I Am Jackie Robinson
By Brad Meltzer; illustrations by Christopher Eliopoulos
We are coming to the end of something this month, and the beginning of something else. It’s almost the end of February which is traditionally referred to as African American History month and we are on the cusp of the beginning of Spring Training for the All American sport of baseball.
Brad Meltzer’s picture book from the series entitled, “Ordinary People Change the World” is a “hit out of the park” on both counts!
Chronicling the amazing journey of an incredibly talented and courageous African American baseball player named Jackie Robinson, this picture book enables a new crop of picture book readers a window into a world with a very different baseball roster than the one they see now.
Incredibly, at one time, there were NO African American players in Major League baseball!
C C Sabathia, Jason Heyward, Dominic Brown, Ryan Howard and B.J. Upton are but five players today that stand metaphorically on the shoulders of Jackie Robinson. And, I think many of them know this. In fact, there is a link at the bottom of this post to interviews with some of these players, as regards to Jackie Robinson.
Today, there are many players of race that stand on the shoulders of the courage, conviction and calm of Jackie Robinson as he broke the so-called “color line” in Major League Baseball.
I have always believed that “Example is the strongest teacher.” In the end, it is not so much what we say, but the values we hold, and how those values define our lives, that our character is formed. Never was that more true than today. Never was it more important for young readers to have picture books like this one in their hands.
And that is why a book like “I Am Jackie Robinson” is a great picture book read this month OR any other. It arranges the arc of Jackie’s life, and the experiences, example and ethos that drove it.
Perseverance, courage, determination, fearlessness and an incredible talent that could not be denied, are but a small semblance of the values and attitudes that formed Jackie Robinson.
Brad Meltzer’s picture book allows your reader a very vital and vibrant glimpse into a far different world than the one they are growing up in. Some injustices never change fast enough. They are part of the fabric of a nation for a very long time.
For Jackie it was a long road to change – but one he travelled alone, and with a quiet strength. He let his talent do the talking. And it commanded respect – eventually.
In baseball, it took the impetus provided by a manager named Branch Rickey, President of the then Brooklyn Dodgers to hire an all but unknown player named Jackie Robinson.
Athletic abilities, at that time, unlike today, had little to do with being hired by a Major League Baseball team – if you were a man of color.
Jackie, born the youngest of five children was named after the “Rough Rider” hero and President, Theodore Roosevelt. He was named Jackie Theodore Robinson. Quite a name to live up to – and he did!
Bravery was something that did not come immediately to Jackie. But, at the age of eight, he found his voice when a young girl called him a name – AND the girl’s father got into the fray. A fight began – yet that is never a solution; at least not a rock fight!
Told in the first person, sports and winning were what fueled Jackie’s passion for achievement. And it was here, at least initially, where the color of his skin did not wholly define him.
But it’s a huge leap from the sandlot to the floodlights of a Major League Baseball field.
Living in a mixed neighborhood, his mother gave Jackie a phrase that would carry him through many an angry confrontation on the field – “When you do something good, it brings out the good in others.”
At UCLA he was the first student EVER to win letter in four sports – football, baseball, basketball and track.
Then the call came – from Branch Rickey.
Jackie had guts and what we used to call “gumption”, as he embarked on being a historic first in the world of professional baseball. He did it with grace, style and a first home run of 340 feet! Scoring and stealing home became his trademarks with a professionalism that stood the test of racial epithets.
It’s hard to go first in any field against opposition, but it IS essential to lead by example. Jackie Robinson did both.
So as Spring Training starts, and African American History Month closes out for 2015, it’s batter up for this great picture book called, “I Am Jackie Robinson.” It’s both a “hit out of the park” for Jackie, and for your young reader.
Jackie Robinson defined what is possible if one has the talent, timing, technique and tenacity to reach a goal. It can be done!
If you're hooked on Kid President then this month is your month for new release kids books. This month's selection of best new kids books includes Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome and Richelle Mead's conclusion to the Bloodlines series.
There's a fine art to turning a great life into something digestible for a child. The art lies in finding the essence, an almost haiku-like writing that condenses, getting only the most salient details on the page. Each of the following biographies rises to that fine art.
We have quite the variety of books to share with readers this month. We're featuring picture books all the way to popular teen books. Jeffrey Brown returns with the highly anticipated sequel to the NY Times Bestseller Star Wars: Jedi Academy! There is fun stuff for picture book and puppy fans; as well as great chapter books for older readers.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 7: Twilight Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty, Joss Whedon
So… Dawn + Xander sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. hee hee.
