Girls don t play baseball.
Or do they If you ask kids today whether or not girls can play baseball, it might depend on how much they know about the sport and also if they ve ever heard of one of my favorite movies of all time, A League of their Own.
But for Katy in 1957, women or girls in baseball was an unheard of thing She was an anomaly, because the long history of women s leagues and women baseball players had been suppressed throughout history, even though the All American Girl s Baseball League was disbanded a couple years before the book started.
So when she tries out for Little League, gets selected and then kicked out when they find out she s a girl, she runs into the discrimination wall for the first time first big time.
So in addition to teaching children about the rich history of women white and black I knew there were Black women baseball players, but I had no idea that they had had a league of their own, in addition to the segregated men s league in baseball, this book is about the retelling of history about how organizations and people sometimes gloss over or suppress people s stories and accomplishments in order to tell a narrative that suits their purposes In this case, it was that baseball was a man s sport, and that women just weren t physically suited to play the All American game despite there being women who had struck out or outplayed some of the greatest of all times, or the fact that some famous male players got their start in women s leagues and fun fact.
I haven t read any of the other books in the Gordon Family saga yes, I know I started with the last book first it s not really necessary to read them in order , but I loved Katy s interactions with her mom Her mom was brilliant Hell, I loved her entire family They were all smart, intelligent women who were the complete opposite of what you d expect women to behave in the 1950s.
Speaking of the 1950s, I loved that this books shows that while some things were swell like, being able to let your kids roam freely in the neighborhoods without worrying about serial killers many, many other things were downright awful for a lot of different people From the placing of Japanese and other Asian descended citizens into concentration camps in the 1940s something that Katy s classmate mentioned that everyone had forgotten about even though it was 15 years ago again, suppression of information and reshaping history to fit a certain narrative , to racism and desegregation, to women being shuffled back into the home life and the discrimination they faced in many fields, to the scare of communism and the rise of uber patriotism and conservatismwell, the 1950s are definitely not a time I would have wanted to live in.
This would have been a 5 star read, easily, if it wasn t for historical language I understand that when writing a historical fiction novel historically accuracy is paramount, however there are some racially charged words that today causeharm or hurt than is warranted for being historically accurate I loved that racism was addressed which seems really weird but c mon folks the 1950s was a horrible period for a lot of people and I m glad that this book shows not just the lives of straight white people but how things were in a way that children would be able to understand particularly since certain ahem generations look back and view the 1950s through rose colored glasses for both Asian and Black people but I really wished that two historical terms had not been used to describe them There are other ways to do it that would have still been historically accurate.
This is a book about baseball and library research, and it should not be as thrilling as it is, but Katy s earnest voice gives even the mundane urgency and heart I love that it ends not with victory but with the message that sometimes the struggle for justice is worth engaging in for its own sake, regardless of outcome.
When Neil Gaiman praises a book you know it s going to be good Set in 1957, Out of Left Field is a great middle grades read aloud filled with historical references AND gumption I m looking forward to teaching this one I loved, loved, loved this book What a fantastic story about a strong young woman bucking society s norms, who stands up for herself and fights for the right, not only for herself, but for all young women, to be whatever they want to be and do whatever they want to do, and in her case, doing it better than all the boys An absolutely terrific read When I bought the book I knew that it was written by Ellen Klages whose two books The Green Glass Sea and the sequel White Sands, Red Menace I had both read and loved What I didn t know until it suddenly hit me over the head as I was reading, was that our heroine, the fierce young Katy Gordon, was the baby Dr Gordon was carrying when the Gordon family left New Mexico 10 years ago to move back to Berkeley at the end of White Sands, Red Menace Finding that out made me love this story evenHow many times have you loved a book and the characters so much that you didn t want their story to end, or maybe you wanted to know what happens next in the character s lives and where they ended up, or how their lives changed Well, I have that happen to me all the time So thank you Ellen Klages for giving usof the Gordon family story and introducing us to an incredible role model for young girls everywhere, one who is strong and determined and believes in herself, who keeps fighting for what s right, and doesn t quit when the going gets tough You go girl I loved reading this book to my daughter I want her to read a millionbooks like this books that teach her that you have the ability to fight for change when you don t think something is right And when you need answers you can go to the library Recommended for all kids and especially those who love baseball and softball.
Yeah, I saw red, too.
Furious, Katy sets out to prove them wrong She lacks the resources necessary to scientifically prove that her physical fitness is just as good as the boys, and the distraction claim is practically impossible to prove or disprove So she decides to challenge the idea that no other girl has ever played baseball before.
Quick TO THE LIBRARY Katy s research uncovers Jackie Mitchell, who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig back to back But Katy doesn t stop there, she digs deeper and finds evenwomen baseball players, writes letters to them, gets interviews, even meets a few All of them have stories to tell about the sexism that denied them the chance to play the game they loved because of their gender.
