The Hero Two Doors Down is perfectly titled. Written by Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson's daughter, this fictionalized account of eight-year-old Steven Satlo's friendship with his hero, is a book that elementary age boys and girls will enjoy.
The year is 1948 and baseball is king. In New York, you are either a Yankees or Dodgers fan and Steve and his father share a great passion for the Dodgers. The author paints an authentic picture of the time period: neighbors sitting out on their front stoops listening to the game on the radio, going to an opening game as a huge occasion for a young boy, and school chums playing stickball together. Although Sharon Robinson says this is a work of fiction, it is based on the stories which Sharon heard her mother and Steve's mother tell.
Central to the book is Steve's excitement when he hears that Jackie Robinson, his hero, is moving onto his street Although this section of Brooklyn had been primarily a Jewish neighborhood, the Robinson family is one of the first black families to integrate the area. When some neighbors protest, Steve learns valuable lessons about prejudice from his father.
Steve is thrilled when Jackie accompanies him to the school yard and teaches his peers how to slide home, provides tickets to a game for his class, as well as when he is invited to decorate the Robinson's Christmas tree. Since he's Jewish, this was a first time experience for Steve. A misunderstanding ensues when Jackie and his wife Rachel buy the Satlow's a Christmas tree--not knowing their friends are Jewish.
In many ways Jackie Robinson was a role model and inspiration to Steve. Jackie had a rough childhood and encouraged Steve to solve problems peaceably and not with force. The two were lifetime friends and Jackie comforted and encouraged Steve after his father died.
Chris Andrew Cuilla and Lisa Renee' Pitts both did a great job as narrators. This book would be a good classroom resource for third and fourth graders.
To entice you, here is an audio snippet of the book and the trailer, narrated by Sharon Robinson.
Younger children will like the picture book Jackie's Gift: A Baseball Tale for the Holidays also by Sharon Robinson.
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