The story of an exceptional man.
Jackie Robinson was an exceptional man, and in 42 Is Not Just a Number, Doreen Rappaport shows readers why he should certainly be celebrated for not only his baseball prowess, but also for his strength of character. Although the book is brief, it succeeds in that mission.
Rappaport brings Jackie Robinson to life by focusing on his childhood, his family, and the struggles he faced growing up in the 1920s and 30s as a strong willed child of color in the days of segregation. Jackie faced injustices everywhere he went, and he fought them in every way he could. Rappaport does a fine job of showing how Jackie Robinson challenged the status quo whenever he faced adversity in the educational system, in the military, and in everyday life. And her portrayal of Jackie-the-fighter offers an excellent backdrop for the time when Jackie was forced to fight, not with words or fists, but with silence and restraint when he became the first black man to play baseball in the major leagues.
42 Is Not Just a Number highlights some fascinating facts about Robinson and his family, and its short chapters help keep the story moving. Although the book is a brief 128 pages, there is a lot of history crammed into it. That said, it would have benefited from some fleshing out of these real-life characters. The second to last chapter highlights the 1947 “Subway Series” between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, and although Jackie Robinson played for almost ten more years after that, the book ends somewhat abruptly with a final brief chapter that details the final accolades for the man. I know that I was left wanting more, and I suspect young readers who are pulled into Jackie’s story by the narrative up until that final chapter will be disappointed in the lackluster conclusion. I’d also love to see some photos (the cover is great, and the only photo offered)… I’m a firm believer that every non-fiction book targeting youth should be filled with photographs to help illustrate the “realness” of the people and/or events portrayed.
Overall, I recommend 42 Is Not Just a Number for baseball fans and as a supplementary book for middle grades units on civil rights.
My thanks to YA Books Central and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Great supplementary material for lesson plans on civil rights