Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer

This week's nonfiction choice

Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer

  • Author: Bill Wise
  • Illustrator: Bill Farnsworth
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books (March 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584302690
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584302698

The year is 1897, and Louis Sockalexis, a baseball player for the Cleveland Spiders is in New York getting ready to face Amos Rusie, the major league’s most formidable pitcher. Getting to this point was not an easy road for Louis, a member of the Native American Penobscot tribe in Maine. Confronted with callous racism and his own father’s disapproval, Louis’s passion for baseball prevent him from giving up his dream. Regarded by many as one of the best players in the league, this momentous game will change his life and the public’s view of him forever.

Bill Wise’s account of the first acknowledged Native American major league baseball player is nonfiction but reads like a story. We are taken back to Louis’s childhood when he plays his first baseball game and falls in love with the sport. We watch him grow into a man and a powerhouse slugger, and we witness the insults, the stinging words, and the prejudice he faced every day. As I was reading, I found myself feeling anger towards the people, empathy towards Louis, and great excitement as Louis stood at the plate. The sepia tones of Farnsworth’s illustrations take us back to the time period, but I hardly noticed the pictures as I was reading because I was so involved with the story. Much more than a book about baseball, Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer is a book about determination, hard work, adversity, and acceptance.

This would be a great pick for a baseball fan or someone who is interested in learning more about famous Native Americans. In addition, it’s a nice book to prompt discussion about prejudice and racism, but I’ll talk more about that tomorrow when discuss reading tips and discussion opportunities.

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