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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

42 Is Not Just a Number, written by Doreen Rappaport. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"As they talked, Jackie grew vaguely aware that the crowd at the station had not thinned. Black and white people were milling about, trying to get a closer look at him. Then it dawned on him: these people were hanging around to see the man who was taking on the challenge of breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. That settled it - he wouldn't quit the team. He couldn't quit the team."

When Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball, reactions ran the gamut from outrage to great respect. Racism had raised its ugly head for much of Jackie's life and this turning point did not change that.

Thanks to Doreen Rappaport's careful research, readers are privy to the events that shaped Jackie's character, beginning in 1927, at age eight. She carefully and chronologically shares the events of a life spent in the Army, in the Negro Leagues, and through his rise to fame with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Through it all, Jackie struggled to control his feelings, to show patience and perseverance, and to take the high road with courage and support from others.

There are 21 chapters, each chronicling the years from 1927 until 1997, years after his 1972 death. On April 15, 1997, exactly fifty years after he played his first Major League baseball game, President Bill Clinton told the crowd at a Mets-Dodgers game:

"... Jackie Robinson scored the go-ahead run that day;
we've all been trying to catch up ever since ... If Jackie
Robinson were here today, he would say we have done a lot
of good in the last fifty years,, but we could do a lot better."

We can all say Amen to that! It seems there is still a way to go. Sharing this book in a middle years classroom affords students a chance to think seriously about this courageous athlete who stood strong when others would have given up, who spoke out about injustice when few were willing to do the same, and who led by example by being the best person he could be.  Hopefully, sharing it will encourage some students to want to know even more about Jackie and his career.

Vividly portrayed, the author shows us that Jackie Robinson was a man worthy of our admiration for much more than his baseball career. An author’s note, timeline, extensive source notes, bibliography, and index are included.

If this book piqued interest, be sure to find a copy of Jackie's daughter Sharon's Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America (Scholastic, 2004).

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