Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Green, Michelle Y.
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, 2002.
IL 5-8, RL 4.7
ISBN 0803726619

(2 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Told from Mamie "Peanut" Johnson's point of view:
    Times were hard.  It was hard to find a job and even harder to make any money.  That's why I lived with my Gram and my uncle.  Sure, I miss and love my mom, but I also love my uncle and Gram, and I LOVE playing baseball.  I'm not talking about "sissy ball" either!  THE Ball -- BASEBALL!
   One day, I was doing what I loved doing best when my uncle showed up at the park with bad news.  My Gram had gone to heaven.  Boy, I sure was sad!  My mom came to visit and she told me I was going to live with my Auntie and my Uncle, whom I didn't even know, in the south.  I knew right then that my life was about to change.
    Change it did!  I had to learn which stores to go in, which water fountains to use, where to sit on a bus, and what teams I could play on.  One time I wanted to play baseball on a police sponsored baseball team.  When I asked if I could play, the coach scoffed and said that it wasn't against the law or anything, and then walked away.  Well I thought about what my Grandma had always told me, you can do anything you set your mind to.  Then, I stopped by the precinct the next day to ask if there was a law against me playing on their baseball team.  When the sergeant said "no", I started showing up at the practice every day until they finally let me play.  Those boys were laughin' at me when I walked on the field, but they were surely cryin' when I sent them off with another strikeout!
    I kept playing ball through the day, and going to school at night.  Like all the guys, I was going to do something in the science or medicine field.  Anyway, I kept playing ball and made it into the Sandlot leagues- where scouts were rumored to watch up and coming players.  One day after playing another team with a really great pitcher, this pitcher started complementing my strong right arm.  We spent half a day together and he taught me how to throw the hiccup ball (a pitch the commission ruled illegal to use because no one could hit it) and a curve ball.  By the end of the day, I could throw the best curve ball the world had ever seen- maybe, except for his.... You better watch that guy- he'll be going places.  His name is Satchel.  Satchel Paige!
    I've got so many great stories to tell that you're just gonna have to read my book.  But I want to leave you with my favorite story of all... It's how I got my name.  I was playing a championship game in the American Negro Baseball League.  It was the bottom of the 9th, we were ahead by one, there were 2 outs, the other team's best hitter was coming up to bat, and if that doesn't beat all, there was a heckler in the crowd!  I threw a little Tom first (Satchel's name for a slow fastball).  STRIKE 1.  I didn't get my hopes up though.  Most batters let the first one go by in order to size up the speed of the pitcher.  Well, I wanted to keep that guy on his toes, so I threw him a ball.  BALL 1.  I felt the rawhide on my palm and the seams between my fingers, and I just let my Big Tom rip (Satchel's name for a fast fastball)!  STRIKE 2.  Just then, that heckler started up again.  He said, "why that pitcher's no bigger than a peanut."  The crowd hooted and hollered with laughter.  I didn't let it bother me, though.  I stood up proud and straight, fully extending my 98 pound, 5'2" body on the mound before winding up and pummeling out the best curve ball I had ever thrown.  STRIKE 3!  As the crowd cheered for our victory, I pointed at the heckler and hollered, just "call me Peanut!"  And the name stuck....  Miss Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, one of the best pitchers the Negro Leagues had ever had! (Andi Figart

Booktalk #2

I just met the most wonderful person between pages 1 and 105 of this book.  Mamie Johnson was born to play baseball.  She even slept with one under her pillow sometimes.  She couldn't stand softball, because it was "too slow and sissy".  After being told "you're just a dumb girl and you're colored besides" she responded with "a ball's a ball all the same.  It don't know nothing about the person who's throwing it except if they're good or not".  And good she was.  She worked her way onto a police sponsored all white, all male, baseball team and then onto a sandlot team where a scout found her, but not before the great Satchel Paige showed her his famous curve ball.  She said trying to sleep before her big tryout for  the Negro Leagues was like "trying to get butter from a duck!"  This 5'2" peanut with determination and skill was one of only three women to ever play in the Negro Leagues.  She overcame prejudice just by chasing her dream and letting her "strong right arm do all the talking."  I think you'll enjoy her story in A Strong Right Arm.   (New Hampshire Great Stone Face Committee, 2004-05)

Non fiction SUBJECTS:     Johnson, Mamie
                        Baseball players
                        African Americans -- Biography
                        Women -- Biography.


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