Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson

( 1 )

Overview

Born as Arthur John Johnson in the southern state of Texas, Jack Johnson was one of the most renowned boxers of the twentieth century. Through hard work and persistence, he climbed the ranks, taking a swing and a jab and eventually busting the color barrier. As the first black man to win the Heavyweight Championship, there was more than a title on the line.

 

Published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this history-making bout (July 4, 1910). This ...

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Overview

Born as Arthur John Johnson in the southern state of Texas, Jack Johnson was one of the most renowned boxers of the twentieth century. Through hard work and persistence, he climbed the ranks, taking a swing and a jab and eventually busting the color barrier. As the first black man to win the Heavyweight Championship, there was more than a title on the line.

 

Published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this history-making bout (July 4, 1910). This is an extraordinary marriage of poetry, fabulous collage artwork, and a splendid achievement in its own right.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jack Johnson was the first black fighter to win a heavyweight championship. The prospect of losing to a black man so worried reigning champion Jim Jeffries that, rather than fight Johnson, he retired; after Jeffries's successor lost to Johnson, public goading forced Jeffries out of retirement, whereupon Johnson defeated him, too. Smith (Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali) tells Johnson's story in loose-limbed verse, establishing Jack as a complex, driven man before laying the fact of his race and its consequences before readers. The word is like a slap: "Behind the wheel of his car/ Jack was just Jack,/ but everywhere else,/ Jack was just black." Evans (Olu's Dreams) draws forms that press forward out of the pages, big masses of muscle and glove barely held in by skinny inked lines. The scenes are static, tense; more action is in the typography. As the story gathers speed like a freight train, the letters shout in uppercase, marching across the page. A rousing story, one that celebrates Johnson's dignity, pride, and determination. Ages 5-8. (July)
Publishers Weekly
Jack Johnson was the first black fighter to win a heavyweight championship. The prospect of losing to a black man so worried reigning champion Jim Jeffries that, rather than fight Johnson, he retired; after Jeffries's successor lost to Johnson, public goading forced Jeffries out of retirement, whereupon Johnson defeated him, too. Smith (Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali) tells Johnson's story in loose-limbed verse, establishing Jack as a complex, driven man before laying the fact of his race and its consequences before readers. The word is like a slap: "Behind the wheel of his car/ Jack was just Jack,/ but everywhere else,/ Jack was just black." Evans (Olu's Dreams) draws forms that press forward out of the pages, big masses of muscle and glove barely held in by skinny inked lines. The scenes are static, tense; more action is in the typography. As the story gathers speed like a freight train, the letters shout in uppercase, marching across the page. A rousing story, one that celebrates Johnson's dignity, pride, and determination. Ages 5–8. (July)
From the Publisher
“Charles Smith's poetry surges along, with a forceful rhythm that joins ballad and rap, as he follows "a mighty, fightin' man," challenging the color line as well as individual opponents around the world. Shane Evans' illustrations make Johnson's body a monument to intelligence and power.” –ChicagoTribune

“This book is sure to be championed by reluctant readers with energy and restlessness just like Johnson’s, but it is a strong selection for library and classroom read-alouds as well.” —Starred, School Library Journal

“A rousing story, one that celebrates Johnson's dignity, pride, and determination.” –Starred, Publishers Weekly

“The poetry is interspersed with quotes of the time, and illustrator Evans uses oil paint and ink to depict the somber, determined fighter, with collage elements of newspaper articles, maps, and crowds in the backgrounds to set the story firmly in time and place.” —Horn Book

“The elegant simplicity and rat-a-tat rhythms land some stunners . . .  enhanced by Evans’ lithe and swaggering artwork, which lends a tremendous visual charisma, grace, and grandeur.” —Starred, Booklist

“Through poetry, quotations and some prose, the life of one of boxing’s most important stars is celebrated, from his youth as the victim of bullies to the 1908 championship bout against a white fighter that made him a legend.” —Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Art and text work powerfully together to tell the story of the first African-American heavyweight champion. Smith begins by telling readers that "Black Jack was his OWN man." These bold words skillfully set the tone for the tale of how a shy, fearful young man learned to fight back and become one of history's more compelling personalities. Books play a role in the young man's development; biographies of Napoleon and Isaac Murphy (an African-American jockey) inspired Johnson to become a great man himself. Smith's brisk, rhythmic text captures the boxer's energy and vigor. For example, "But what Jack wanted most/was to be a great man/so he challenged the times./But it was Jack who was challenged/when he faced the color line." Evans's illustrations perfectly complement the text, using bold colors and strong brushstrokes to convey the athlete's larger-than-life personality. An endnote entitled "And Then What Happened?" provides an overview of the rest of Johnson's life. This book is sure to be championed by reluctant readers with energy and restlessness just like Johnson's, but it is a strong selection for library and classroom read-alouds as well.—Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596434738
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 6/22/2010
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 918,485
  • Age range: 2 - 6 Years
  • Lexile: AD980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles R. Smith

CHARLES SMITH JR. is a celebrated author, poet, and photographer. He has created more than twenty books, including Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali, a 2008 Corretta Scott King Honor Book and a 2008 Norman Sugarman Best Biography Honor Book and Chameleon, his first novel for young adults. He currently lives in Poughkeepsie, New York with his wife Gillian and three kids, Sabine, Adrian and Sebastian.

SHANE EVANS has illustrated numerous books for children, including the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner Shanna's Ballerina Show. He attributes much of his influence to his travels to Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and much of the United States. He is a firm believer in education and creative development for all people.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Boxing the Color Line.

    Simple, clear, and detailed illustrations with an informative storyline make this picture book, by Charles R. Smith, Jr. and illustrations by Shane W. Evans, a good choice for read-aloud story time for youth ages five and older. Second graders and older could also read this as a silent sustained reading assignment or for multi-cultural studies.

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