And soon, Katy finds it goes further than gender, too She meets Toni Stone, one of the first African American women to play on the Negro League And here s where we learn about when racism and sexism intersect All those white women players and recruiters Weren t looking to recruit black women, no matter how good they were Her all male team Didn t think women should play baseball Stone tells about her experiences, things we would consider mind bogglingly racist today but were commonplace in the 50s It was hell, she says.
Armed with all of this information, will Katy be able to convince Little League to let her play before she ages out Will her efforts help open the door to other girls wanting to play ball This book was surprisingly engaging and informative Katy learns about so many women baseball players that I d never even heard of The back matter of the book includes biographies for twelve of the players mentioned, plus information about Little League s policies, Title IX, and the current state of women in sports.
So much of our history is ignored, forgotten, or deliberately erased because our western culture doesn t value the contributions of anyone nonwhite and non male And not just in sports, too I hope this book encourages kids to dig deeper, to not stand by and let injustices slide, and to speak up and let their voices be heard Did I mention this book takes place in 1957 58 Yeah, this book takes place in the late 50s, when things like Sputnik and the Little Rock Nine were current events It was a much different world then, and the language in the book certainly reflects that.
Ellen Klages is a friend, and I m also a fan of her writing, including her young adult historicals The Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace This book follows the younger sister of the two girls who are the protagonists of the first two books Katy Gordon is a young baseball pitcher in the late 1950s, struggling with the widely held notion that baseball is a man s sport When that belief flies up and hits her in the face, Katy goes on a historical tour through the long, deep, and mostly forgotten history of women s baseball, learns a lot, and meets some fascinating people Like her older sisters Dewey and Suze, Katy is a believable, likable protagonist and her story is engaging My only complaint about the book is that it s a little skewed toward the historical not just baseball history at the expense of possible character development and plot Nonetheless, I enjoyed it thoroughly Definitely for the baseball players and fans in your life.
Richie s Picks Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages, Viking, May 2018, 320p.
, ISBN 978 0 425 28859 7 Talkin baseball The Man and Bobby FellerThe Scooter, the Barber, and the NewcThey knew em all from Boston to DubuqueEspecially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke Terry Cashman, Talkin Baseball 1981 I m Coach Martin, the man said He had a strong voice that carried For almost twenty years, Little League has been open to any boy who wants to play baseball Your race, your religion, your ethnic heritage none of that matters Little League is a true democracy It does not discriminate in any way whatsoever Each of you has an equal chance to make one of the teams, based only on your skills with a ball and a bat How about that Half the boys gave a ragged cheer That s the spirit The man smiled Today we re going to see how you run, hit, throw, and catch We ll also be watching for some things that are not so easily measured healthy competition that includes goods sportsmanship and fair play The other men nodded Success on the field comes from dedication, discipline, and of course practice, practice, practice He pounded his fist into his hand Now who s ready to play ball This time every kid cheered, me included That s what I like to hear He tapped his clipboard It s the fall of 1957, and ten year old Katy Gordon has grown up playing baseball with the neighborhood boys She s got exceptional talent as a pitcher and those boys have long respected and embraced her for that practiced skill.
Using her initials instead of her name, keeping her hair tucked out of sight, Katy easily makes her way through the Little League tryouts But her attempt to really democratize the organization quickly short circuits when a boy from outside her neighborhood group rats her out Katy is unceremoniously shown the door as the local adults and the national Little League organization make it clear that baseball is only for boys.
Fortunately for Katy, her mom has a bit of personal history that causes her to be supportive of Katy s cause Katy chooses to research women in baseball for a school term assignment, and uncovers a surprisingly long, rich history of female involvement in the national pastime In the process, she also learns about Negro League baseball.
I loved so much about Out of Left Field It s a great American history story, and it s filled with camaraderie between Katy and the neighborhood boys Katy s quest to document the involvement of women in baseball demonstrates to readers how top notch research was undertaken back in the old pre Internet days, when one would employ the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, snail mail letter writing, and personal interviewing And while Katy, despite her best efforts, does not ultimately get to join the Little League, she does get some pretty cool recognition for her hard work.
Out of Left Field will complement one of my all time nonfiction favs, Karen Blumenthal s 2005 award winning LET ME PLAY THE STORY OF TITLE IX THE LAW THAT CHANGED THE FUTURE OF GIRLS IN AMERICA It will also fit in nicely with Kadir Nelson s Sibert Medal winning WE ARE THE SHIP THE STORY OF NEGRO LEAGUE BASEBALL.
Richie Partington, MLISRichie s Picks