Synopses & Reviews
"We are the ship; all else the sea." Rube Foster, founder of the Negro National League.
The story of Negro League baseball is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball.
Using an "Everyman" player as his narrator, Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. The voice is so authentic, you will feel as if you are sitting on dusty bleachers listening intently to the memories of a man who has known the great ballplayers of that time and shared their experiences. But what makes this book so outstanding are the dozens of full-page and double-page oil paintings, breathtaking in their perspectives, rich in emotion, and created with understanding and affection for these lost heroes of our national game. We Are the Ship is a tour de force for baseball lovers of all ages.
"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." —Library Media Connection
"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." —SLJ
"Nelson's extensive research (including interviews with former players) yields loads of attention-grabbing details: how much money players made; where, when, and how often games took place; who the standout owners, managers, and players were; and so on. And not surprisingly, he often returns to the impact of racism on the leagues, teams, and individual athletes. His grand slam, though, is the art: Nelson's oil paintings have a steely dignity, and his from-the-ground perspectives make the players look larger than life." —Horn Book
"Along with being absolutely riveted by the art, readers will come away with a good picture of the Negro Leaguers' distinctive style of play, as well as an idea of how their excellence challenged the racial attitudes of both their sport and their times." —Kirkus
"The stories and artwork contained here are a tribute to the spirit of the Negro Leaguers who created much more than an also-ran and deserve a more prominent place on baseball's history shelves. For students and fans (and those even older than the suggested grade level), this is the book to accomplish just that." —Booklist
About the Author
Kadir Nelson's paintings have been exhibited in many galleries and museums around the world, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Museum of Tolerance, and the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences in Los Angeles; the Museum of African American History in Detroit; the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum in Washington D.C.; and the Society of Illustrators and the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York, as well as many others.
Nelson is the illustrator of many books for children. Among the best known are Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, an NAACP Image Award winner, a Caldecott Honor Book, and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner; Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner; Please, Baby, Please and Please, Puppy, Please, by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee; and Will Smith's Just the Two of Us, also an NAACP Image Award winner. We Are the Ship is the first book Nelson has written and illustrated.
Kadir Nelson lives with his family in California. Visit his Web site, www.kadirnelson.com.