________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 13 . . . . November 28, 2014


Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Color Line in Baseball. (Crabtree Groundbreaking Biographies).

Matt J. Simmons.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2014.
112 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & html, $14.95 (pbk.), $31.19 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-1244-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-1242-8 (RLB.), ISBN 978-1-4271-7482-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4271-1571-3 (html).

Subject Headings:
Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972-Juvenile literature.
Baseball players-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
African American baseball players-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Thomas Chambers.

***½ /4



At Fort Riley, segregation was worse than ever. Jackie was once again refused a spot on the baseball team. He was asked to join the football team, but he quit when other bases refused to play Fort Riley on the grounds that they had a black player on the team. Across the country, even as the military was fighting racism and oppression overseas, racial tensions were running higher than ever. In some parts of the country, black servicemen were being harassed, attacked, and in some places killed off base by white civilians and law enforcement personnel. As morale officer to a group of black soldiers serving a deeply segregated nation in a deeply segregated Army, Jackie was kept busy. His position with the men wasn't helped by the fact that his own feelings were so conflicted about his role in the military.

Jackie Robinson is the biography of Robinson, the first black man to play baseball in the major leagues. The book is also the story of an outstanding athlete of great courage who faced considerable hatred and discrimination because of his race. His story will be an inspiration to anyone who has suffered discrimination. Prior to Robinson's playing in the majors, black men could only play baseball for black teams. All sports and indeed all aspects of life in the United States, even the Army, were segregated. The worst discrimination was in the southern states where public washrooms, drinking fountains, restaurants, hotels, in fact everything, were restricted. It was against the law for a black person to ride in the front of a bus. It was into this deeply divided society that Robinson broke the colour barrier by playing baseball first with Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team, in 1946 and then in 1947 with the Dodgers of the National League.

      Robinson was no ordinary athlete. It was only because of his unusual talent that he was able to play in a league previously restricted to white men. He became a star, one of the best players of his day and, in the process, he won the support of many players and fans, white and black alike. After his baseball career, Robinson took a major role in the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where he helped reduce the racial barriers in America and in doing so improved the lot of black men and women whose career aspirations were limited because of their race.

      Jackie Robinson has an index and a "Further Information" section which includes books, videos/DVDs and Websites. It also has a "Glossary" which is a very useful teaching aid because it includes such words as bigotry, plantation and segregation. There is a "Chronology" from Robinson's birth in 1919 to 2013 when a film of his first year with the Dodgers was released. The book is illustrated throughout with many decorative black and white photographs. It has six chapters of varying lengths from seven to nineteen pages. An interesting and useful feature is the use of sidebars to broaden the importance of Robinson's breakthrough in professional baseball. One sidebar, for example, discusses "Racial Segregation and Jim Crow Laws", the laws in the southern US states which made segregation legal. If discrimination is being discussed in a school classroom, Jackie Robinson would be useful as classroom support, otherwise it is an excellent book for recreational reading. It is an accurate account of Robinson's life and, to a lesser extent, of the civil rights movement. The language and style are appropriate for the intended readership.

      Matt J. Simmons, the author of Jackie Robinson, is a writer and photographer who has written extensively of British Columbia's landscapes. He is the author of The Outsider's Guide to Prince Rupert. This is his first book for juveniles.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas Chambers, an author and retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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