Saturday, April 01, 2023

Highly Recommended! CONTENDERS: TWO NATIVE BASEBALL PLAYERS, ONE WORLD SERIES by Traci Sorell and Arigon Starr

Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series
Written by Traci Sorell (Citizen of the Cherokee Nation)
Illustrated by Arigon Starr (Enrolled Member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma)
Published in 2023
Publisher: Kokila
Reviewer: Debbie Reese
Review Status: Highly Recommended


A few years ago, I would do tweet reviews and sometimes, I'd use a platform (Storify) that would gather the tweets into a single document, and then I'd plop that document in a blog post. People liked that tweet-review-turned-into-blog-post a lot. But Storify didn't last long. I still use Twitter to talk about books. Today I did a series of tweets about Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series. I'm pasting them here as my review of the book. I've inserted the time stamp, for reference, and it links to the thread on Twitter. 

I just finished reading CONTENDERS: TWO NATIVE BASEBALL PLAYERS, ONE WORLD SERIES. Written by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Arigon Starr, it is definitely gonna have a "Highly Recommended" label from American Indians in Children's Literature!

It is packed with info that's gonna appeal to Native and non-Native readers, whether they are fans of baseball or not. Starr's depictions of Native people... powerful mirrors. My uncles played ball. In her art, I see them.

I especially like the double-page spread that shows Native ball players, over time. Note they're done like baseball cards! And the cards have their names and tribal nations. SO COOL!!!!

The two players the book is about are Charles Albert Bender, who was Ojibwe and John Tortes Meyers, who was Cahuilla. Wait... I gotta say that when I came to the page about John's childhood, I leaned in. Why?

 He was Cahuilla!
I'm currently doing workshops with educators in California. They're searching for books that can provide Native students in their classrooms with mirrors. In CONTENDERS, they have that mirror!

If the appeal (for you) is the subject, baseball, and you're a long-time fan, you might remember the 1911 World Series. That's kind of what the book is about. But the focus is the two Native men who played in that series and so, you'll likely learn things you did not know.

For example, this page is about the crap they had to endure. I like that Sorell included that, so succinctly. People called them "Chief" but, she writes that neither one was a tribal leader. Others call them "redskins."

The book is due out on April 11 from Kokila. If you haven't ordered it yet, for your school or public library, do it now. And if you're in California, order several copies!