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“Now years have passed, and we understand even more how much courage it took for my father to step out on that ice. In fact, Dad showed the same courage on the ice that day as he did when he broke the color barrier in baseball,” Sharon Robinson. –Testing the Ice
Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson
by Sharon Robinson
AR Test, Picture Book
Sharon Robinson, the daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, has crafted a heartwarming, true story about growing up with her father.
When Jackie Robinson retires from baseball and moves his family to Connecticut, the beautiful lake on their property is the center of everyone’s fun. The neighborhood children join the Robinson kids for swimming and boating. But oddly, Jackie never goes near the water. In a dramatic episode that first winter, the children beg to go ice skating on the lake. Jackie says they can go—but only after he tests the ice to make sure it’s safe. The children prod and push to get Jackie outside, until hesitantly, he finally goes. Like a blind man with a stick, Jackie makes sure the ice is safe to play on.
Testing the Ice is a metaphor for Jackie Robinson’s legendary breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball. While the book introduces Jackie by discussing his role in Major League Baseball, the story focuses on his family’s move to Connecticut and Jackie’s refusal to go into the water. While the two events show Jackie’s bravery, younger readers will need help connecting the two events and understanding the story’s deeper meaning.
Even though Testing the Ice is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Unlike most picture books, Testing the Ice uses some difficult vocabulary and complex sentences that make it more appropriate for older readers. Many of the pages are text heavy and have up to 16 sentences on the page. The realistic illustrations often feature Jackie’s family as well as the neighbor’s children, which makes Jackie more relatable.
Sharon Robinson’s childhood experience will allow readers to see Jackie Robinson’s bravery through new eyes. Sharon’s love and pride in her father is evident, and readers will come to understand why Sharon believed that, “My dad is the bravest man alive.” Readers who are interested in learning more about Jackie Robinson and sports history should also read Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy.
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