Ok, back to the main plot-- Buffy and Willow have to clean up the mess they unleashed in Tibet, but Buffy’s suddenly developed some startling powers--like being able to fly. Meanwhile, Willow’s figured out that the Scoobies are missing some key characters and is trying to find them--only to discover that slayer cells around the world have been attacked and decimated. Meanwhile, it’s time for the big Buffy/Twilight showdown only… the results aren’t what anyone was expecting (Well, maybe Twilight was.)
And hoo-boy, the reveal of Twilight is something else. (Not only in identity, but the dialogue in that moment is pretty awesome and classic.)
There are some old slayer legends that need to be brought to light, because when Buffy made all the potentials slayers, there was some MAJOR blowback, and that’s why Buffy has powers, that’s why Twilight’s been doing what he’s doing, and that’s why, when they finally meet, something REALLY big happens.
(Also, I’m still laughing at Dawn’s well-placed “Ben is Glory?” line. Perfect.)
Consequences, consequences, consequences. I think that’s what this season does better than most of the TV seasons did. (With the exception of Season 6.) Buffy changed the world-- there’s a reaction to that. And what Buffy and Twilight do, well, there’s major blowback to that as well.
Book Provided by... my local library
Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.
It's been just over two weeks since Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman came out, so it's a good time for a book tour.
I don't mean me hitting the road to promote it (that will start in September) but rather me touring you through the book itself, pointing out behind-the-scenes details.
The pages aren't numbered. (Publishers fear that could turn off readers by reminding them how short picture books are.) So I'll reference pages by their first few words.
"But Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers..."
attention to detail - The coroner's report for Jerry Siegel's father Michael stated that one man robbed Siegel's clothing store. His death certificate stated two men. Both the Cleveland Press obituary and the police report stated three. That left us with no way to accurately reflect all four reports, but showing two robbers covered us for three of the four reports (if there were three robbers, one is simply off-frame here).
attention to detail - Both the police and coroner's reports identifed the robbers as "Negro."
attention to detail - The coroner's report indicated that Michael Siegel had gray hair.
attention to detail - It is unlikely that the store was named "Siegel's" as there was another store in town with that name.
misbelief corrected - Men of Tomorrow was the first published source to address the tragic end of Michael Siegel—but the book got a crucial detail wrong. Siegel did die during a robbery of his store, but not by gunshot. His heart failed. No wounds were on his body. A key plot device in Brad Meltzer's novel The Book of Lies (which I have not read) is the missing gun that allegedly killed Michael Siegel—but none of the four reports invoke the possibility of murder. According to the police report, "At no time were any blows struck or any weapons used."
"Jerry read amazing stories..."
attention to detail - I try to avoid the word "amazing" (and other toothless adjectives including "wonderful" and "fantastic") in my writing, but I broke my own rule here as a nod to a pulp magazine called Amazing Stories. We depicted the influential August 1928 cover because the flying man was an image that stuck with Jerry.
"Jerry also wrote his own..."
attention to detail - The window and the view out it are depicted as they actually looked.
"Jerry was shy..."
attention to detail - "Weird tales" is another phrase I incorporated because it was the title of a pulp.
"Jerry and Joe could've passed..."
attention to detail - I can't recall seeing any photos of a young Joe Shuster wearing glasses. I read that he always took them off before being photographed. However, he is wearing glasses throughout the book since he was not posing for photographs in any of the scenes.
"But he did it with pictures..."
attention to detail - Joe was left-handed.
attention to detail - Jerry and Joe were Jewish. I wanted to indicate that but did not find an organic way to do so in the text. That's why we show Shabbat candles here. (I also mention their Jewishness in the afterword.)
attention to detail - That's a likeness of an actual drawing of Lois Lane that Joe did.
"Jerry managed to save..."
attention to detail - That's a likeness of the actual cover. Notice what Jerry's strategically positioned arm blocks.
"The character would be like..."
design - Early on, I decided I didn't want the whole book to look like a comic book. I felt that would be too obvious. Instead, I wanted just this spread to be in comic book format. This is the moment of Jerry's epiphany, the moment that his mind turns into a comic book, and I wanted that to stand out visually.
misbelief corrected - Some articles and interviews state Jerry ran twelve blocks to Joe's. Nothing groundbreaking about this, but I measured it personally and it's exactly nine-and-a-half blocks.
"Just as Jerry had written all night..."
attention to detail - This scene takes place later the same day as when Jerry ran to Joe's wearing his clothes over his pajamas, yet his pajamas are not shown here. I didn't notice this till after the book was printed, but I can conveniently explain it away: it was hot so it's fair to assume that, at some point, Jerry would have taken off the pajamas at Joe's.
