cover image Baseball Saved Us

Baseball Saved Us

Ken Mochizuki. Lee & Low Books, $16.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-1-880000-01-4

These collaborators' prepossessing debut book introduces readers to a significant and often-neglected--for children, at any rate--chapter in U.S. history: the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW II. The nameless narrator and his family inhabit a camp in the parched American desert, where life becomes a bit more bearable after the internees build a baseball field, and the boy gains self-worth by hitting a championship home run. Although Mochizuki's stylish prose evocatively details the harsh injustice of the camps, some may feel the book suffers from uneven pacing. An introduction and much of the text are spent on background, leaving little time devoted to the actual camp regimen. In addition, the ending, in which the hero returns to school after the war and is again saved from prejudice by baseball, seems tacked on. Lee's stirring illustrations were inspired by Ansel Adams's photographs of the Manzanar internment camp. In the muted browns, sepias and golds of the desert, the artist movingly conveys the bleakness of camp life, with its cramped quarters, swirling dust storms and armed guards. The baseball scenes' motion and excitement lend effective contrast; the final illustration stands in particularly moving counterpoint to the earlier rigors. Ages 4-up. (Mar.)