A Daunting Look at America’s Pastime

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

Written & illustrated by Kadir Nelsonship

Published by Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-786-80832-8

Format: Nonfiction/informational

96 Pages ~ Ages 9 & up


In We Are the Ship, Nelson pays tribute to Negro League baseball in an over-sized book filled with breathtaking illustrations and a heartfelt story of talented players, owners, and racial difficulties of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Baseball fans, young and old, are acquainted with a league that paved the way for well-known players like Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Ken Griffey, Jr. Incorporating brilliant, full-page oil paintings, Nelson details the league’s rich history in an authentic tone.

An “old timer” narrates the triumphs and hardships of men on and off the field in a story that acquaints baseball fans young and old with a league that paved the way for well-known players like Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. Talented athletes and owners are remembered for their passion for the game and determination to overcome segregation while playing America’s pastime. As they broke down the barriers of discrimination, Negro League players refused to give up playing the game they loved, despite lower pay, being denied service in hotels and restaurants, and unfair treatment by umpires. We Are the Ship embodies just about every aspect of the baseball experience – from verbiage to illustrations symbolic of ballpark imagery and game play on the diamond and the players’ style of dress. The framed photo on the front cover and quotes on the back cover are reminiscent of the sports page of a newspaper. Nelson includes a foreword by Hank Aaron, and then uses chapters – aptly named innings – to tell the story of Negro League baseball through the years. Dividing the book into “innings” allows Nelson to adequately describe the inner workings of Negro League baseball while creatively captioning what each chapter entails with a unique title and quote from someone of importance in the league.

Weaving a heartfelt text of racial difficulties, remarkable gameplay, breathtaking illustrations, collective voice, and baseball verbiage, Nelson creates the perfect way to tell the story of unsung heroes, who with their heart and soul, played to pave a way for African-Americans to the Major League. Such rich history makes the book not only an interesting read for baseball fans, a key starting point for research, and a great coffee table book.


  • Sibert Medal
  • Coretta Scott King Award (author)
  • Coretta Scott King Honor (illustrator)
  • multiple starred reviews

Read Alikes

  • Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
  • Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
  • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans by Kadir Nelson

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