Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson (Sharon Robinson)

Author:  Sharon Robinson

Illustrator:  Kadir Nelson

Target Ages:  4 and up

Genre:  Biographical Picture Book

Publisher Summary:
When Jackie Robinson moves his family from New York City to Connecticut, the beautiful lake on their property is the center of everyone’s fun.  The neighborhood children join the Robinson kids for swimming and boating.  But oddly, Jackie never goes near the water.

In a dramatic episode that first winter, Jackie is called upon to test the ice on the lake to make sure it’s safe for ice-skating.  But why, Sharon wonders, is he always so afraid to go near the water?

First Lines:
The year was 1955. 
Dad was in his ninth season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and for the third time in four years, they faced the New York Yankees in the World Series!

Memorable Moment:
In fact, Dad showed the same courage on the ice that day as he did when he broke the color barrier in baseball.  No one really knew what would happen.  But he felt his way along an untried path—like a blind man tapping for clues.

That was Jackie Robinson.  And that was my dad.  Big, heavy, out there alone on the lake, testing the ice to be sure it would be safe for us.

And he did it—even though he couldn’t swim!  

This non-linear story begins with 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers World Series win. 

Then it moves back a year to when Jackie Robinson moved his family out to the country for more privacy and family time. The idyllic scenes depict Robinson as a loving and devoted family man. 

Next, the story falls further back in time several years to when he was in the Negro Baseball League, and later recruited by the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Readers learn about his bravery, perseverance, and dedication. 

Finally, the heart of the story comes into focus as his daughter recounts Robinson’s courage as he went out on the ice, despite his own fears, to keep his children safe. His devotion as a father is inspirational.  

The contrast of the professional player with the personal man provides a fuller view of the legend.  It is refreshing to see a personal life of a public figure that is as worthy of praise as his professional life.  

The wonder of this story is furthered in the stunning paintings by Kadir Nelson.  He has a true gift for capturing the beauty of humanity—both the external and the internal. Nelson knows when to depict a sweeping view and when to give his characters their close up.  The facial expressions and thrilling actions bring this family recollection in full vivid glory. 

Testing the Ice:  A True Story About Jackie Robinson is a loving tribute to the revered baseball hero.  This snap shot story further solidifies his reputation as a hero—both in sports and in life.

Historical Connections:
Jackie Robinson
Negro Baseball League—We Are the Ship (Book Connection) 
Civil Rights Movement


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