Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Just Call Me Joe Joe


Just Call Me Joe Joe by Jean Alicia Elster is the first book in a series known as "Joe Joe in the City". In this book, Joe Joe Rawlings is a ten year-old boy who has a strong love of baseball. At the beginning of baseball season, he visits his local library, where his special friend, librarian Mrs. Morgan, gives him a book called The History of the Negro Baseball Leagues.

It's a book about the history of African-Americans in the sport of baseball. The Negro baseball leagues formed in the early 1900s, so that the blacks could play in a game that they loved. In the late 1800s, a few integrated leagues existed. Moses Fleetwood Walker, known as "Fleet", had signed onto a major league team in Toledo, OH, making him the first African American to do so. But the major leagues quickly changed their minds and did not renew the blacks' contracts, thus causing them to have to create their own. Some of the best baseball was played on those teams.

Life on the Negro leagues was not easy. They had little to no money, so supplies like bats were old and beat-up, and buses kept breaking down. But the players took great pride in what they were doing. One talented player, named James "Cool Papa" Bell, started playing in the winters in Cuba and Mexico, where there was no segregation on baseball teams. But in the summers, he always came back to the States to play with his home teams. He may not have always been treated right, but he felt good doing what he loved.

Learning about the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues inspires Joe Joe to take pride in himself. He had gone into Mr. Booth's store to buy paprika for his grandmother, when a gang of other boys came in and trashed the place. Mr. Booth mistakenly assumed Joe Joe was a part of that group, and banished him from the store. Joe Joe is hurt, because he was innocent, and feels unjustly treated. Dad tells him that he needs to go into the store and make it right. Reading about people like "Cool Papa" Bell makes him feel strong enough to do so.

This book is a great one to read when teaching black history. It provides the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues, including lots of facts and real photographs. This is a part of American history and baseball that is often overlooked. It can also be inspirational to children of any race, to teach them to stand up for themselves and to take pride in themselves.

Accompanying illustrations of Joe Joe and his family are quite well-done and provide a visual insight into their lives.

Though this is a picture book, the story is long and mature. It is much more appropriate for the elementary years, than kindergarten and younger. But it is one that I would recommend to elementary teachers and to families to share with their children.

Purchase Just Call Me Joe Joe (Joe Joe in the City, 1)

Disclaimer: I did receive a copy of this book for reviewing purposes; however, the opinions expressed within this blog post are my own.

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