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42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of…
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42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero

by Doreen Rappaport

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
42 IS NOT JUST A NUMBER is a compelling sports biography for upper elementary and junior high readers. It recounts the life of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in the Major Leagues. It deals with his youth quickly, setting a context for the discrimination he faces, and then concentrates on his years playing baseball. There’s a short denouement to wrap up his story: his induction into the Major League Hall of Fame, his death in 1972, and a celebration in 1997 that marked his courage in daring to play ball in an openly racist setting.

What I particularly admired about this book is that it doesn’t pull punches. It uses some of the language Robinson encountered (although offensive, what’s captured in the book is much milder than what Robinson would have lived with virtually every day of his life) and describes the violence and hatred that characterized the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. Many adults would like to think things are better now, and in some respects they are; but many students — particularly black students — will recognize the complex racism that persists today. This book is, sadly, still timely and relevant; it arrives at a moment when it may do some valuable work for young readers of all backgrounds.

The book is thoughtfully constructed for readers with lower literacy. The chapters are short and cleanly presented. The author has provided notes and a bibliography, and the book is supported by an index. All in all, a smart, accessible package.

I hope 42 IS NOT JUST A NUMBER is widely adopted by school and public libraries, particularly in those areas where librarians believe their patrons won’t read a book like this. This is exactly the kind of book for a trusted adult to hand a struggling reader and perhaps make a positive difference in a reader’s life. It’s a strong and important book. ( )
  laVermeer | Oct 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed this book as it was a short and to-the-point biography about Jackie Robinson. The chapters are short, but filled with a lot of poignant information about his life. His ability to overcome the hardships in his life are evident and emphasized throughout I think it is the perfect length for a middle schooler. This book will surely engage the reader and motivate them to research his life further. As another reader pointed out, adding pictures should be considered. ( )
  KWROLSEN | Sep 16, 2017 |
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. ( )
  kalky | Sep 6, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this as a part of LibraryThing's early giveaways. This is a great introductory biography to the storied life of Jackie Robinson. The writing is a little stiff at the beginning, but explains highlights of Jackie's life quite well. Since this book is geared towards the middle grades, I would have expected pictures to go along with the text. Maybe it will be added in in the finished edition? The notes and added bibliographies are a great resource for kids that are interested in learning more about Jackie and baseball history.

Definitely recommend for 5-8th graders. ( )
  EllAreBee | Aug 26, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Award winning author Donna Rappaport writes a strong biography about Jackie Robinson. Short chapters and only 128 pages make this a good paperback to put in the hands of students who are interested in sports. Rappaport easily intertwines racial issues and sports history. Robinson is depicted as a person of character; moral judgement is central to his life story, more so than segregation. His athletic ability coupled with his strength of character make him a great role model for kids. This is one for your shelves. ( )
  Janismin | Aug 25, 2017 |
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