"The boys thought this hero..."
attention to detail - I am still conflicted that I wrote that the boys "happily" agreed to convert their comic strip to a comic book. Some sources give the sense that Jerry and Joe felt it was a step down. Comic strips were highly regarded at the time whereas comic books, in their infancy, were not. However, Jerry and Joe had turned down at least one previous offer for Superman (because they didn't feel the publisher could handle it properly), suggesting they did have some restraint and business savvy.
"One of the owners..."
attention to detail - That's a likeness of Harry Donenfeld.
"The Great Depression had lasted..."
attention to detail - Normally I would not use a phrase like "powers and abilities" because it's redundant, but as you've probably already observed, it's one of several phrases associated with Superman sprinkled throughout the book; others include "faster than a speeding bullet" and "up, up, and away."
attention to detail - There will always be dispute as to which character deserves the title of the first "true" superhero—The Scarlet Pimpernel (1903), Tarzan (1912), Zorro (1919), Buck Rogers (1928), Popeye (1929), The Shadow (1930), The Lone Ranger (1933), Flash Gordon (1934), The Phantom (1936)?—but in terms of worldwide familiarity and overall influence, I'd give it to Superman.
attention to detail - In the first version of this spread I was shown, the movie was in full color. When I saw the finished book, I didn't notice right away that it had been changed to black and white. Technically, the former was correct. The first Superman movies (which is what this illustration is representing) were the Fleischer animated shorts that debuted in 1941—and they were in vibrant color.
afterword, page 1
misbelief corrected - Despite what Men of Tomorrow and various other sources state, there is no known evidence and little likelihood that Adolf Hitler or Joseph Goebbels personally banned Superman at a Nazi gathering. I consulted multiple professors who specialize in Nazi history and work at top institutions and none knew of it. None of the thick books on World War II that I checked mentioned it either. I explain in the text where this misconception probably came from, a theory courtesy of Dwight Decker.
afterword, page 2
attention to detail - I state that Jerry's 1975 press release was nine pages. Other sources state that it was ten. However, because the first page is not numbered and because it reads, "Full details are in the enclosed news release," I (and apparently Jerry) considered it a cover note. The second page is also not numbered and the third page is numbered "2." (Are you in awe of this hard-hitting investigative analysis?)
afterword, page 3
attention to detail - Can you find the typo on this page—the only one I've noticed in the book? Clue: it was a last-minute typo...
This concludes our tour.
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman is featured in the cover story of the Life section of USA TODAY...and appears in the top right of the front page!
The online version does not use the same art (unfortunately, that means no art from the book) but I think the text is unchanged.
The key point here is that my book is the first to correctly describe the death of Michael (sometimes Mitchell) Siegel, the father of Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman.
Others have written that he was shot to death during a robbery of his clothing store.
He did die during a robbery, but because of a heart attack, not a gunshot. At least according to the police report, coroner's report, death certificate, and obituary.
And this was in 1932—six years before the fame of Superman—so there would be little reason for a cover-up. Just another tragedy for just another merchant in the pit of the Great Depression.
I tip my research hat to documentary filmmaker Brad Ricca, who discovered the truth about Michael Siegel's death before I did. However, I discovered it for myself before he told me he had, too!
At least four documents show that Michael Siegel (father of Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman) died not from gunfire as stated in Men of Tomorrow and elsewhere but from a heart attack during a robbery of his clothing store in 1932. Earlier, I posted one of those documents, the coroner's report.
Here is the first page of the second, the police report. I am not posting the second and third pages—to see those (as well as the third document, the death certificate), you will have to wait until my friend Brad Ricca's book comes out. As for why I am doing it this way, see below.
property of the Police Department, City of Cleveland
Page 1 (above) is titled Casualty Report. It specifies "heart failure." Here is my best shot at a transcription of the rest:
"when Michael Siegel became excited when three unknown Negroes entered his store at 3530 Central Ave and one of them walked out with a suit of clothes ? the events ? Michael Siegel fainted and fell down on the floor causing his death"
Page 2 is titled Criminal Complaint. Page 3 is Departmental Information. They both have some great details so check Brad's blog for announcements.
Obtaining this police report was a fortunate fluke. Before Brad and I discussed the police report, he had already tried to get it. The police department told him if he could find it, he could have a copy. (Apparently, and oddly, they could not find it.)
Meanwhile, when I requested the coroner's report, which set me back 20 cents, I was told that the police report was attached to the coroner's report, but the coroner's office was allowed to send me only the coroner's report. I asked Brad if he could ask his police contact to authorize the coroner to send him the police report—and it worked. Teamwork triumphed, problem solved, report received.
IFWBC - LSR.
