Review of The United States v. Jackie Robinson

The United States v. Jackie Robinson
by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen; illus. by R. Gregory Christie
Primary    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    40 pp.
1/18    978-0-06-228784-7    $17.99

“Long before anyone had heard of Rosa Parks, a guy named Jack refused to move to the back of the bus.” So begins the story of baseball star Jackie Robinson…before he was a baseball star. In leading up to the book’s central incident — when 2nd Lieutenant Jack Robinson (not yet called Jackie) refused to move to the back of an army post bus in 1944 — the author relates how his mother, Mallie, taught him by word and by example “to stand up for what was right, even when that was difficult to do.” And Jack got a lot of practice. When he was growing up in Pasadena, California, the Robinsons were the only black family on his street, and white neighbors petitioned to get them to leave. Playing football for UCLA, he would be targeted for hard hits, even by his own teammates during practice. In the army, black soldiers had separate barracks. The text relates Robinson’s many accomplishments, but always with the refrain “but people still saw him only as a black man.” Though the story ends as Robinson’s baseball career begins (he played in the Negro Leagues before breaking baseball’s “color line” in 1947 to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers), this well-told biography is complemented by Christie’s dramatic expressionistic gouache illustrations, which offer a visual narrative that extends the text. The red, white, and blue jacket and endpapers emphasize that, for better or worse, this is an American story. Appended with a detailed timeline, an author’s note, and a brief bibliography.

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

To commemorate Black History Month, we are highlighting a series of articles, speeches, and reviews from The Horn Book archive that are by and/or about African American authors, illustrators, and luminaries in the field — one a day through the month of February, with a roundup on Fridays. Click the tag HBBlackHistoryMonth18 and look for #HBBlackHistoryMonth18 on and @HornBook. You can find more resources about social justice and activism at our Talking About Race and Making a Difference resource pages.

The Horn Book celebrates Black History Month
Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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