Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Testing the Ice: A True Story about Jackie Robinson (ages 5 - 9)

I especially love sharing picture book biographies with young children.  They are intrigued by the real stories, and the best of these books push students to think about bigger issues.  Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson, is a wonderful, stirring picture book by Sharon Robinson and Kadir Nelson that shares the story of Jackie Robinson with a young audience.  Would you like to win a free copy?  See below for details.
Testing The Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson
by Sharon Robinson
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
NY: Scholastic Press, 2009
ages 5 - 10
Sharon Robinson, daughter of famed baseball player Jackie Robinson, wrote this book to teach kids about her father, but she focuses on a personal memory of her childhood to illustrate her father's strength and courage.  With beautiful skill, Ms. Robinson draws us into her childhood memory of her father's achievements in baseball, but then she quickly focuses on moving to a lakeside home in Connecticut. Young readers learn about the Negro League through stories that her father told her friends.  The children "all sat there wide-eyed, listening to his every word."

When her father retired from baseball after the 1956 season, Sharon remembers spending more time together as a family, playing in the lake by their home.  But her dad always found an excuse not to get in the water.  The climax of the book happens that winter, when the children beg to go ice skating.  The children watch Jackie venture onto the ice, and Sharon suddenly realizes -- her father doesn't know how to swim! Will he be OK?  But Sharron's horror changes to relief as Jackie bravely taps his way to the middle of the lake -- and declare it safe!

Not only does Ms. Robinson share a childhood memory, but she effectively builds a metaphor for breaking the color barrier.   As she said in an interview on National Public Radio, "[This story] so perfectly defines Jackie Robinson the athlete, Jackie Robinson the husband, the father, the loving, the courageous, the caring," she says. "I wanted children to understand the totality of this man and how consistent he was in both his public persona and his personal one."

The artwork by Kadir Nelson is at once inspiring and intimate.  Nelson's pictures draw children into both what it would feel like to be a child in Robinson's family, but also some of the iconic images of the Robinson as a baseball player. Nelson particularly wanted to portray Jackie Robinson from the perspective of the children looking up to him.  "He's like a father of a generation," he told Sharon Robinson.

Does this book intrigue you? The publisher has offered 5 free copies. Contest ends Thursday, October 28th.  All you need to do to enter is:

* Enter a comment on the blog OR send me an email to greatkidbooks(at)gmail(dot)com  Make sure you leave your email address so I can contact you

* Let me know a book you've enjoyed reading with your children

Get 2 extra entries: tell friends about Testing the Ice -- either email friends, post on Facebook or Twitter, and link to Great Kid Books!

Get 2 extra entries: become a follower or tell me you're already a follower!

The review copy came from the publisher.  Stop by your local bookstore to find a copy, or find it at your local library.

This books is available online at Amazon. If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review. If you have an older child (ages 9 & up) who's a baseball fan, you should also check out We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League, by Kadir Nelson.  It won last year's Coretta Scott King author Award, and the Siebert Award for Informational Book.  It's available in hardback for only $7.60, an amazing price for a spectacular book.


  1. Kelly Alexander, a 4th grade teacher, wrote me to say that she does a unit on Jackie Robinson. She'd love to enter for a copy of the book!

  2. Tontra Love, a wonderful teacher and friend, has said that she'd love to enter for a copy of this book.

  3. I just received a kind email from Allison Williams, of the Collegiate School in Richmond, VA.

    "Would love to win a copy of Testing the Ice for my library. I already follow you on twitter so put in those extra entries!"

    This is a beautiful book, and would make a wonderful addition to a school library. Thanks for entering, Allison!


    "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
    Frederick Douglass

  4. With my own children, I love reading "Abiyoyo" and "Justin and the best biscuits in the world".
    I recently heard Robinson's daughter on NPR and think this book would be a great book for my 5-12 school media center. Thanks for the opportunity! I'm following you!

  5. Sorry...i'm following with my google ID: edicampbell

  6. Another email from baseball fan, Hatti:
    We are huge Corvallis Knights fans. They are in a summer league where college players go to these small towns and play each other like they are in the majors. Really fun! Contests in between every inning, kids can run the bases after every game, cheap... :-) All good.

    We would love to enter the chance to win a Jackie Robinson book. thanks

  7. I would love to be entered please. I know a little boy who would love this book. Thank you for the opportunity


  8. Oops.. forgot to let you know. We enjoy the Sneetches by Dr. Seuss. Great Book.


  9. Hi, I just became a follower on Twitter.

    My son would love this book. He is in love with baseball and is always thrilled to learn facts about the baseball greats. He currently is reading the Slugger books (fiction.

    I love to read to my children. We are big fans of The Giving Tree and Where the Wild Things are.

    I am in the process of trying to have my first middle-grade novel published and hope one day that they will love reading books by their mommy.

    Thanks for the contest. I hope to win.


  10. We were so excited to see this at our book fair this past week: unfortunately we weren't able to get a copy.

    I'd love to win a copy and pair it with both We Are The Ship and Carole Boston Weatherford's wonderful Champions on the bench: the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars. I'm thinking of doing all three as baseball read-alouds... maybe spring training!

    Of course, we're also doing a Kadir Nelson illustrator study this year, so I'd love to add this one as well.

  11. Oh, me and my children have lots of books we enjoy reading together. :) One they love is "The Day Leo Said I Hate You!"'s a great lesson about how words can hurt! :)

    thecountryblossom AT hotmail DOT com

  12. Kareem Jabaar Weaver, a friend who's a vice principal in Oakland, wrote:
    "Yes, I would like to enter. Sounds great.
    Also, I have a recommendation for you. A book I got today from an education coach. It's called, "Secrets, Lies, and Algebra"

    It uses a fictional, compelling story to make algebraic concepts understandable for kids. Awesome book. Simple, easy read for middle schoolers. Good 5th grade readers would enoy it too. Shoot, 9th graders would also love it.

    written by wendy lichtman "

    Thanks, Kareem for the recommendation! I just requested this at the library!

  13. Amy wrote to say that she'd love this for her son and daughter. Jackie Robinson is an inspiration to their family.

  14. i want to read this book and sharon robinson i am a 7th grader writing a report on your dearest most loved by many father he is the person i chose for the report of most significant event in history
    -Kassandra Barajas Gomez