We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson is a really wonderful book not simply because of its historical importance in shaping national identity; though, certainly, this is important, as the book fills the gap in baseball history and, thus, the present.
The story is told by the collective "we" which highlights the storyteller and makes the reader have a more auditory experience; this also serves to highlight that the present collective understanding of baseball is a skewed one and favors a caucasian cast. As a reader, or listener, the collective we causes the story to embrace and make the reader feel the importance of the story, if not simply because the story says to the reader that he or she is part of the we. It feels as like one is sitting by a grandfather's chair, learning a story to pass on.
Additionally, the illustrations--the paintings--are really lovely: rich and vivid and reminiscent of many of the industrial/social-realist WPA murals, which is fitting in reinforcing the story's voice due to its collective nature and the time-setting.
In terms of reading-level, this would be appropriate for an intermediate reader (grades 3-5), as the text is usually on its own page and is dense. However, the story would work well as a read-aloud book; certainly the formatting (text on one side, images on the other) suggests a read-aloud intention, and the story and images are so well done that it would work well long before the child reader is advanced enough to read alone.
It was published last January (2008), so she does hope that the Caldecott Committee is considering it for the medal. [Update: the book did not win the Caldecott, but did win the Sibert Medal]
- New York Times Best Seller
- New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books Award Winner
- School Library Journal 2008 Best Book Selection
- Select Title for 2009/10 Texas Bluebonnet Master List
- 2009 Horn Book Fanfare Title
- Selected for NPL 2008 list of 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
- Selected Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
- Kirkus Reviews Best Books 2008 Title
Also, We Are the Ship is a travelling exhibit, so check to see if the original paintings are at a museum near you.
We are the Ship, Hardcover, Hyperion Books Ch, 2008. 96 pages/purchase at the Ma&Pa bookstore closest to you