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Barbed Wire Baseball

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  512 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
As a boy, Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura dreams of playing professional baseball, but everyone tells him he is too small. Yet he grows up to be a successful player, playing with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig! When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, Zeni and his family are sent to one of ten internment camps where more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry are imprisoned with ...more
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Harry N. Abrams (first published April 1st 2013)
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Feb 11, 2016 Teresa rated it really liked it
Before reading Michael Cunningham's A Wild Swan: And Other Tales, I noted the bio of its artist, Yuko Shimizu, on the outer flap: it mentions this book. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am interested in books about baseball, even if they are children's books, maybe even especially if they are children's books.

When I got to the story's third two-page illustration (page 7), with a grim Zeni in the forefront while roiling maroon war-clouds swirl in the background, I was nudged by how familiar
Alex Baugh
May 20, 2013 Alex Baugh rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-2
From the time he was a young boy and saw his first baseball game, Kenochi "Zeni" Zenimura wanted to play baseball - he wanted that more than anything. And he was well on his way towards living his dream when he was old enough, managing local teams and playing with the Fresno Nisei League and the Fresno Twilight League, going to exhibition games in Japan, even playing with star players of the New York Yankees. It seemed Zeni was on top of the world, at least until December 7, 1941 when Japan atta ...more
Dov Zeller
Marissa Moss once again scripts a great kids picture book about a relatively unknown historical player and not-adequately-honored cultural hero. She and Yuko Shimizu team up on this one and hit it almost out of the ball-park.

I'll start with what I like about this book.The art is gorgeous. The story is captivating. Kenichi Zenimura aka Zeni's early determination to play baseball is, seemingly, indomitable and Moss seems to really relish the fabulist nature of the tale. Things that could be huge
Mary Ann
Kenichi Zenimura fell in love with baseball as a boy, moving to Fresno in 1920 to pursue his dreams of playing with the pros. But after Pearl Harbor, Zeni and his family were sent to an internment camp, imprisoned without trial. Moss tells the story of how Zeni organized baseball teams in the camps, bringing his fierce sense of hope and justice to the hardships Japanese Americans faced during WW2.
Jun 09, 2017 Kristin rated it really liked it
Intriguing story about the father of Japanese baseball and his life in an internment camp. Fantastic illustrations.
Apr 21, 2015 Lori added it
Shelves: multicultural
Barbed Wire Baseball

What does this remind you of in the real world? Students should be given a chance to relate this story, based on the real life story of Zenichi Zenimutra to current happenings and past history. Connections could be found with war stories of WWII the students have heard, prison stories, stories of people surviving and thriving during difficult circumstances, and baseball stories.

2)Perspectives and Values:
a)Japanese Americans during WWII-Zeni’s family was placed
Jun 28, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing
Marissa Moss does such a wonderful job of presenting little known people who made a big impact on history in some way. She's done it again in sharing the story of Kenichi "Zeni" Zenimura, the "father" of Japanese American baseball. This picture book biography would pair nicely with Kathryn Fitzmaurice's historical fiction title, A Diamond in the Desert. The illustrations, afterword, and bibliography add to the strength of this book.

I support independent bookstores. You can use this link to find
May 31, 2013 Kate rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 3rd-5th grade
The title page with a game ticket, the baseball image on the back echoing the Japanese flag, and the front cover with Japanese writing in the style of Japanese baseball cards from mid-twentieth century complete the package of this well-crafted, inspirational story. The artwork, done with Japanese calligraphy brush and ink, is a perfect match to this story of a man who continued his love of an all-American game while America imprisoned him.
Apr 05, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
Zeni finds himself behind barbed wire in the Gila River War Relocation Center with his family and other Japanese-Americans during World War II. He decides to build a baseball field in the Arizona desert. The ingenuity this took to "do it right" is inspiring. The book, a true story about a dark point in American history, is actually fun and hopeful. The illustrations capture the feeling of each point in the story. You don't have to love baseball to be a fan of this book.
This is a great picture book to use when introducing the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans.
Rachel Lee
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jo Oehrlein
Jun 07, 2017 Jo Oehrlein rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii, picture-books
The story of a Japanese-American man who played baseball. After he and his family were sent to an internment camp, he rallied his family and the camp together to build a baseball field and setup a league. He gave the people a sense of purpose and normalcy in a time when nothing else was normal.
Richie Partington
Jul 04, 2013 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
Richie's Picks: BARBED WIRE BASEBALL by Marissa Moss and Yuko Shimizu, ill., Abrams, April 2013, 48p., ISBN: 978-1-4197-0521-2

