Monday, December 20, 2010

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story

Effa Manley might have remained a footnote to baseball history for most kids if Audrey Vernick hadn't gotten interested in this remarkable woman who became the first woman inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In her picture book biography, Vernick introduces young readers to Manley and places her firmly in the context of her times. Manley was a light skinned black woman who cared passionately about putting an end to injustice. While living in Harlem in the 1930s, she organized a group of community leaders to protest a department store's refusal to hire black salesclerks. The boycott was a success. But Manley didn't stop there.

After marrying a man as crazy about baseball as she was, Manley and her husband started a baseball team in the Negro National League.  Manley worked tirelessly as the Newark Eagles's manager, "organizing schedules, ordering equipment, arranging transportation." She also fussed over the players, who fondly considered her a mother hen. After many successful years (the highpoint occurring in 1946 when the Eagles won their league's World Series), the Negro League lost fans as players left to join the now integrated major leagues. Even here, though, Manley continued to fight against injustice, insisting that the major league owners honor the Negro League's contracts and compensate teams for their players. When the National League ended, Manley wrote countless letters persuading the National Baseball Hall of Fame to induct Negro League players. Thanks to her, many were. And in 2006, 25 years after her death, Effa Manley was inducted as well.

She Loved Baseball is an excellent addition to biographies about women's contributions to sports. Children who read at Level 3 should be able to complete the book, although having an adult present to help explain unfamiliar terms and concepts would be a big help. And I agree with Dorothy Seymour Mills's assessment in the New York Journal of Books that Vernick's reliance on pronouns can occasionally be confusing, especially to a beginning reader. Several times I had to go back and reread a sentence to be sure of its meaning.

Don Tate did an outstanding job illustrating this biography. His illustrations are fresh and modern-looking, while capturing the spirit of the times.

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story
by Audrey Vernick
Illustrations by Don Tate
HarperCollins Children, 32 pages
Published: October 2010

This week's Nonfiction Monday is at Simply Science Blog.

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