Written by: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie
For ages: 5-10 years
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Military History, Sports Figures, Civil Rights.
Summary: Before we knew Jackie Robinson as the first African-American Major League Baseball player, he served in the military. Jackie grew up in California, during segregation. His family was the only family of color on their street, and once their neighbors even started a petition to make them leave. His mother resisted, and taught her children to always stand up for what was right. Jackie was a phenomenal athlete, and one of the best college football players in the country. Unfortunately, his knee was injured because of constantly being tackled by teammates even when he didn’t have the ball.
When Jackie Robinson was first in the military, it was still racially segregated. This means he and the other soldiers of color had separate places to sit, eat, and live. While he was still serving, the military outlawed segregation! This meant that now Jackie and his other soldiers were integrated with the rest of the soldiers, specifically the white ones. Unfortunately, things did not change overnight. One day, Jackie was ordered to the back of the bus by the driver so a white soldier could sit down. Jackie refused. Even though the military had been desegregated, Robinson was taken to court by the military police. Jackie must remember what his mother taught him, about standing up for what’s right even when it’s difficult.
This is a great book to cover a not-so-distant time in American history, as well as one of the most well-known sports figures. This isn’t a well-known case either, and it is important for children to know how influential and strong Jackie Robinson was.
- Have you heard of Jackie Robinson before?
- What’s your favorite sport to play?
- Jackie was very brave to stand up for what was right. What can you do that’s brave, to help people too?
Continuing the Conversation:
- Learn more about historic Civil Rights cases. What is a case that particularly inspires you? What can you learn from the past that can help marginalized communities today?
- Jackie Robinson was the first MLB player of color. Who are the other major sports heroes of color that broke barriers? Did any of them go through anything like Jackie did when he was in the military?
About the Author & the Illustrator:
In 2001, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen was well on her way to not being a writer. She had graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 with a BS in Biology, spent a year in Boston, and then had returned to Caltech as a PhD candidate in developmental biology. That’s when she had her first child, Isabella. Bella’s birth didn’t change Sudipta’s plans – she thought she’d take a long maternity leave then return to graduate school. Then, her daughter Brooklyn came along. With two small children, Sudipta found herself less interested in biology as she was in parenting. And for the first time, she found that she had stories to tell, stories she wanted to share with her daughters, and she decided to try to get published. After a half-dozen rejections, in 2003, Sudipta sold her first story to a children’s magazine, Highlights for Children. Using her science background as a springboard, Sudipta began writing nonfiction for children, including Championship Science Fair Projects, Last Minute Science Fair Projects, AIDS, and Autism. She branched out into other nonfiction, including biographies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jane Goodall, and altogether, Sudipta has written 18 nonfiction books for kids.
Illustrator and freelance artist Richard Gregory Christie was born on July 26, 1971 in Plainfield, New Jersey to Ludra V. St. Amant Christie and Gerard Adoltus Christie. Raised by his mother, a Louisiana Creole, and his father, a Jamaican pharmacist, Christie was raised in the Scotch Plains community of Plainfield near the Jerseyland Resort. He attended St. Bartholomew the Apostle Elementary School where he demonstrated a talent for art early on. In 1985, Christie worked for Commercial Art and Supply while he attended Fanwood High School. Graduating in 1989, he enrolled in New York City’s School for Visual Arts (SVA). His first illustration was published by the Star Ledger in the summer of 1990. In 1993, Christie graduated from SVA with his B.F.A. degree. In 1994, Christie illustrated the album cover of Justice System’s Summer in the City. Soon, his work graced the covers of jazz labels from all over the world, including Joe Sample’s Old Places Old Faces Warner Brothers, 1996; George Benson’s A Song for my Brother Giant Step Records, 1997; and Coltrane The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings GRP Impulse, 1997. Christie’s’ illustrations also appeared in numerous publications in Europe, Asia and America. In 1996, he illustrated Lucille Clifton’s The Palm of My Heart; Poetry by African American Children. The book won a Coretta Scott King Award honor from the American Library Association and a Reading Magic Award from Parenting magazine. Christie has illustrated the biographies of many other significant historical and cultural figures, including Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Sojourner Truth. In 2006, he won a Coretta Scott King Award honor for Brothers in Hope ; The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and for illustrating Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth.
Currently, Christie is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine.