Sunday, March 19, 2017

Waiting for Pumpsie

Waiting for Pumpsie
written by Barry Wittenstein; illustrated by London Ladd
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

One day I'll tell my kids how long we waited for Pumpsie Green. I'll tell them how he dug his heels into the batter's box. I'll tell them how I pretended it was me, Bernard, sliding into third. 

Narrator Bernard is waiting. Waiting for his favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, to have an African-American player on their roster. It's been 12 years since Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. When Papa complains about the Yankees having only one African-American on their roster, Bernard notes "It's one more than we got." While watching a game at Fenway Park, Bernard and his sister cheer when the Yankee player, Elston Howard, hits a single. Two fans promptly tell them to "sit down and shut up." When Mama and Papa turn to defend their children against the rude fans, a policeman tells them they need to "learn how to behave." Bernard now understands why African-Americans don't feel welcome at Fenway Park. He also wonders when change is going to come. Finally, the Red Sox add a player to their spring training roster. Pumpsie Green is a promising infielder who could help the team. But the waiting continues as Pumpsie is assigned to the minors when the season begins. In July, Bernard's prayers are answered as Pumpsie is promoted to the big league Red Sox. Papa and the family gather around the radio and in the eighth inning, the last major league team to integrate their roster sends Pumpsie Green into the game. It's an emotional moment in Bernard's house with shouts of joy and a few tears from Papa. Later on, Bernard's family attends a game at Fenway where Pumpsie hits a triple and the crowd cheers. After the game, Bernard stops to look at the field and remember the moment.

You get a good sense of the frustration and joy for Bernard and his family. The text and artwork work well together to give an authentic representation of the time period. Waiting for Pumpsie is a great lesson in point of view as we see the world of 1959 through Bernard's eyes. He and his family deal with racism, but they never lose hope or their love of baseball. Also important, as Fuse 8 pointed out in an earlier note about the book, Waiting for Pumpsie fills a potential knowledge gap for students. They may think everything was great for African-American baseball players after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. This picture book, especially with the author's note, will help them understand that this notion is not true.

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