‘I Am Jackie Robinson’ by Brad Meltzer: Great nonfiction picture book

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Rating: 5 stars

What a piece of work is…Jackie Robinson. And we can proclaim the same about this wonderful kids’ book which traces his life and career: “I Am Jackie Robinson.”

Author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulas have come up with a minor masterpiece in a major league biography. In simple. straightforward language and pictures, they recount the terrific struggle against life-long long odds and the almost unimaginable triumph — and courage — of a man who became an icon and a symbol for his people. Jackie’s whole life, and the major theme of this bio, is simply “You, too, can make it, and you, too can lead the way.”

The author has really done his homework. He recounts stories that even long-time Robinson fans have probably not heard — stories about his hard-scrabble childhood, the strength and goodness of his mother, the constant struggle against bigotry, racism, and undiluted hatred — all because he was different. He was black in a white man’s world.

Many of his accomplishments are near-incredible, literally hard to believe. He was a star in every sport in which he participated, at every level; as the first black man in professional and major league baseball, he approached each game with a spirit of derring-do, no-holds-barred confidence and other-worldly skill. And his success was achieved in the face of the same hatred and spite — even among his own teammates — that had characterized his whole life’s struggle.

And courage! The courage to refuse to physically fight back, the self-discipline to use as a weapon the only one available to him — his surpassing talent.

All of this is boldly, excitingly, and entertainingly recounted in “I Am Jackie Robinson.” Apologies for the cliche, but it applies here if it has ever applied anywhere: Meltzer and Eliopoulos have hit a home run. A grand slam.

Other books in the “Ordinary People Change the World” series include: “I Am Amelia Earhart,” “I Am Albert Einstein,” “I Am Rosa Parks,” and “I Am Abraham Lincoln.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Dial Books for Young Readers for review purposes. (JK)