Brad Meltzer, author of THE BOOK OF LIES, shows us how sometimes the little things make all the difference in the world, as he describes a very special present given to him after a momentous event.The best book present I ever got was the one my Mom gave me after my first novel was published. It was an old leather journal, with one of those cool old-book-tie thingies on it. And it had just the
Last Son by Brad Ricca.
Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones.
Secret Identity by Craig Yoe.
The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer (plus the triumphant 2008 campaign he spearheaded to renovate Jerry Siegel's former Cleveland home).
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by golly.
To name only five.
A friend asked me why I think the last few years have seen a surge in interest in Siegel and Shuster. Good question, and it also begs a more specific one: is this increased interest only within the comics community or also among the general public?
Either way, I don't think it has as much to do with Michael Chabon as some might say. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (which came out in 2000) wonderfully helped bring a certain mainstream validation to comics, but I don't think the book inspired the average reader to then pick up, say, Men of Tomorrow. And despite its popularity, it didn't make Siegel and Shuster household names (not that it was necessarily trying to). To comics people, Kavalier & Clay was an engaging new lens through which to consider the Siegel and Shuster story. To non-comics people, it was just another good book.
My friend wondered if the surge in interest might relate to the litigation between the Siegel family and DC Comics. But that is not on the radar of most people beyond the industry, at least not those I talk to.
I think the interest is at least in part because of a suddenly urgent sense of posterity—the last of the Golden Agers are dying now, so people are scrambling to document them while those original creators (or people they knew) are still around to speak for themselves.
I think it also has to do with the timing of the formative years of our generation. Many of the people researching Siegel and Shuster today grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. The superhero culture of that period has had a distinct influence in what has been happening recently at DC:
The 1970s were also the period in which Siegel and Shuster became known to a wider public. In 1975, they won the settlement from Warner Communications, which made the New York Times and the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. In 1976, their names were restored to all Superman stories in all media, starting with Superman #302 and culminating majestically with Superman: The Movie (see at 2:45). They (especially Jerry) began to attend comics conventions and at least one movie premiere.In terms of comics, we are the first generation fueled less by the clinical nature of precedent and more by the emotional nature of nostalgia. We are creating superhero content by deepening the superhero content of our youth, and I think at a certain point, it's natural for that interest to extend from the fictional history to the real life history of these characters.Though I loved Super Friends and Superman: The Movie and Superman comics, I wrote my book on Jerry and Joe without reflecting consciously on any of the thoughts above. (And at the time, none of the Siegel and Shuster projects listed at the start of this post were out.)I simply found a surprising gap in the market and wanted to try to fill it with a book for both kids and adults that could do its small part to spread the word about two visionary guys (long gone) and their grand achievement (here to stay). It has been so gratifying that so many others have simultaneously helped bring the men behind the Man out from behind their glasses.
- the acclaimed mini-series Justice written by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross paid tribute to the Legion of Doom from the cartoon Super Friends (which debuted in 1973)
- the Hall of Justice and Wendy and Marvin, also from Super Friends, have been brought into print "continuity"
- other characters created for that cartoon (the Wonder Twins, Black Vulcan, Samurai, Apache Chief) are getting the action figure treatment (strange, when you think about it, that it took as long as it did)
- artists are drawing Superman to resemble Christopher Reeve (the first Reeve Superman movie came out in 1978)
- the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold is based on a comic whose glory days were the 1970s
Hachette Book Group (HBG) has joined with NetGalley to organize the distribution of HBG information and products. Through this deal, select reviewers, press, and booksellers will be given access to digital press kits and digital galleys.
Several enhancements will be included with the galleys such as video, audio, tour schedules, author Q&As and photos. The galleys will be readable on Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, Kobo or a desktop.
Here’s more from the release: “The Hachette Book Group titles in NetGalley will expand in the coming months, but you can browse current Hachette Book Group galleys right now, from these imprints: Center Street (enriching & life-affirming fiction & non-fiction) FaithWords (inspirational, faith-building fiction & non-fiction) Grand Central Publishing (mainstream fiction & non-fiction) Little, Brown and Company (mainstream fiction & non-fiction) Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (fiction & non-fiction for children & young adults) Mulholland Books (mystery & suspense) Orbit (science fiction & fantasy).”
Well, we are getting down to a) the bare bones of emerging facts and b) the huge, blossoming never ending until they find the black box* range of speculation over what the hell actually happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. And here is Brad Meltzer, occasional comics writer and host of History Channel’s Decoded to speculate on bizarre non Tintin related theories about the disappearance of a jumbo jet off the radar’s of the world.
I am definitely holding out for inspiration from Tintin on this.
* If the flight did go on for seven hours after losing contact with Malaysian air traffic control, AND even if the black box is actually found, we might still never know what happened: the black box only records the last two hours of flight information.