Book Review: Satchel Paige – Striking Out Jim Crow
There is something to be said for simplicity. Baseball is not what I would consider to be a simple game. No, the act of tossing a ball the size of an orange into a tiny imaginary square with any kind of power or accuracy sounds pretty complicated to yours truly. Call me crazy, but somehow I think that communicating the cultural landscape of an era of American history is just as tricky. Doing so in a simple, authentically powerful fashion is downright hard (and rare to boot). And how about trying to do that without, you know, using many words? In “Satchel Paige”, the author and illustrator have done just that. A graphic novel about America, segregation, baseball, and racism – all told with understatement through the life of Satchel Paige, a pitcher with a flair for the dramatic.
The story is told through the eyes of a nameless sharecropper from Tuckwilla, Alabama whose prowess on the diamond brings him into contact with the great flamethrower Paige. After besting Satchel at the plate, our narrator suffers an injury, forcing him to give up the game for good and head back to the farm.
Sharecropping with his family is difficult and exhausting work. Add to this that the land owners – Walker Jennings and his two sons – are dangerously unkind.
Fast forward 15 years. Satchel’s celebrity has exploded and his team is visiting Tuckwilla to play the local all-stars. It takes everything our narrator has to attend the game with his son, but Paige’s performance breathes new life into him and the citizens of Tuckwilla.
Simple words and illustrations guide the reader through the story. Additional information is provided at the back of the book to help inform readers on the history and terminology that is sprinkled throughout. A great biography and a quality selection to be sure.
(Shout out to A Fuse #8 Production for the advance reading copy)
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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