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Just Like Jackie: 12/08/18
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard is about Robinson Hart who lives with her grandfather. She loves baseball and she loves being named for Jackie Robinson. She hates being called Robin and she punches bullies. Her grandfather has Alzheimer's and it's taking its toll on him and his ability to care for her.
Jackie meanwhile is in trouble at school for punching a white spoiled brat of a bully. His parents encourage his behavior and the school wants to put the two kids together in mandatory counseling.
Then to drive home the fact that Jackie has very little in the way of home support, her teacher assigns a family tree as a class project. This is the second middle grade book I've read this year where a family tree is used as this type of plot device. The other book was Love, Penelope by Joanne Rocklin. In my own experience as a student and a parent, I've never seen a family tree assigned as classwork — beyond an art class I took and there it was a creative thinking project, rather than a report / chart of who are related to.
Like Penelope, Robinson has to press her grandfather for the story of her history. We learn how he, a black man, had a romantic relationship with a white woman. We learn how they didn't marry but how he got to learn about their daughter and how she came to leave Robinson in his care (and why he ended up naming her).
But that family drama is buried under the counseling plot and the Alzheimer's plot. I know they're all supposed to be part of something bigger but it just didn't gel for me in the same way that all of Penelope's plots came together in the service of building her family tree.