”A Grand Slam!”
"This uplifting account of a family and the integration of Boston baseball will be inspiring to many youngsters."
"This picture book contributes to children's understanding of America's past, while telling a good story."
"The story's moments of triumph sound the loudest notes."
“The story is a snapshot of the Civil Rights Movement and a great discussion starter about the state of race relations in the United States today.”
Bernard is a born die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. Despite the discrimination they face at the ball field, Bernard and his family attend games to cheer on the Red Sox and any African American players on the opposing teams.
In 1959, many Major League Baseball teams have been integrated. Jackie Robinson has even retired from the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yet Bernard and his family wait for the Red Sox to call up their first African American player.
The team struggles through much of the season before finally adding Pumpsie Green in July. Bernard’s entire family attends Pumpsie’s first home game at Fenway Park. The event is a triumph for the team, for Bernard, and for the African American fans who have waited for this historic moment.
“Waiting for Pumpsie” tells the story of one boy’s hopes for the Boston Red Sox to integrate their team. While focusing on Bernard, Wittenstein gracefully layers the story with the broader context of race relations and African Americans’ struggle for civil rights in the twentieth century. The book steers clear of preaching and instead builds empathy and gives readers the opportunity to ask the right questions about justice and equality.
Most of the characters’ experiences are conveyed through the details of London Ladd’s acrylic and colored pencil illustrations. Ladd’s skill truly shines by giving life to the athletes in the book. They look as though they’ve been captured mid-motion and will soon resume their actions.
This book will be a great resource with a fresh perspective for Black History Month or as a thematic read to commemorate the beginning of the baseball season.
Recommended for school and public libraries.
“I didn’t see the usual batch of baseball picture books this spring, but Barry Wittenstein’s Waiting for Pumpsie would be a standout in any year. The main character Bernard is fictional, but the events surrounding the 1959 Red Sox debut of Elijah “Pumpsie” Green are true. Although Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947, twelve seasons later the Boston Red Sox had never fielded a black player. Then in 1959 Pumpsie Green was ready to move from the minor leagues to the Red Sox.
Waiting for Pumpsie is the story of how Bernard and his family, and other black Red Sox fans, first wait for the level of Pumpsie’s minor league play to develop into major-league readiness. They they wait for him to join the team. Then they wait for him to get in a game, which happens in a road game they listen to on the radio. Finally, they wait for Pumpsie to take his place on the field at Fenway Park, and his first at-bat. All this waiting has an emotional pull that lets readers know what it was like for black Americans to await each step toward integration. Racist taunts at Fenway Park are directed at both Bernard’s family and Pumpsie, and those examples of ignorance also have emotional resonance.
Waiting for Pumpsie gets the baseball elements right, both visually and in the text. More importantly, Waiting for Pumpsie shows how America’s pastime served as a microcosm of America’s gradual civil rights progress.” Five Stars.
“This book blew me away and that’s rare, especially for a book about baseball.
WAITING FOR PUMPSIE is set in Boston in 1959 on the cusp of Major League Baseball history. The Boston Red Sox fans are anticipating the first black player, Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, being called up to the majors and no one is more excited than a little boy named Bernard. Barry Wittenstein tells this story with the perfect blend of suspense, grace, and love. He tackles the very real issues of race relations and discrimination head on through the fictional experiences of Bernard. Indeed, Wittenstein elegantly blends historical fact with his story of a eager boy and his loving family. The racism and frustration this family experiences are not glossed over but rather sit alongside the optimism and joy that Pumpsie represents.
The culmination is a moment on a hot, summer day in a baseball park that no one that was there, or that reads this story, will never forget.”
"Jackie Robinson may have broken the color barrier in baseball, but that doesn’t mean that integration of the sport was easy. This fictionalized account of Boston Red Sox player Elijah Green shows just how difficult it was, and also how important." Reviewer: Devon Corneal
"Kids could easily get the impression that after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier it was smooth sailing for African-Americans in baseball. This book shoots down that myth elegantly and well." Reviewer: Betsy Bird
"Baseball fan or not this is an AMAZING book. I almost didn’t review this one when Charlesbridge offered it because I’m not really a baseball fan (Sorry Dad. Hides in shame.) but I’m so glad I did.
In my opinion this is one of the most well written books of the year. It is the story of a little boy waiting for the very first black baseball player (Pumpsie) to get moved up to the majors of his beloved Boston Red Sox. It is the perfect blend of history and characters and honesty and hope. So well done. Please read."