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September 21, 2008

Jackie’s Nine

Jackie’s Nine

Author: Sharon Robinson

Page Length: 181

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Non-Fiction           

PLOT SUMMARY: Sharon Robinson wrote the book Jackie’s Nine as a tribute to her dad, Jackie Robinson, the first African-American professional baseball player.  The book is written in nine chapters, each giving tribute to one of the values Jackie Robinson lived by.  Each chapter includes a story from Jackie’s life, and one from Sharon’s life to describe the particular principle. Sharon, also, includes at least one selection about one of her personal heroes who has touched her life in someway.

The values shared begin with courage and end with excellence.  Those values helping to reach that end objective of excellence are:  determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, and commitment.  Some of the celebrities who Sharon shares stories about are Christopher Reeve, Pee Wee Reese, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jordan,  Roberto Clemente, Muhammad Ali, and Oprah Winfrey.

REVIEW: Sharon Robinson has followed in the footsteps of her dad, mother and brother who have all been inspirations of life to the people of the United States.  Sharon experienced her own particular hardships before she reached the age of 23, losing her brother in a car wreck and her dad just a year later, to a massive heart attack.

She shares how she took control of her life getting her nursing degree, later retiring and joining the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball as Director of Education Programming.  She launched Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, an educational program using baseball-themed activities as teaching tools around the country.  Breaking Barriers is based on the nine values presented in this book. 

This is a very inspirational and motivational book for young teens to read. The selections are brief but informative.  Authentic pictures of Jackie, Sharon and the celebrities are featured which bring the stories more to life.  This book would serve as a good “teacher read aloud” or the selections could be read individually and used as writing prompts.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Writing prompts, Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, and Historical Context

RELATED BOOKS: Promises to Keep, Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS:The Jackie Robinson Story”, “Brain Pops: A Social Studies Movie about Jackie Robinson”, the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


August 23, 2008

Harriet Tubman Conductor of the Underground Railroad

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Harriet Tubman Conductor of the Underground Railroad

Author:  Ann Petry

Page Length: 242

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography 

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of Harriet Tubman who was the daughter of Ben and “Old Rit” Ross, slaves in Maryland in the early 1800’s.  Harriet was hired out by her master at the young age of six to help with housework and care for a baby.  She was not good at this and eventually returned to her master.  As Harriet aged, she was a strong woman and worked well in the fields.  She enjoyed this work more than the domestic chores she had performed when she was younger.

Although her master was good to her parents and family, Harriet longed for freedom.  She married John Tubman, a free man, and wanted him to move North with her so that she could also be free.  John was happy in Maryland and did not want to move.  Harriet was befriended by a free woman who gave her information as how to travel North through the Underground Railroad.  By 1849, Harriet had made the trip North and was living in Pennsylvania. 

Harriet worked to save money so that she could return to Maryland and help other slaves move north.  She had to be very careful, because of the Fugitive Slave Laws and eventually had to move as far North as Canada.  Harriet dedicated her life to working as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.  She helped more than 300 slaves move northward and became a spokesman for the fight for freedom.  She was known by her people as “Moses” for leading so many out of the bondage of the South.

 REVIEW: This is the third book I have read about the life of Harriet Tubman.  I enjoyed this book the most as it gave a more personal view of the struggles that Harriet experienced in her fight for freedom.  Ann Petry created a realistic setting of the road traveled on the Underground Railroad.  This is a good book for studying pre-Civil War slavery.  The reader is given a realistic view of the life of a slave.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence, Setting and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Frederick Douglas, Passage to Freedom, Many Thousand Gone, Harriet and the Promised Land


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep

Author: Sharon Robinson          

Page Length: 64

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography 

PLOT SUMMARY:  Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, writes a narrative biography of her father’s life.  She begins with a brief history of the beginning of America and how it was a black and white world. 

She goes on to tell of how the view of the people of the United States changed over the next 200 years towards African Americans.  She includes in the text, the changes her dad experienced during his life as the first African American to play major league baseball. She tells of the struggles he went through to break the “ Jim Crow Barrier”. Also, she includes descriptions of her parent’s relationship, their family life, and life after Jackie’s career as a baseball player.

She tells of the fight for equal rights that her father was very active in during the l960’s and how he promised to help change life for the African American people of the United States.

REVIEW: This is the third and best biography I have read about Jackie Robinson.  I enjoyed the narrative form of writing that Sharon Robinson used.  Also, included, were excellent photographs, which chronicled Jackie’s life and events that have occurred after his death which celebrate the great man he was.

I think this is an excellent book for boys and girls who like baseball to read.  Also, it is a good book for those who are interested in the Civil Rights movement to read because Jackie Robinson was an advocate for Civil Rights in his years after baseball.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Character, Compare/Contrast, and Cause and Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Jackie’s Nine

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Jackie Robinson Story, Brain Pops: A Social Studies Movie about Jackie Robinson, Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown


 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 29, 2008

Malcolm X By Any Means Necessary

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Malcolm X By Any Means Necessary

Author: Walter Dean Myers        

Page Length: 210

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Biography 

PLOT SUMMARY: Malcolm X was born the son of Louise and Earl Little on May 19,1925 in Omaha, Nebraska.  Both parents were active in trying to make life better for African Americans, and Earl spoke publicly endorsing Marcus Garvey.  In 1931, Earl was found dead by some railroad tracks and Louise believed whites that opposed his political views killed him.

 Malcolm was a good and popular student, but always felt a threat to Black Americans.  As Malcolm ended junior high, one of his teachers ask him what he wanted to do when he got older.  Malcolm answered by saying that he would like to be a lawyer.  In a quote on page 37 the teacher tells Malcolm that he could not be a lawyer.  This was a turning point in Malcolm’s life.

From this point in Malcolm’s life, the book follows his years as a teen-ager in Harlem where he is known as “Detroit Red”, then, he joins the Nation of Islam, and changes his name again, to Malcolm X.  Malcolm is in the public eye as a Black Muslim leader for the rest of his life.

REVIEW:  After reading other books by Walter Dean Myers, such as Slam, Fallen Angels, and Monster I found I did not like Myers non-fiction writing as well as his fiction.  It could be because I didn’t like the personality of Malcolm X and the way he tried to get equality for African Americans.  He was extremely prejudiced towards the white Americans and in a violent manner.  His actions seemed to undermine the works of other civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglas, and Jackie Robinson. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Historical context, Sequence of Events, Conflict, Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks: Speeches and Statements, Malcolm X A Fire Burning Brightly


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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