Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe

Overview

A Sac and Fox Indian, Jim Thorpe was born Wa-tho-huck ("Bright Path") in Oklahoma in 1888. His childhood was a mix of hard work on his family’s ranch, wild days hunting and living rough in the outdoors, and a succession of dreary, military-strict "Indian Schools" that sought to impose white culture on Indian children. Jim hated them and frequently ran away, but it was at one such school, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that his life would change. Watching some student athletes practicing the high jump, Jim asked if he...

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Overview

A Sac and Fox Indian, Jim Thorpe was born Wa-tho-huck ("Bright Path") in Oklahoma in 1888. His childhood was a mix of hard work on his family’s ranch, wild days hunting and living rough in the outdoors, and a succession of dreary, military-strict "Indian Schools" that sought to impose white culture on Indian children. Jim hated them and frequently ran away, but it was at one such school, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that his life would change. Watching some student athletes practicing the high jump, Jim asked if he might try. Wearing overalls and a work shirt, he effortlessly cleared the bar on his first attempt—breaking the school’s high jump record. He was drafted onto the track and football teams by the school’s coach, Pop Warner, and went on to lead Carlisle to victories over the best college teams of the time. At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, Thorpe won the five-event Pentathlon with a score that would never be beaten, and the even more grueling Decathlon with a score that stood for 20 years.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“... a well-organized and visually appealing introduction ...”—School Library Journal
 
“... the theme of youthful aimlessness transforming into fierce athletic resolve will draw many children to the book ...”—Booklist

Children's Literature
Don Brown does it again with another well written, highly engaging picture book biography. From his hardscrabble childhood in Oklahoma to his fame as a highly decorated Olympian, Jim Thorpe's story is one of determination and dedication in spite of hardship. His taciturn father sent him to Indian schools from which Jim ran away every time, once spending two weeks walking 270 miles back home! Jim ran away from home at age 13 and earned his keep mending fences and taming wild horses. Four years later he attended an Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was there that Thorpe, in cumbersome overalls and work shirt, begged to try the high jump and cleared it, breaking the school's record. Track, football, baseball—there was no sport at which he did not excel. In 1912 he secured a place on the American Olympic team and wowed the world with his prowess in the decathlon and pentathlon, prompting the King of Sweden to declare him "the greatest athlete in the world." All of the loneliness, hardship, and true grit that characterized Jim Thorpe's early life is penned with great dignity. Soft watercolors capture the sweeping panorama of the prairie, the grim confines of the Indian School, and the pride of a champion. An author's notes chronicles Thorpe's unhappy life after the Olympics, which included being stripped of his medals and having his name struck from the record books, an insult that was not restored until 1973, twenty years after his death. 2006, Roaring Book Press, Ages 7 to 12.
—Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Born Wa-tho-huck (meaning "Bright Path") in 1888, Thorpe preferred the open space of Oklahoma's prairies to the dreary Indian schools that his father believed provided the best opportunities for his son's future. Unhappy with the rigid lifestyle, Thorpe ran away again and again. Sent across the country to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, he found himself preparing for a career as a tailor. Athletics afforded him his only real happiness, and he discovered almost by accident his outstanding abilities in track and field. Brown uses prose and paint to show the significant childhood events leading to Thorpe's victories at the 1912 summer Olympics, where he was called "the greatest athlete in the world" by the king of Sweden. Done in watercolor and pencil, the cartoon-style illustrations convey a sense of motion and the delight Jim took in playing, running, and training. Color and lines contrast the freedom he felt on the Sac and Fox Indians' land with the confinement and conformity of school. A two-page author's note provides additional information. Joseph Bruchac's Jim Thorpe's Bright Path (Lee & Low, 2004) includes more details and realistic artwork, but Brown's book offers a well-organized and visually appealing introduction that is well suited to reading aloud.-Julie R. Ranelli, Kent Island Branch Library, Stevensville, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Born Wa-tho-huck, or Bright Path, Jim Thorpe was later known as the World's Greatest Athlete. He grew up on the plains of Oklahoma and was sent to Indian schools, where he would learn "to act and dress like white people." Though he hated most of the schools and often ran away, it was at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School that Thorpe proved the athletic prowess that eventually took him to the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, where he won the pentathlon and the decathlon. With his signature watercolor-and-ink cartoony characters and dramatic storytelling, Brown offers a solid look at a hero in the making. The attractive volume works as far as it goes, ending with Thorpe's heroism at the Olympics but not broaching-except in an extensive author's note-the complications of a difficult later life when Thorpe was unfairly stripped of his medals. As with all of Brown's fine volumes, this will appeal to young readers with a bent toward real-life heroes. (bibliographic note) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312377489
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 1/22/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.19 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Don Brown is the author and illustrator of more than a dozen picture-book biographies. His subjects have included explorers, scientists, astronauts, aviation pioneers, moviemakers, religious leaders, and many others. He lives with his family on Long Island, New York.

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