Mo’Ne Davis: Remember My Name by Mo’Ne Davis with Hilary Beard (Harper, 2015)
What are the big take-aways?
An unusual autobiography written by a teenager, Remember My Name tells the first-hand story about how an African-American girl from inner-city Philadelphia was discovered (at the age of 7) for her throwing arm, was drafted into the Monarchs basketball team, and became (at the age of 13) the first female pitcher to win a game in the Little League World Series last summer.
In her introduction, Mo’Ne writes (pp. 2-3):
One hot August night that summer, I, Mo’Ne – a girl who loves Disney movies, is afraid of the dark, and keeps change in her baseball pants pocket for good luck – stood on the pitcher’s mound in front of 34,950 people and five million people from around the world who were watching on TV….The fact that I was so calm under pressure and struck out so many boys amazed a lot of adults. It made people see girls in a different light, and turned me into a role model overnight. All of a sudden people started to recognize me, want my autograph, and remember my name.
Why do I like it?
Since I was forced to write off my beloved Boston Red Sox for the post-season this year (although I still listen to nearly every game on the radio and will continue to do so through our last contest, an away game against the Cleveland Indians on October 4th), I decided to pick up a happier baseball story to read in August, and I’m glad I did.
I like Remember My Name because it seems to have been genuinely written or told by Mo’Ne herself, in the voice of a smart but otherwise average kid with a kid’s interests, who also happens to be a gifted athlete. Further, I like that inspiring examples of leadership abound in her narrative, beginning of course with Mo’Ne’s own passionate choice to pursue a special opportunity to play basketball (basketball is her first love, even though what she is famous for is baseball) at the tender age of seven. But then there’s her mother’s difficult decision to let her play, followed by the extraordinary commitment the entire family made to investing in Mo’Ne’s future, as well as that of the boys on her team who accepted and encouraged and stuck up for her. One of the most intriguing leaders in the book remains mostly in the background (by his request, I suspect): the Monarchs’ visionary “Coach Steve,” who set Mo’Ne’s career in motion by seeing something special in her and acting on it. If leadership is a commitment to influence the behavior of others in order to realize a future that represents a significant change from the present, there is a lot of it demonstrated by Mo’Ne – and the kids and adults around her – in this book.
In what situations would this be useful?
I’d wholeheartedly recommend this book as a story of hope to adults of all ages and backgrounds, any kids who can read and have an interest in sports and/or leadership, and especially to lower-income kids of color. I’m going to lend it to my sister who is a 6th grade school teacher, and I’ll be curious to see if she also thinks her kids – my 10-year-old twin nieces – might like it. Leaders who enjoy sports and/or unique sports narratives would derive a lot of meaning from Remember My Name, as would leadership coaches, family or parenting coaches, grade-school teachers everywhere, and of course athletic coaches.
What other resources might “pair” well with it?
In honor of how much Jackie Robinson means to Mo’Ne (she touchingly thanks him in her Acknowledgments), I’d recommend the movie “42” as a nice pairing with this book, as well as any biographical material that piques your interest about Marian Anderson, who is another key role model of Mo-Ne’s. I also learned from Mo’Ne about Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, a woman I’d never heard of who pitched in the Negro Leagues (including, for a time, on the same team with Hank Aaron), who predicts – to the delight of Mo’Ne – that she will become the first woman player in the MLB.