Just Like Josh Gibson

Author: Angela Johnson

Illustrator/ Photographer: Beth Peck

Publisher and Year: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004

Number of Pages: 29 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

The story of this book is about an African American girl who wants to play baseball just like Josh Gibson, “the Babe Ruth of the Negros Leagues” (Johnson, 2004). Grandmama tells the story in flashbacks of her growing up loving baseball but never getting the chance (with the exception of one time) to play in a real game because she was a girl.

This text serves as a door, window, and mirror all at the same time. First, it serves as a window because the reader sees a story of a girl of color surpassing societal norms of the time and proving she can play baseball as well as the boys. This aspect of the story not only breaks racial stereotypes, but also gender stereotypes that girls cannot be as good as boys at sports. Second, it serves as a mirror to call upon the reader to reflect on how he/she handles stereotypes among different groups of people. Thirdly, it serves as a door to show that women have the opportunity to do the same sports and activities as men.

The entire tale of this story is Grandmama referring back to her childhood playing baseball. Jack Gibson was an African American baseball player that unfortunately never made it to the major leagues for baseball (Johnson 2004). With Grandmama already being a woman, an African American, and the setting of the flashback in the 1940s, Grandmama had no power. But, that did not stop Grandmama’s father from teaching her how to play baseball so that she could be just like Josh Gibson. Two cultures are noticeably identified and represented in this story: women and African Americans. As a woman, Grandmama was able to overcome barriers and show she was just as good as the boys in a male dominated activity, baseball.

At the same time, this book gives respect to the African American community by acknowledging their culture, contribution, and love for baseball as well. In regards to my understanding of culture, this story speaks and represents African Americans in a sport favored by America but also, it shows girls that they are not limited to anything simply for being a girl. Though the images take up most of pages, the words on the page are easy to find showing that the images and text are both important to the story as a whole. The characters of Josh Gibson and Grandmama (as a little girl) are looking to the right, symbolizing them both breaking gender and racial barriers and moving forward. The colors in the story are dull and faded possibly representing the whole flashback, and/or the disappearance of racial and gender stereotypes in sports. The dialect of Grandmama speaks represents her African American culture. The words and images mirror one another, showing a clear picture of the flashback Grandmama is trying to convey to her granddaughter (in the present time). The biggest ideologies of this storybook are girls can play with the boys, race does not make someone inferior or superior, and girls are not to be limited to things simply because they are girls.