Just Like Josh Gibson

Written by: Angela Johnson Illustrated by: Beth Peck

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations

Before your child learns about the legacy of Josh Gibson, discuss any observations and predictions your child may have. Ask questions like:

Make Observations.

What do you notice on the cover?

What are the people on the cover doing?

Make Predictions.

Who do you think the little girl is? What about the man?

What do you think this story will be about?

Ask About Your Child's Interests.

Do you like baseball? Why or why not? What do you know about the game?

What do you want to learn about baseball, the girl and Josh Gibson?

{If your child doesn't know how baseball is played, you can give a very brief description of the game.}


Historical Figure

Ask your child if s/he knows who Josh Gibson is. Tell him/her that he was a famous African American baseball player that was known for batting with incredible speed and strength. Explain that in the 1940s, black people couldn't play in the Major League so they had to play in their own league. There is more information on Josh Gibson in the back of the book. As you are describing the story and reading the descriptions with your child, if you find that you would like to refrain from using the term "Negro", you can instead use the term "Black" or "African American".

As You Read

Baseball Phrases

There are several baseball expressions in this story like "stealing home" and "sliding into second" so be sure that your child understands each phrase so that s/he can have a better idea of what is happening in the story. 

Vocabulary Building

Be sure to pull out specific vocabulary words and ask him/her to discover their meanings using the illustrations and words around them. Examples of new words in this story include:



Making Connections

As Grandmama tells her granddaughter about her love of baseball, she also discusses how she wasn't able to play in her cousin's league because she was a girl. Ask your child if s/he has ever felt left out because s/he was different. Ask, "How do you think Grandmama felt when she wasn't allowed to play baseball with the boys? Have you ever felt left out because you were different? How did you feel? What did you do?"

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret

Discuss the story with your child, as well as what s/he took away from it by asking questions like these:

Talk About the Story.

Who was Josh Gibson?

Why did Grandmama start learning how to play baseball?

Why couldn't she play with the local baseball team?

How was she "just like Josh Gibson"?

Talk About Now vs. Then. 

How are baseball teams different now from when Grandmama was little?

How are they the same?

Activity: Play Bottle Catch

Inspired by: Yahoo Voices

Supplies: a baseball or small ball, two milk jugs, and scissors


Have some fun playing this fun version of catch.

  1. Take the milk jugs and cut off the bottom half of each. Turn the top half upside down and use it as a catcher.
  2. Start off by having your child try to throw the ball up in the air and catch it in his/her own catcher.
  3. Once s/he has the hang of it, get your own catcher and play catch. Start close to each other and then work your way apart from each other after a few catches.

STEM Extension

Add some counting and math into your activity. During the game, keep count of how many catches you each make, and determine that you will move further from each other after ____ catches. 

See how many catches you can get in a row without dropping the ball and record the highest number on a chart at home. Each time you play the game, record how many catches you get in a row and then compare how you did with the last time you played by subtracting the numbers. You can also keep a count of the total number of catches you've made over several games by adding all of the figures together.

See For Yourself!

Check out this video by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum honoring Josh Gibson for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, including images as well as short clips from his games.