The Hero Two Door Down made the Sunshine State Readers book list for grades 3 – 5 – for good reason. This book is based on a true friendship between Jackie Robinson and a Brooklyn neighbor. The story of the baseball legend’s friendship with this boy is told by Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s daughter. Keep reading to learn how teachers could use this book in the classroom.

The Hero Two Doors Down is based on a true friendship between baseball legend Jackie Robinson and a Brooklyn boy. Told by Jackie's daughter, Sharon, this book could be integrated into a unit on civil rights or culture, as well as used as a mentor text for character development.

A Summary of The Hero Two Doors Down

Steve lives in an all-Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in 1959. Like many of his neighbors, he is a passionate fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He and his dad bond over their discussions of their favorite team, and their conversations usually revolve around Jackie Robinson – the team’s star player.

Steve’s biggest wish is that they would get tickets to Opening Day. Unfortunately, Steve tends to be a little impulsive and often gets notes sent home from school. Steve knows that he won’t be rewarded with tickets unless his behavior improves.

Imagine Steve’s reaction when he hears rumors that his hero will actually be moving into a house in his neighborhood! Although many in his community are unhappy that a non-Jew would be moving into their area, Steve’s family believes that everyone should be treated fairly. They quickly welcome the Robinsons into the neighborhood, and Steve slowly develops a close relationship with the family.

Teaching with The Hero Two Doors Down: Character, Culture, & Civil Rights

The book actually opens with the passing of Steve’s dad, and the main story is his reflection on he and his dad’s relationship – and how they loved baseball.

After the initial introduction of the characters, the main story discusses the relationship between Steve and Jackie Robinson. Steve is portrayed as a good kid who often makes bad choices. He wants to do well and he doesn’t mean to get in trouble – it just happens. Having his hero move in next door is a dream come true, and Jackie becomes his mentor. Steve’s behavior improves noticeably – until he hears the Robinsons are moving. Students could use this book in a study of character development,  tracking how his new friendship affects Steve.

This book would also be an excellent read aloud or book club novel when a class studies different cultures or civil rights. Themes of acceptance and friendship are woven throughout the story. The author shows how sometimes people from different cultures can misunderstand each other yet still respect one another – like when Jackie sent a Christmas tree to Steve’s family not realizing they were Jewish. Steve and his dad discuss how Jackie is treated by other baseball teams and hotel owners, noting that Jackie is often forced to find separate accommodations from his teammates. These true facts are seamlessly woven into the tale and can be used as a springboard into deep discussions.

I really enjoyed this book, and your students will, too! I hope you check it out! What other books on culture and civil rights would recommend for grades 3-5?