Testing the Ice
Robinson, Sharon. New York: Scholastic, 2009. 9780545052511
Quantitative Reading Level: Reading Level 2.5, Lexile 800
Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This is another one of those books that is deceptively simple. On the surface it is a book about how some guy named Jackie Robinson was afraid of the water but before his children could go ice skating on their lake he tested the ice for them. But it is more than that because it is Jackie Robinson and the whole story is a picture of how he also “tested the ice” in baseball. The multiple layers of meaning, the shifts in time, and the need to understand baseball in the 1950s move this story up to Middle High on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Literary Text”.
It was 1956. Jackie Robinson has retired from baseball, his family lives on a farm in Connecticut with a pond, and he spends a lot of time with his family and their friends. He tells them stories of his years in baseball and the opposition he faced. In the winter, his children and their friends want to go ice skating so he takes them out to the lake. But before he will let them go out he tests the ice even though he can’t swim. His daughter, Sharon, is amazed at just how brave he was.
The author, Sharon, then goes on to compare the testing of the ice to Jackie’s Robinson’s breaking the ice (the color barrier) in baseball. She also gives some background information about the time period.
Content Area: Reading/ELA, Social Studies – Civil Rights
Content area standard:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.6 Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.6 Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.
There are so many books and movies about Jackie Robinson. Readers of all ages will find ways to compare and contrast this account with other material.
In a study of the Civil Rights Movement readers can look at Jackie Robinson’s contributions both in baseball and outside of baseball.
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6K_8z-29nwk
NPR Interview and Article: http://www.npr.org/2009/10/05/113378631/jackie-robinson-testing-the-ice-for-his-children
Author’s Website: http://www.sharonrobinsonink.com/
Personal Thoughts: On the surface this seems like a very simple story but it is actually quite deep. I enjoyed the story and the message. I found Sharon Robinson’s use of time a little confusing and readers would probably need some scaffolding with a timeline in order to understand the order of events. Kadir Nelson’s pictures are beautiful.
Subjects/Themes: Overcoming – Fear, Prejudice
High Interest Annotation: A simple story of Jackie Robinson testing the ice that reminds us of how he did the same thing in baseball.