42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero by Doreen Rappaport (review)
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Rappaport, Doreen 42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero. Candlewick, 2017 [128p]
ISBN 978-0-7636-7624-7 $14.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-6

Prospective readers drawn by the prominent number 42 on the book’s cover will undoubtedly know at least the outline to the story of Jackie Robinson and his career as the first black baseball player to make it out of the farm team system into the majors. Rappaport condenses Robinson’s bio from his early years in his financially struggling family, through stints in community college, the military, and UCLA, and forward to his recruitment onto the Montreal Royals and, ultimately, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Short chapters revolve around well-defined episodes, and the scope of the entire work extends only through Robinson’s 1947 season, with a coda that skips ahead to the posthumous retirement of number 42 in 1997. Brevity and accessibility, however, don’t mean lightweight coverage: Rappaport slams down hard on the vicious opponents and rival fans who made Robinson’s rise through the system a living hell, sparingly but effectively dropping the n-bomb in documented quotations. Retellings of the Robinson story have sometimes cast him as pacifistic, or at least stoic, in the face of the racial slurs, but Rappaport presses against this image as well, depicting Robinson as a man with a personal history of using his mouth and his fists in defense of his dignity and who therefore fought daily against his pugnacious nature in order to disarm the arguments of those who would keep African-American players out of the game. This is an excellent companion title to his daughter Sharon Robinson’s Promises to Keep (BCCB 4/04). A timeline, index, source notes, and bibliography are included.

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