Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Let them Play

Let them Play

Margot Theis Raven
Illustrator:  Chris Ellison 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2005   ISBN: 978-1585362608

It was the summer of 1955 and many of the boys living in Charleston's Upper Westside dreamed of being able to play in the Cannon Street Baseball Little League. This league was special because it was the only Little League that was all black. Of course Cannon Street teams could not play the other Little League teams because white and black teams were not supposed to play one another. In that time white and black people lived "separate but equal" lives. There was a feeling of unrest in the air though, a feeling that change had to come soon, and that this division between black and white could not last forever.

It was decided that an all-star team would be formed which would then, it was hoped, go to compete against the other Little League all-star teams. Why, if they won the regional tournament in Rome, Georgia, the Cannon Street All-Stars might even end up in the Little League World Series.

Soon the whole community was working towards this goal. The boys trained and played, the parents raised money, and they all hoped. Then the families heard that the state Little League director was not going to allow the Cannon Street All-Stars to play against white teams. He made such a fuss that the All-Stars where soon "the team nobody would play." Coach Benjamin "Sink" Singleton wasn't ready to give up quite yet though.

This bitter sweet account of the trials and hopes of a baseball team which was not allowed to play in a segregated America is sure to touch the hearts of readers and give them a real sense of how deep the deprivations of racism went. It is hard to imagine today that there was a time when a group of boys were not allowed to play baseball because of the color of their skin. Though this was not a battle that the Cannon Street All-Stars were able to win, they did manage to convince the crowds at the Little League World Series that they were a team which deserved to play.

Beautifully written, this is a picture book full of poignancy. It gives the reader a sense of history and a deeper understanding of what it was like to be the victim of racism. It also captures the love that many did and still do have for baseball, that quintessential American game.