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The United States v. Jackie Robinson
2018
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  New York Times Review

How should adults present the grave injustices throughout black history to young readers? Biographies can help. HISTORY IS A STORY like any other, but black history is a story so devoid of logic that it frustrates the young reader. The young readers in my house, told of slavery and segregation, asked in disbelief: "What? Why?" We - the parents of black children, the parents of all children - still need to tell that story. It comforts the adult conscience to remember that amid history's grave injustices there were still great lives. Hence, I suspect, the preponderance of biographies for children published to coincide with Black History Month. Among that genre's newest arrivals are names familiar to adults, as in THE UNITED STATES V. JACKIE ROBINSON (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99, ages 4 to 8), written by Sudipta BardhanQuallen. This picture book is more interested in young Robinson's less-known act of resistance during his Army days than in his later, trailblazing career as a baseball player. It's nice to have an athlete celebrated for personal integrity over physical prowess, and R. Gregory Christie's pictures bolster this, evoking a Robinson who is strong and sure, but also smiling, warm, and ultimately, triumphant. Ella Fitzgerald is more than a familiar name; understanding this, Helen Hancocks has called her new picture book ELLA QUEEN OF JAZZ (Frances Lincoln Children's Books/Quarto, $17.99; ages 4 to 8). Hancocks's illustrations are superb - bright and suitably retro in style. But her tale takes a turn that is not the one Fitzgerald deserves. The focus is mostly on how Fitzgerald's friendship with Marilyn Monroe helped her career, and the movie star, alas, upstages the singer. BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET (Holiday House, $17.95; ages 4 to 8) is a straightforward picture-book biography of the exceptional Harriet Ttibman. In minimalist verse, Lesa Cline-Ransome begins with the woman in her dotage, then walks readers back through her years as suffragist, spy and liberator - but also, importantly, as a woman who simply wanted to be free. James E. Ransome's lovely watercolor illustrations capture Ttibman's daring, her joy and her dignity. Sandra Neil Wallace's BETWEEN THE LINES: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Football Field to the Art Gallery (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, $17.99; ages 4 to 8), illustrated by Bryan Collier, is a beautiful testament to a quintessentially American life. Wallace and Collier celebrate both Barnes's success on the gridiron and his subsequent reinvention as an artist. As in "The United States v. Jackie Robinson," athleticism is a secondary concern; early on, we see the young Barnes in a museum, wondering where the black painters are, and the story ends with contemporary young museumgoers being shown Barnes's art. This choice makes the story so satisfying, and just what you want at bedtime. In LET THE CHILDREN MARCH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, $17.99; ages 6 to 9) Monica Clark-Robinson tells one girl's story of the 1963 children's march on Birmingham. Frank Morrison's illustrations are loose and modern in spirit, enlivening the history lesson. It's understandable to want to channel Martin Luther King Jr.'s oratorical gifts when writing about him, but sometimes the metaphors strain. Still, the book's message is clear and bracing: King understood that it's children who will lead the way, and the man's faith in the future is reassuring even now. Two biographical compendiums, Vashti Harrison's LITTLE LEADERS: Bold Women in Black History (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99; ages 8 to 12) and Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins's YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK (Wide Eyed Editions/Quarto, $22.99; ages 7 to 10) are, by contrast, not bedtime reading but texts that belong in any home library, to be revisited again and again. Wilson's book celebrates a variety of black achievement; there are biographical sketches of Kofi Annan and Stevie Wonder, Solange Knowles and Naomi Campbell, accompanied by Andrea Pippins's illustrations, full of verve but also quite dignified. The candy-colored pages and straightforward stories are hard to resist, and will doubtless forever shape the way many readers think about Wangari Maathai and Langston Hughes. Harrison's book focuses on great black women, and it's lovely to see Lorna Simpson and Gwen Ifill ascend to the ranks of Marian Anderson and Bessie Coleman. Harrison wants readers to imagine themselves in such august company; her adorable illustrations depict all of these figures as a little black girl, an everygirl, in a variety of costumes and backdrops. Harrison and Wilson have similar projects. But which book is better? I'd like to point out that my sons own around 40 volumes on the subject of trucks. Young readers deserve both these books. FOR OLDER READERS The person most qualified to tell the tale of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the man himself, as gifted an intellect as he is an athlete. Written with Raymond Obstfeld, his autobiography, BECOMING KAREEM: Growing Up On and Off the Court (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99; ages 10 and up) is aimed at middle grade readers but