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Barbed Wire Baseball (book)

Creators: Marissa Moss, Yuko Shimizu

Book cover. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Children's picture book by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Yuko Shimizu that focuses on the true story of Kenichi Zenimura , an Issei baseball pioneer who builds a baseball field in the Gila River concentration camp.


From the time he is a young boy, Kenichi Zenimura loves baseball, and he grows up to become a star baseball player in Central California. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he and his family are forcibly removed from their home and placed in the Gila River, Arizona, concentration camp. Discouraged at first by the drudgery of the desert camp, he begins to build a baseball field in an open area of the camp. He is soon joined by his sons, then by others, as they clear the space, water down the sand, plant grass, and build bleachers. Eventually, the field is finished, and some 6,000 spectators come to see the first game.

Yuko Shimizu illustrated the book with Japanese ink drawings that were digitally colored. An Afterword includes a brief biography of Zenimura and author's and artist's notes and is followed by a bibliography.

Additional Information

Author Marissa Moss (1959– ) has written over sixty books for children since 1989. An art history graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, she began as an illustrator of children's books and has self-illustrated many of her books. She is probably best known for her "Amelia's Notebook" series for beginning readers. She has also written a number of books focusing on women's history, both fiction and non-fiction biographies.

Illustrator Yuko Shimizu was born in Tokyo, but is based in New York. Well-known for her magazine and newspaper work as well as for comic book cover art, Barbed Wire Baseball was her first children's book.

The story is based on the real life story of Zenimura, who really did build a baseball field in Gila River. The book accurately depicts life in the concentration camps for the most part, with only a claim that inmates were not allowed outside their barracks after dark (page 23), an exaggeration. In the Afterword, Moss writes that the Japanese American were incarcerated "[a]lthough they were loyal American citizens" (38); about one-third—including Zenimura himself—were Issei and were prohibited by law from becoming naturalized American citizens.

An earlier novel for slightly older children—Kathryn Fitzmaurice's A Diamond in the Desert (2012)—is also set in Gila River and is partially based on Zenimura's story.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like: Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki; Fish for Jimmy by Katie Yamasaki; So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting

Media Details
Author Marissa Moss
Illustrator Yuko Shimizu
Pages 40
Publication Date 2013
Awards Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, Picture Book Honor 2014
For More Information

For More Information

Author website: .

Illustrator website: .

Publisher website: .

Tomita, Twila. "Baseball as a Symbol of Hope." Nichi Bei Weekly , Jan. 1–7, 2015, 16.