Thank You, Jackie Robinson Critical Context - Essay

Barbara Cohen

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Barbara Cohen was a prolific writer of novels and picture books who found inspiration in Jewish tradition and in her experience as an outsider growing up in a small town during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Her highly successful first book, The Carp in the Bathtub (1972), is based on the celebration of Passover. King of the Seventh Grade (1982) tells of a boy’s decision to accept his identity as a Jew and to celebrate his bar mitzvah. Thank You, Jackie Robinson deals with outsiders in different situations—a Jewish boy participates in the life of a black family and a black baseball star becomes a Brooklyn Dodger in the formerly segregated national pastime.

Other children’s novels that have been influenced by Thank You, Jackie Robinson include Betty Bao Lord’s The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson (1984) and Alan Lelchuk’s On Home Ground (1987), in which immigrant youngsters from China and Russia, respectively, are assimilated into their new country through their passionate enthusiasm for Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Cohen’s work has been well received, as attested by her numerous awards. Among them is the American Library Association Notable Children’s Books citation for Thank You, Jackie Robinson. Another indication of the popularity of this work is the television version made in 1978 as an ABC afterschool special under the title A Home Run for Love.