Reviews for Stars in the Shadows : The Negro League All-Star Game of 1934

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
Stretching out a single game of baseball into an entire book, Smith provides a play-by-play account of the second annual Negro League East-West game, which mirrored the all-star game of the segregated major leagues by having fans vote in their favorite players. It feels like one narrative device too many for this invented "radio broadcast" to be told entirely in rhyming couplets, which can stumble into awkward, offbeat cadences to follow the rhyme scheme. But the voice is loaded with good-times phrasing ("Cool Papa, folks, can make lightning look slow"), and the chance to visit such legendary players as Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Turkey Stearnes in action is a rare one. The innings are broken up with commercials and asides from the spectators in the stands to help add some historical spice to the proceedings. Morrison's frequent charcoal sketches--a scattering of portraits, on-field heroics, and fan reactions--are the biggest treat. Use this book as an exciting complement to Kadir Nelson's We Are the Ship (2008). Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
The historic East-West Classic of the Negro League (when African Americans were not allowed in the Major Leagues), is reported in play-by-play detail by a radio sportscaster. Awkward rhyming and uneven rhythm hamper the flow of an otherwise riveting narrative; the text, nicely accompanied by black-and-white graphite drawings, allows readers to become acquainted with early baseball greats.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 October #2
Some of the best-ever baseball players face off in 1934 at the second annual Negro League All-Star game in Chicago. In an era when major league baseball meant white players only, many of the best players played for the Negro Leagues and never got the chance to compete in a larger arena. Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Willie Wells, Satchel Paige and Oscar Charleston are legendary names despite the segregation that kept them from competing in one integrated league for their entire careers. The concept behind this slim volume is excellent--a story in poems told in nine innings, each inning properly divided into the top of the inning and bottom. Graphite illustrations lend an old-timey feel to the text, and various advertisements, fan comments and even a performance by the Jubilee Singers complete the event. The variety of things happening on and off the field offers both frequent changes of pace within the text and a sense of what attending a real game is like. Unfortunately, the text itself presents quite a reading challenge. Long poetic lines, the rhymes occasionally forced, may trip up young readers, where leaner, more muscular lines would have better served the energy of the game being described. Still, what baseball fan won't thrill at this game that included the likes of the Brown Bomber, Willie "the Devil" Wells and the Tan Cheetah? (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 February #1

Writing in snappy rhymed couplets, Smith delivers a play-by-play, inning-by-inning account of the second annual East-West Classic, held in Chicago in 1934, an all-star face-off between the best players from the Negro League. Smith provides a remarkable amount of detail about the game while keeping the action moving and his rhymes tight: "The pitcher kicks up a leg and then lets fly/ strike one down the pip, a fastball letter-high." Diversions from the game come in the form of extended commentary from fans in attendance, as well as commercial breaks ("If your tongue has a taste/ for food from the South,/ Sweet Amelia's Soul Cuisine/ has treats for your mouth"). Working in graphite, Morrison contributes full-bleed and spot illustrations of dynamic, athletic players in motion. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 May

Gr 2-4--Smith uses a fictional radio sports announcer to introduce the players on both Negro League East-West Classic teams in this beginning chapter book. The story takes place during a time when baseball was segregated and fans voted for their favorite players to make the All-Star roster. Within a basic organization plan of nine innings, or chapters, the author writes in a poetic narrative style, using rhyming couplets that sound awkward at times. The poetry is interrupted by sections of prose whenever a fictional fan provides details about a favorite player, such as Oscar Charleston or Josh Gibson. In addition, to add atmosphere and mood, the poetry is separated by occasional radio commercials for a grocery or a barbershop, which was typical of broadcasts at that time. The large, appealing graphite artwork crosses the gutter on dramatic spreads. Fans of baseball history will be encouraged to look for further information on these players, who are merely highlighted within the text. This slender volume can augment African American history units and sports collections everywhere.--Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

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