers, a boy describes how his father led several parents to build a baseball diamond at their Japanese Relocation camp during World War II, because he felt the internees needed something positive to do to occupy their time.
The book begins with an author’s note giving a brief explanation of why the Japanese-Americans were interned during the war, and then the narrative consists of a few paragraphs of text per page. This would make a great read-aloud for 3rd-5th grades, when students are learning about California and U.S. history.
The dramatic scratchboard illustrations are dominated by sepia colors, which helps convey the time period and the overall seriousness of the story. But the book is joyful, too, as the children devote their time to playing baseball. Even if they cannot escape, they can get the ball over the fence.
It is surprising that many adults and children are unfamiliar with the Japanese Relocation atrocity that occurred during the war. Growing up in the Bay Area, many of my classmates were children of the relocated children, so it was included in our social studies classes (but not the textbooks). It is still just a few sentences in most textbooks, and those young internees are aging and less likely to visit schools and talk about their experiences, so books like Baseball Saved Us are essential.
The book is also relevant as it relates to recent incarceration of refugee children who enter the U.S. and are separated from their parents. That practice raised the question of how it was similar to Japanese-American relocation and how that was unconstitutional. Older children will find the book helpful in learning about the previous incidents and then can discuss the current situation in class.
Many teachers will find this useful if led to it by librarians; the publisher offers a teacher’s guide that can facilitate its use in the classroom: www.leeandlow.com/books/baseball-saved-us/teachers_guide . Only the author and illustrator notes are revised in this anniversary edition, but libraries will likely need it to replace the worn earlier editions.
Hollander, Matilde R. Directions. Illus. by Nas Khan and Anthony Gout. Bilingual Books, 2018. $14.99 (paper). 978-1-4951-9244-9.
Berkeley author and educator Matilde Hollander offers her third picture book written in several language, to empower parents to read to their preschoolers in the home language. As with her previous book My Five Senses (2015), the text is printed in nine languages on each page: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, German, and Hindi. Illustrated with full color photos, the children in each photo represent a broad culturally diverse group.
Directions is an informational story about the concepts or right and left, east and west, and north and south. The descriptions are very easy for a preschooler to grasp, describing how the Sun can help determine direction. The final sentence describes how we all “share the same earth and sun,” giving a nice message of unity.
Many preschoolers are learning their right from their left, especially as they begin dance class, so this is very useful. The explanation relating to the Sun is a great STEM lesson, showing that no one is too young to learn some basic science concepts. Both teachers and parents will find this useful, and the multi-lingual aspect is a big plus. Many day care providers and preschool teachers will want this for their collections.
Matilde Hollander is available for library and book store visits, to demonstrate read-aloud techniques in multiple languages. She is a former Montessori teacher and trainer, and is originally from Chile. Contact her at [email protected] to arrange for a visit.
Penny Peck, San Jose State University iSchool