Breaking the Trail: Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson
It's 1955, Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers have bested the Yankees, and the family moves to a new home in the Connecticut countryside, a paradise for the Robinson kids--with a huge playroom, plenty of neighbor kids to join them, and their own lake and woods to play in during the summer. Jackie entrances their friends with his tales of tight games and big plays by the heroes of baseball. But Sharon notices that her strong, athletic father never joins them in swimming and boating despite their entreaties from the water.
Then it's winter. The first deep-freezing nights come, and the children, watching the lake freezing deeper and deeper daily, begin to nag their parents to let them try out their new ice skates. At last Jackie gives them his attention.
"What did your mother say?" he asks.
"She said we could," we tell him, "just as long as you came with us."
"It's below freezing!" he reminded us.
"Then the ice should be good and frozen," Jackie Jr. said.
With a bit of reluctance, Jackie agrees, and suiting up for the trek and taking a shovel and broomstick with him, heads down to the lakeside.
No crowd of excited fans hoping for a clutch hit were ever more anxious than the kids who gathered on the bank as Robinson stepped gingerly onto the fresh ice. Unexpectedly, daughter Sharon begins to worry.
"Dad, be careful. Don't fall in!" I grabbed Christy's mittened hand. "I'm scared," I said, as the reality suddenly dawned on me. "My dad can't swim!"
Just as he was about to pronounce the ice safe--BOOOOOOM! A terrible noise roared from below the ice. "Dad," I shrieked. I was sure the ice was going to open up and swallow him!
"It was just an air bubble," Dad called to us as the sound moved down the lake and he moved toward the deepest part of the lake. "It's safe. Put on your skates!"
In her new picture book, A True Story About Jackie Robinson (Testing The Ice), Sharon Robinson tells a story of her father which is a bit of a parable for his professional life, in which, with great courage and self-control, Jackie Robinson "tested the ice" in sports and in life for the multitude of African American athletes who came after him. Sharon's reminiscence of her father's love and courage that day is more than a moving family story, and readers who follow the account of her father's groundbreaking early days in baseball, woven into this story, will sense the symbolism in that winter venture onto the new ice to test and clear the way for his children. As always, Caldecott-award winning artist Kadir Nelson provides strong and vigorous illustrations which extend the text of this moving memoir perfectly.
Sharon Robinson's books for older readers include her biography, Promises To Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, and the novel Safe At Home.