Monday, February 14, 2011

Review #86: We Are the Ship

Gracie (age 10):  Kadir Nelson, if you are reading this, you have the coolest book ever.  Your book is definitely on my top favorites list.
Isaac (age 12):  "We Are the Ship" is about Negro League baseball.  Before African American people were able to play baseball with the other leagues, they invented their own league called the Negro League.
Lily (age 7):  It is from history.
Gracie:  This guy, Rube Foster, took all the people that weren't allowed to play, and he put them on professional baseball teams of their own.  And that's called the Negro Leagues.
Lily:  The book tells the whole history of it.  From the beginning to the end.  It didn't skip a bit.
Gracie:  It's all about what the Negro Leagues were like, and how the players had to live and travel from town to town.
Isaac:  It was kind of hard for them because they had to get on these smelly buses.  And nobody would let them sleep at regular places, so they had to go to these special hotels, but the hotels weren't very good at all.
Gracie:  And the book gives you all the best Negro League baseball players.  Like Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell - those are my two favorites.  I like Satchel Paige.  No one can hit anything of his.  He's got a really good fastball.  He's a pitcher.  Even his slowballs are fast.
Dad:  After we finished the book, you and Isaac were playing baseball in the living room with wadded up paper balls and rolled up paper bats, and you guys were being your favorite players.
Gracie:  We played "paper baseball."  I was Satchel Paige.  Except I can't throw fastballs.  So I was, like... Satchel Paige Junior Girl Version... who isn't very good at throwing stuff.
Isaac:  They invented a lot of the baseball things that players use nowadays.  They invented the helmet because they were throwing way too close to one guy's head, so he would put a miner's helmet on.  Another guy invented shin guards.  He tied these wooden boards to his legs when they played against white players because everybody was trying to hurt him.
Dad:  What is the art in this book like?
Isaac:  The art is amazing.
Gracie:  It is really detailed.  Really awesome.
Isaac:  Kadir Nelson really knows how to make faces and clothes look like faces and clothes.  You can see all the wrinkles and details and grass stains.  He makes them all look like real photographs.
Gracie:  Kadir Nelson...  You ROCK, Kadir Nelson!
Dad:  And what was the cool thing we got to do after reading this book?
Lily:  We went to his art exhibit.
Gracie:  We went to an art museum that was throwing a party for Kardir Nelson's "We Are the Ship."  We went and ate awesome eggroll things.  We got to see all this cool Negro League stuff.  I got to see a signed Satchel Paige baseball and actual newspaper articles about Satchel Paige.  Satchel Paige is my favorite.
Dad:  I can tell.  So, there was memorabilia there.  But it was an art museum -- what else did we see?
Gracie:  Art!  Kadir Nelson's original art.  And it's actually really, really, really big.
Lily:  Huge.  He made big, huge pictures.  They were even bigger than you Dad.  It would have been a gi-normous book if they made it the actual size of the paintings.
Isaac:  These were giant, huge life-size pictures.  We didn't know they would be so big until we got there.
Gracie:  He paints it on, like, a 10 foot canvas.  Gi-gan-tic!
Dad:  What was it like to look at the originals in person?
Isaac:  It made me want to go paint.
Gracie:  The colors actually looked brighter closer up.
Lily:  Here's one thing about his pictures.  The baseballs -- the stitches look like real yarn!  I don't know how he does that!  It looks like real yarn stitches!
Gracie:  I loved this picture where Josh Gibson is swinging the bat around - he has three bats in his hand.  I love that picture.
Isaac:  We also heard Kadir Nelson give a speech.
Gracie:  You are a very good speaker, Kadir Nelson.
Dad:  What do you remember from his talk?
Lily:  The people in his paintings have bigger hands than they are supposed to, because Kadir Nelson likes hands.
Gracie:  He accidentally made them all a little too big because he loves drawing them so much.
Isaac:  He was saying that it's not just people's faces that show expressions.  Hands can show expression as much as faces can.
Gracie:  He had to do tons of research for the book.  And he didn't really like reading that much until he read Negro League baseball books.  Now he loves to read and write.
Isaac:  He made up most of the poses for the players in the pictures.  Only a couple of them he did from original photos.
Gracie:  He said, " I got this really handsome guy to pose for me.  He's really great and he works for free.  Here's a picture of him."  And then he shows some pictures of himself posing.
Lily:  He was posing for all of the pictures!
Gracie:  Ha ha ha ha!
Lily:  He also told a secret.
Dad:  Yeah - he shared some of his mistakes in the book.  Things we would have never noticed.
Lily:  He didn't put the right number of stars on one of the flags.  But don't tell anybody that!
Dad:  Do you feel any different about Kadir Nelson's books -- now that we have heard him talk and have seen his originals?
Lily:  WAAAY different!  I really liked them before.  But now I like them more.  Now I really, really like them.
Gracie:  You know what?  Every time we review a book, I kind of feel like from now on I know all the authors and illustrators personally.  But I really don't.
Dad:  You feel more of a connection to them after taking a closer look at their work.
Gracie:  That's how I kind of feel like with Kadir Nelson.
Lily:  Now I know him.  I don't really know him.  But I heard his talk.  And he's so nice.

Negro League baseball player, by Lily

sketch of Josh Gibson, by Isaac

Satchel Paige, by Gracie

Author/Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Published, 2008: Hyperion
Like it?  Here it is

If any of our readers are in the Michigan area and can get to the Muskegon Museum of Art, I highly recommend you go for it -- it is WELL worth the trip.  The "We Are the Ship" exhibit will be showing until March 13.


angels said...

Ohh! Nice drawings!

Will Strong said...

I've long been impressed with Kadir's amazing illustrations. But then I read "We Are The Ship" and I was blown away by his prose. Really great stuff here.

Lori Eslick said...

your drawings are super too kids!!

I loved hearing him at the talk, and I did see you and your Dad there, but we had to get to the restroom quick as Chase (my son) had to GO.. and I already put him off so sorry we didn't have a chance to talk about the show. What an amazing artist he is! And he is also right about the handsome model part too! your friend, Lori

Jennifer said...

I love Kadir Nelson's work and recently ordered several of his books for our school library. His illustrations for the tall tales "Thunder Rose" and "Hewitt Anderson's Great Big Life" are wonderful (the stories are pretty fun, too).

I happened to have just finished reading a Satchel Paige book right before I read this review. It was "Satchel Paige: don't look back" by David Adler. It's a good one to check out for more info on Paige.