Every family has a relative who is their claim to fame. Mine is Branch Rickey, the man who hired Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in major league baseball.
Now Kadir Nelson has written and illustrated We Are The Ship; The Story of Negro League Baseball, and he's even included a painting of Branch Rickey! Pretty realistic, too, although I think his eyebrows were even more bushy. And Nelson points out that Branch Rickey would not have been able to make his integrating hire if it were not for a new baseball commissioner being elected in 1944, A. B. "Happy" Chandler. Chandler was quoted as saying " If a colored boy can make it on Okinawa and Guadalcanal . . .[i.e., serving in world War II] he can make it in baseball." My family had never heard of Happy Chandler, but I sure heard about Branch Rickey.
The reviewers are saying great things about this book, and not because of my relative. Nelson's artwork shows individual portraits of star players as if they are on the baseball field. HIs pictures make you want to just keep looking at them. Looks to me like a good candidate for this year's Caldecott Award. I think this is the first book where he has also done the writing, and if so he's been keeping a great talent well hidden. It's written from the point of view of a Negro League player relating the experiences of everybody, what good players they were, how much they enjoyed it, what hard times they had, the indignities thrust upon them by segregation.
This book is located in children's nonfiction, but it's for older children, and adults would appreciate it as well. Even if you're not related to Branch Rickey.