Dateline: July 4, 2013
"Despite their widespread national pride, Americans evince a much more negative response when asked if the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be pleased or disappointed by the way the United States has turned out. Seventy-one percent of Americans say the signers would be disappointed, while 27% say they would be pleased."
-- from Gallup
Dec 13, 2013 Samuel rated it liked it
Shelves: children
The mass internment of Japanese Americans (and others, including those of German, Italian, and Hungarian descent) during World War II is a low point in the history of the USA. One of the thousands sent to the internment camps was Kenichi Zenimura, a brilliant baseball player and manager whose career had included playing in and organizing barnstorming tours with the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Biz Mackey.

Barbed Wire Baseball spends a few pages on Zenimura's early life, but most of the boo
Emily Benner
Plot summary: This book is about a Japanese boy named Zeni and his love for the game of baseball. When Zeni was a little boy he wanted to grow up and play baseball but both of his parents as well as some of his peers told him that he could never play baseball because he was too small and frail. But as he grew up, he practiced and grew better and stronger and proved them all wrong when he became one of the best baseball players for the New York Yankees. But when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, all o ...more
Susan Brown
Connection: Based on a true story, Barbed Wire Baseball tells the story of Zeni. A Japanese-American man sent to an internment camp with his family during World War II. While there he continues his passion for baseball by building a field for the whole camp community to enjoy.

I love the idea that a personal interest can be transformed into something that inspires a whole community. That element of the book reminded me of the Alexander McCall Smith novel La’s Orchestra Saves the World. Although n
Anna Kozlowska
Oct 11, 2015 Anna Kozlowska rated it it was amazing
“Barbed Wire Baseball” is one of my multicultural children’s books. It is written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by Yuko Shimizu. I would not recommend this book to primary students, as they would not appreciate the complexity of the text, specifically the history of the Pearl Harbor, its implications, and the hardships of the internment camps. However, I see how the intermediate to middle school level students could draw their attention to many themes, like “hope”, “the resilience of the human ...more
Apr 22, 2014 Kelly rated it really liked it
Barbed Wire Baseball, written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, is nominated for the 2014-15 South Carolina Children's Book Award.

Barbed Wire Baseball is a welcome addition public, school, and classroom libraries, and it highlights a shameful, often overlooked period in American history--the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

"Zeni" Zenimura loved baseball. He played professionally in the U.S., and he went a long way to making the sport popular in his native Japa
Jeannene Egan
May 02, 2014 Jeannene Egan rated it it was amazing
Barbed Wire Baseball is a great story that teachers the reader to work hard for what they want and love. Zeni the main character in the book is someone to look up to. He made life in the camp the best he could by following his dreams.

Text to World – The theme of this story I am comparing to the Boston Marathon Bombing. The citizens of Boston and Zeni in the camp both have courage and hope. They didn’t let a situation define how they felt about something they love. Zeni supports and loves the spo
I spent the better part of last night drinkin' my beer and crying over this book. Zeni was only 5ft, 100 pounds, but he was determined to have the American dream. And it came true because he ended up playing for the Yankees next to Babe Ruth until Pearl Harbor happened. Loyalty didn't matter; anyone of Japanese descent were shipped off to internment camps as possible spies and traitors. Zeni and his family were sent to Gila River Relocation Camp, Arizona. To overcome his malaise, Zeni decided to ...more
This inspiring story of bravery and perseverance highlights the determination of one man to find a way to endure being sent to an internment camp during WWII. As in the case for 100,000 American citizens of Japanese descent, Kenichi (Zeni) Zenimura and his family are imprisoned because the United States government feared that they would spy for Japan. Zeni loved baseball, and chose baseball as a career. This book describes how he made the best of an impossible situation, and built a baseball fie ...more
Full review at:

