Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson Book Poster Image
Daughter's memory of her bigger-than-life, courageous dad.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Family anecdote shows another side of sports great Jackie Robinson. 

Positive Messages

In his daughter's admiring eyes, Jackie Robinson was a loving, brave father whose courage extended far beyond the baseball field.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Just one more story of why Jackie Robinson should be a role model for us all, this time outside of baseball.  Though he can't even swim, and is afraid of water, he tests the ice before letting his daughter and the neighborhood kids skate on the pond.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this uplifting and personal story, told by Jackie Robinson's daughter, is about her father's bravery, outside of baseball. 

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What's the story?

Most people know, and admire, Jackie Robinson for the grace and courage with which he broke through the color barrier in baseball. This story, told by his daughter, shows that he had the same kind of genuine patience and bravery in other aspects of his life as well. Though he is afraid of water, and never learned to swim, he was willing to walk out on the ice to test its firmness before she and her friends go ice skating. He makes no excuses, and puts worries for his own safety aside to keep her, and the other neighborhood kids, out of harm ... and to let them have fun.

Is it any good?

Any story of Jackie Robinson has the potential to inspire, and this one certainly does. Most of us have heard, or read, about how he patiently blazed a pathway into racially segregated baseball of the '40s. But this memory, told through the loving and admiring eyes of his daughter, adds a personal dimension to the Jackie Robinson story, and definitely shows how his courage ran through and through. He was the real deal.

Just as Jackie Robinson stepped out on the baseball field, not really knowing what would happen but willing to take the chance for others, he steps out on the ice pond to test it for his kids, even though he could not swim. This seems to be the way he lived his life. And, Kadir Nelson's artwork adds just the right touch. His amazing watercolor portraits capture the determination, bravery, and genuine kindness of Robinson's spirt.  

Expressively rich watercolors by Caldecott winning illustrator Kadir Nelson give a sincere realism to this inspirational story. His characters, especially Jackie Robinson, are large and full of life, filling page after page with scenes of tenderness, strength, and genuine family fun. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about who Jackie Robinson was, and why was he so important in baseball.  What kind of person do you think he was? Do you think he ever got mad when things were unfair or scary? What did he do about it?

  • Do you think he was brave to test the ice when he was afraid to swim in the pond in the summertime? Why did he do it? How does that show what kind of man he was? Would you have done what he did? How do you think he felt as he walked out onto the ice?

  • What makes someone a hero? Do you know anyone who has done anything hard, just to help others?

Book details

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