Recommended by: Annette Herbert, Elementary Librarian, Cortland City School District, Cortland United Teachers member
Suitable for: Grades 3 and up
About the book: This historical fiction novel takes place in Holden, Iowa, in 1952. Twelve-year-old Charlie is trying to keep his life as normal as possible ever since his father died a hero in the Korean War. His goal is to make the coveted Wild Cats Baseball Team. During the tryouts, Charlie befriends Luther Peale, a former Negro League Baseball player. Charlie notices the strange stares when he walks the streets of Holden with Luther, and realizes that some people judge others before they even get to know them.
What I like best: The story is full of action, adventure and suspense, which keeps readers and listeners riveted as the story unfolds. The themes of friendship, bullying, heroism and racism are threaded seamlessly into the story as students root for Charlie and Luther as they fight for understanding and respect from those around them.
How teachers can use this book: This book is an excellent way to open up a discussion about civil rights. Examples of other books that can be incorporated include: Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds and Little Rock Nine: Struggle for Integration by Stephanie Fitzgerald. Students may also want to research the famous Negro League players mentioned in the story. Two excellent resources: We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson, and Leagues Apart by Lawrence Ritter.
Online resources: www.nlbm.com, www.nlbpa.com/history.html or www.negroleaguebaseball.com.
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