Wow! Barbed Wire Baseball is a great story on so many levels. Do you have a child who loves baseball…if so, you need this book. Do you have a child who is smaller or somehow lacks the self confidence to say “I can do that!”? You need this book.
Honestly, I had never heard of Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura (1900-1968) but he is exactly the kind of role model I wish we had more of today. His family arrived in California via Hawaii from Japan when he was just a little boy. From the time he saw his first baseball game – he was hooked. He knew he wanted to play that game. His parents thought he should study to be a doctor or a lawyer…does that sound familiar? They told him he was too small, but no, all he wanted to do was play ball. And though he was small, he was good.
In 1927 he was chosen to play in an exhibition game with baseball greats Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth – a real highlight of his career. But it all came to a screeching halt when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Zeni and his family were sent, with thousands of other Japanese Americans to Arizona, to detention camps to wait out the war.
Zeni was not content to just sit around – he was determined to make the best of the situation that he found himself in. He set out to construct a baseball diamond within the detention camp. He and his sons were soon joined by others as they built not just the diamond, but much more: a sense of community.
Marissa Moss has done a fabulous job bringing a true story of a not often talked about part of American history to life for children six to 10 years old. The accompanying illustrations by Yuko Shimizu add just the right amount of drama and, for me, are so evocative of what a detention camp must have been like.