World War II is the most infamous war and it is taught to all students at some point in their career. They learn about Pearl Harbor and the Atomic Bomb and the Holocause and Hitler, but way too often what happened here in the US is not discussed. All of the Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the US (62% were US citizens) were interned because our fear overwhelmed us so much that it was the only solution that seemed plausible. I
Jennafer Harris
May 01, 2014 Jennafer Harris rated it really liked it
This book focuses on the Japanese internment camps that happened here in the United States, but it also can lead into many other thoughts and discussions. This book could be used in a history lesson as well as bring up the idea of making the best out of situations, doing whatever you set your mind to, or even just discussing different hobbies. A text-to-self situation I could bring up with the classroom by using this book would be to ask them how they would feel if they were put into these camps ...more
Emma Hoyer
Feb 03, 2015 Emma Hoyer rated it it was amazing
Literature Requirement: **2014 IRA Teachers' Choice Award Winner**

This book is a brilliant combination of a lesson and history. The lesson that this book preaches is to follow your dreams, as well as to try and make the most out of an abnormal situation. That is exactly what Kenichi Zenimura did when he was forced into an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was completely unfair and incredibly prejudice, but in the midst of that, baseball was his focus. His love for the sport b
Nov 09, 2014 Heidi rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book about an important time in American history. As much as I love my country, the United States has done plenty of awful things over the years. This book takes a look at one of those things, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. But I really liked the positive way that Zeni chose to face this serious injustice. Zeni, a young Japanese American fell in love with baseball the first time he saw it played. And despite his small size and his parents discourage ...more
Sandy Brehl
The first time Zeni saw a baseball game he was eight years old. His family had moved from Japan to Hawaii and he was instantly determined to play. His parents called him a mouse and said he was too small. Discouraging messages followed him as he remained so small, but he achieved impressive success and even fame in professional baseball. Through practice, determination, talent, and commitment he built a life as a player, coach, and manager in the decades that followed.
After the Japanese attacke
Lynn Green
Aug 17, 2015 Lynn Green rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports, biography, history
A great children's book about nearly unknown Japanese-American named Kenichi "Zeni" Zenimura who loved baseball, played it very well, and was imprisoned during World War II solely on the fact that he was a Japanese-American living on the west coast at the time of Pearl Harbour. Instead to despairing about this injustice, Zeni decided to bring baseball to the Gila River Arizona War Relocation camp, which was for a while surrounded by barbed wire. Zeni built a baseball stadium in the desert with l ...more
Oak Lawn Public Library - Youth Services
Grade Level: 1 to 5

Lexile Level: 800

Pages: 40

Summary: Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura was born in Japan in 1900. His family moved to Hawaii in 1908 where he saw his first baseball game and fell in love. Zeni began playing, teaching, and coaching baseball from that day on. In 1927 the New York Yankees came to Fresno California, where Zeni lived, and he was one of four Japanese American players chosen to play with the Yankee greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. In 1941 when the war began between the United St
It's a wonderful thing to discover so many kinds of heroes in the recent numerous picture book biographies. We've learned about sports heroes, adventurers, visual and musical artists, women who defied the usual stereotypes, and stories about writers, much in these past few years. This time, Marissa Moss has researched a baseball player who didn't let his enthusiasm for the game stop him from playing baseball, even in an internment camp for the Japanese during World War II. Though quite short, K ...more
Nov 22, 2013 Christina rated it really liked it
really nice picture book about Kenichi Zenimura, a Japanese-American baseball player in the 1920s and 30's (he met Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, in a famous photo where Ruth has his arms resting on the very short Zeni's shoulders!), who with his family was interned with thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II. He decided to build a baseball field in his camp, from scratch, doing it up right complete with bleachers, and bringing a favorite pastime to the internees. It was also a sym ...more
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Who is Marissa Moss anyway?

I’ve been making children’s books for a looooong time. I sent my first picture book to publishers when I was nine, but it wasn’t very good and they didn’t publish it. I didn’t try again until I was a grown-up and then it took five years of sending out stories, getting them rejected, revising them and sending them back over and over until I got my first book. Now I’ve pub
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