A board-book biography of “the first black yak to join a Major League Basebull team.”
Wordplay is usually a good thing. Introducing very young children to important historical, literary, or artistic figures is also a worthy goal. Unfortunately, this book (part of the Wild Bios series) fails on both accounts. The detailed biographical information is too long (four to five lines per page) for the young children who need sturdy board books. Nor will toddlers understand the extended metaphor derived from using the physical characteristics and behavior of the Himalayan ungulate to describe a change-maker as important as Jackie Robinson. Without adult explanations they will certainly not understand that this retelling parallels the life of an actual, very important human being. Accurate biographical information embedded in sentences that liken Robinson’s family to a “herd of five yaks, grazed by…a hardworking single yak” may seem like clever wordplay. But when applied to an African American who broke a significant color barrier in sports, it is just plain offensive. Playing with concepts requires prior understanding of the content. Toddlers lack this context. In the pictures, “Yakkie” and his “herd” are painted brown, with no attempt to overlay Robinson’s facial features on Yakkie’s; white yaks are pale versions of Yakkie.
Criminally diminishes the real Jackie Robinson’s dignity and grace in the face of enormous obstacles.(Board book. 1-4)