Jack­ie’s Gift: A True Sto­ry of Christ­mas, Hanukkah, and Jack­ie Robinson

Sharon Robin­son; E.B. Lewis, illus.
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
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, a retired 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.

Discussion Questions