Brooklyn Dodgers fan Steve’s life is changed when Jackie Robinson and his family move into his Jewish neighborhood in 1948.
This is a true story—parts of it, anyway. The author is Robinson’s daughter, and the main character was her family’s neighbor in real life. Stephen Satlow was a baseball fan, and he lived two doors down from his hero. The author has changed some details (one character is a composite), but readers may find themselves hoping every word is accurate. The Jackie Robinson in the book seems just as kind and thoughtful as the real Jackie sounded in interviews and news stories. When 8-year-old narrator Steve is having a rough time at school, Jackie walks over to the school softball game and teaches the whole team about stealing bases. There isn’t much conflict here. The story is just as down-to-earth and remarkable as the actual baseball star, and it would feel mean-spirited to wish any more drama on these two genuinely endearing people. Absent drama to drive the plot, the book’s main fault is that it doesn’t make enough of the magical everyday moments. A scene of Jackie and Steve playing stoopball could have lasted pages longer. Jackie’s son, Jackie Junior, is hardly a character here, another missed opportunity.
The book doesn’t dwell long enough on the smallest moments, but each of them feels like meeting the baseball legend—and maybe, sometimes, even better than the real thing. (historical note, photos) (Historical fiction. 8-12)