Reviews for Barbed Wire Baseball


Booklist Reviews 2013 March #2
This story begins in the early 1900s, when tiny Kenichi "Zeni" Zenimura attends a baseball game with his parents and falls in love with the sport. Fast-forward to his adult years, when five-foot Zeni plays, coaches, and manages teams in California's Japanese American leagues. Ordered to report to a Japanese American internment camp in the Arizona desert in 1941, he works with patience, determination, and ingenuity to build a baseball field there, complete with grass, sprinklers, and bleachers. In the closing scene, his home-run ball soars over the barbed wire fence. The informative back matter includes a historical afterword, an author's note, an artist's note, and a source bibliography. One of the many effective illustrations shows Zeni seated on his bunk, gazing at a photo (based on an actual picture) of himself standing between Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. As this expressive picture book makes clear, Zenimura never allowed his small stature to diminish his dreams. A fine historical counterpart to Ken Mochizuki's fictional Baseball Saved Us (1993). Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Kenichi Zenimura was known as the father of Japanese American baseball, first as a player and later a manager. But after Pearl Harbor, Zeni found himself in an internment camp, and the only way he could make the desolate place feel like home was to build a baseball field. Bold Japanese calligraphy brush-and-ink illustrations depict the painstaking work involved--and Zeni s joy at playing.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #4
Based on the real-life story of Kenichi Zenimura, known as the father of Japanese American baseball, Moss's story relates Zeni's love of the game and his accomplishments in the Fresno Nisei League and the Fresno Twilight League. Only five feet tall, he was a star, and even played in an exhibition game with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1927; later he became a coach and manager. But after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Americans of Japanese descent living on the West Coast were sent to internment camps, Zeni found himself at the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona. The only way he could make this desolate place feel like home was to create a baseball field and organize teams to play there. Bold, digitally colored Japanese calligraphy brush and ink illustrations depict the painstaking work of clearing rocks and brush, leveling the field, irrigating, planting grass -- even building a backstop and bleachers -- and finally Zeni's joy at playing the game again. Author's and illustrator's notes and an extensive bibliography will take readers beyond the text. There is a minor discrepancy between an illustration showing Zeni batting right-handed and information in the notes that indicates he batted left-handed, but like Ken Mochizuki's Baseball Saved Us (rev. 7/93), this is a beautifully designed and inspirational sports story about the power of American dreams, even when such dreams are sometimes deferred. dean schneider

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 March #1
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) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 October
Kenichi "Zeni" Zenimura longs to play professional baseball, and he will not let his small size deter him. Through this richly designed picture book, readers discover that Zeni grows up to be a successful player. When Pearl Harbor occurs in 1941, Zeni and his family are sent to a Japanese internment camp. Zeni's love for the game of baseball inspires him to bring the game to the bleak camp; what he truly brings with the field he constructs and the game he organizes is a deep sense of hope. This true story will introduce readers to this part of American history where they will be dazzled by beautiful illustrations done with Japanese calligraphy brush and ink. The book includes author and illustrator notes, archival photographs, and a bibliography. It is well worth the purchase. Jennifer Coleman, Librarian, Murchison Elementary, Pflugerville, Texas. RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 March #4

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.)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April

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

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