What happens when your hero moves down the block, but your Brooklyn neighbors don’t want him there because he is black? In this new picture book: friendship, understanding and caring. The black hero is Jackie Robinson; his daughter recalls a true 1948 incident in her warm vignette. The story jump starts from a blatant misunderstanding. Young fan, neighbor Steve Satlow, is Jewish. He knows there is prejudice against the Robinsons because his parents are aghast that fellow Jews would sign a petition to bar a family on the basis of race. Jackie befriends the Robinsons. At Christmas he helps them decorate their tree. Asked if the Satlows have one; Steve says no, but not why. The Robinsons feel sorry for him, decide to provide one, not realizing the family’s religion is the reason. Quickly the problem becomes what to do with the heart felt gift. The Satlows must not only face the Robinsons, but their own families. The story ends with respectful recognition of each tradition; the Satlows display tree and menorah. A young boy learns richness in difference, that a kindness is never in error even if it produces the wrong gift, and that an embracing spirit inspires positive life experiences. Memory produces a memorable story of interfaith, interracial outreach and a forthright, touching slice of history which resonates with contemporary readers while it captures the era, the issues, and the people. African-American author and illustrator produce strong Jewish content including immigration, holiday celebrations and moral values. Jackie’s Gift is an amazing gift for readers age 6 – 10.
Ellen G. Cole, the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.