could and should be read aloud to younger kids. It's a tale by a wise elder - about basketball, sure, but also about cultural, political, social and religious awakenings, big stuff narrated in a very accessible way. MARTIN RISING: Requiem for a King (Scholastic, $19.99; ages 9 to 12) is a collaboration by two of children's literature's most well-known names, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney (who happen to be married). It's a work of verse, with some prose end matter to help elucidate the poems, and it will reward a reader sophisticated enough to grapple with language and metaphor. Andrea Davis Pinkney frames her poem cycle about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s last months with the figure of Henny Penny, the bird who either worried or prophesied, and she makes King's death feel as significant as the falling of the sky above. It is, of course, a terrible and sad story, but one in which Brian Pinkney's illustrations manage to find beauty. King is an evergreen subject, so significant and complex that the story of his life and death can withstand repeated tellings. James L. Swanson's CHASING KING'S KILLER: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin (Scholastic, $19.99; ages 12 and up) is a departure, less classroom text than airport thriller. It's a bit like sneaking kale into brownies: Swanson offers plenty of context on King's activism and his turbulent times, but frames the book as a manhunt for James Earl Ray. This approach makes education feel more like entertainment, and will prove seductive to even a reluctant older reader. My children are too young, yet, for Swanson's thriller and the Pinkneys' elegiac tribute, or maybe I simply want to believe that they are. They have a lifetime of reading ahead, particularly if they are to meet Dr. King's expectations for them. For now, my boys can suspend disbelief and accept that Pippi Longstocking can lift a horse and plays with pistols. But they won't be able to believe what happened to Dr. King in Memphis. Who among us can? RUMAAN alam is the author of two novels, "Rich and Pretty" and "That Kind of Mother," which will be published next month.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Before he made baseball history, Jackie Robinson fought segregation in the U.S. Army. Bardhan-Quallen (Brobot Bedtime) focuses on Robinson's acts of resistance, including his refusal to give up his seat on a military bus, for which he was court martialed: "He was one of the first black Americans to challenge a segregation law in court. And he won." The story jumps from this victory to Robinson's post-Army life, as he played baseball with the Negro League Monarchs, minor league Royals, and Brooklyn Dodgers, where he cemented his legacy as the first African-American major leaguer. Raw, sweeping brushstrokes bring a sense of extemporaneous energy to Christie's gouache paintings. Readers who only associate Robinson with the baseball diamond will recognize how his success depended as much on his perseverance as his batting average. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Rachell Orr, Prospect Agency. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-Bordhan-Quallen does not mince words when retelling how Jackie Robinson, not yet the iconic ball player, was arrested and subject to a court-martial when he was in the army for sitting at the front of a bus. The author reiterates throughout that many white people "didn't see an officer in the United States Army. They only saw a black man." In Christie's acrylic gouache painted illustrations, Robinson is usually placed in the center, surrounded by often-angry white faces. Christie elegantly shows readers a visual representation of how Robinson must have felt everyday-different, out of place, resented. A substantial amount of back matter reinforces the storylike narrative. Bordhan-Quallen includes a time line of the history of segregation in the United States along with Robinson's life, in addition to a bibliography. An author's note with commentary on the importance of standing up for what's right is also included. VERDICT There are many biographies on Jackie Robinson, but this is a worthy addition that focuses on a period of his life before baseball.-Kerri Williams, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
<p>A moving and inspiring nonfiction picture book about Jackie Robinson's court martial trial--an important lesser-known moment in his lifetime of fighting prejudice with strength and grace--from author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and award-winning illustrator R. Gregory Christie. Perfect for fans of Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, The Story of Ruby Bridges, and Martin's Big Words.</p> <p>Jackie Robinson broke boundaries as the first African American player in Major League Baseball. But long before Jackie changed the world in a Dodger uniform, he did it in an army uniform.</p> <p>As a soldier during World War II, Jackie experienced segregation every day--separate places for black soldiers to sit, to eat, and to live. When the army outlawed segregation on military posts and buses, things were supposed to change.</p> <p>So when Jackie was ordered by a white bus driver to move to the back of a military bus, he refused. Instead of defending Jackie's rights, the military police took him to trial. But Jackie would stand up for what was right, even when it was difficult to do.</p>
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