Meet the Author of The Hero Two Doors Down
by Traci Swain and Tatiana Florival
Read this Scholastic Book Clubs–exclusive interview with author Sharon Robinson—Jackie Robinson’s daughter—to learn what went into writing The Hero Two Doors Down, a historical-fiction novel showcasing her father’s impact and legacy.
There are some heavy hitters in the Robinson family—such as award-winning author Sharon Robinson and her father, Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson! Sharon swung for the fences writing The Hero Two Doors Down, an engaging story that follows a young boy named Stephen who lived in the same building as his hero, Jackie Robinson.
Go behind the scenes in this interview with Sharon to learn:
• What inspired her to write The Hero Two Doors Down
• The best advice her father ever gave her
• What she hopes her readers take away from this book
What was the most challenging part of writing The Hero Two Doors Down?
The Hero Two Doors Down is historical fiction, based on a true story, so the challenge was to tell Steve’s story accurately. It was important to relay what his relationship with my father meant to him. I wanted to be honest in presenting how Steve was acting out as an eight-year-old kid, and how the relationship with my dad helped him to modify his behavior.
What do you hope readers will take away from Steve’s relationship with your father?
I hope they’ll take away that we as humans have more similarities than differences. Steve and my dad had a misunderstanding because they didn’t understand each other’s religion and culture, but they worked it through in a way that was respectful of each other and ultimately brought them closer together.
What made you write about this relationship?
In America, we have people that come from all over the world, and the beauty of that is that we’re exposed to different cultures and religions and voices and languages. The challenge for our children is how to welcome the differences and try to learn from each other—and that’s easier said than done. That’s something our kids and their parents are struggling with, but I was hoping to convey that the struggle is worth it. We all have similar goals, and if we find ways to work together and learn from each other, we’re stronger as a people.
Did your father ever share what important event was the driving force that made him so successful?
My father talked a lot about his mother and her relationship with her children. His mom (my grandmother) raised five children in Pasadena, California, at a time when she had to work very long hours and made very little money. But she still managed to teach them personal and family responsibility, as well as responsibility to community.
The other factor in my dad’s life—a very important factor since he did not grow up with his father—was a young minister that came into my dad’s life when he was a preteen: Reverend Downs. At that time, my father had started to act out with his friends. But Reverend Downs gave them a place in the church where they could do sports after school, and was a positive male role model in their lives that they could relate to. Reverend Downs stayed in my dad’s life. He married my parents. And when my dad came out of the service after World War II, Reverend Downs brought my dad to work at the physical education department at Huston-Tillotson University, where he was teaching. Reverend Downs died young, but he was instrumental in my father’s childhood and in his early adult years.
Those are the people who shaped who my father was. And then I have to say the third factor was opportunity. My dad was an all-around athlete in college, and wanted to play professional sports, but there was no opportunity for him as an African American. When he was recruited by Branch Rickey for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he finally had that opportunity. Because he understood the importance of this opportunity, and saw it as a challenge, he wanted to do his best as always and he performed at his highest level.
Did your father ever share who his hero was and the reason why that person was his hero?
I think we have different heroes at different stages of our lives. As a child, it was certainly his mother and Reverend Downs, as I mentioned. Once he and my mother met and formed a partnership, she was probably his heroine, his most significant partner in life. My mother pushes everyone she comes in contact with, so she pushed him too. She’s a force! Never behind him but always beside him, pushing him whenever possible.
What was the best advice your father ever gave you?
The best advice my father ever gave me came in 1963, when he sat my brothers and me down after coming home from Birmingham to tell us that he and my mom had found a way for us to be involved in the civil rights movement as a family, and also that we were going to have a family mission. That’s when he outlined how we would work as a family toward social change, which has invested me wholeheartedly in a life of purpose and service.
What are the qualities of a hero in your eyes?
A hero is someone who can both lead and listen, support and challenge, and sees you through both good and bad times. That’s a hero to me.
Did your students learn something new about Jackie Robinson after reading The Hero Two Doors Down? We’d love to hear from you. Please share with us on social media using the hashtag #ScholasticBookClubs.
Sharon Robinson is an award-winning children’s book author, educational consultant for Major League Baseball, and the daughter of Jackie Robinson. As founder and consultant, Sharon joins MLB and Scholastic to co-manage Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, a baseball-themed national character education curriculum designed to empower students to face and overcome obstacles in their live. Her most recent book, Child of the Dream, is a timely new memoir that explores Robinson’s coming to terms with the struggle for racial equality during the civil rights movement.
Photo credit: John Vecchiolla
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs