“[A] soaring tribute.” Kirkus Reviews
Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Aliveby Carole Boston Weatherford, Eric Velasquez
Jesse Owens grew up during the time of Jim Crow laws, but segregation never slowed him down. After setting world records for track in high school and college, he won a slot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. That year, the Olympics were in Berlin, then controlled by the Nazis, and Hitler was certain they would be a chance to prove to the world that Aryans were superior
Jesse Owens grew up during the time of Jim Crow laws, but segregation never slowed him down. After setting world records for track in high school and college, he won a slot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. That year, the Olympics were in Berlin, then controlled by the Nazis, and Hitler was certain they would be a chance to prove to the world that Aryans were superior to all other races. But the triumph of Jesse's will helped him run through any barrier, winning four gold medals and the hearts of millions, setting two world records, and proving the Nazi dictator unmistakably wrong.
The story of Jesse Owens comes alive for young readers with Carole Boston Weatherford's award-winning free verse poetry. Eric Velasquez tackles this challenging subject with the use of pastels for the first time in twenty years-a technique that is both heart-stopping and immediate.
“[A] soaring tribute.” Kirkus Reviews
Weatherford (Moses) addresses her poetic tribute to Jesse Owens's remarkable performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics to the athlete himself: "Go from cotton fields to city sidewalks,/ from sickly child to keen competitor,/ from second-class citizen to first-place finish./ Go, Jesse, go. Trounce Jim Crow./ Run as fast as your feet can fly,/ as far as your dreams will reach." This allows the author to weave in subtle references and to make readers feel like privileged insiders (e.g., "find new track shoes/ to replace the ones you lost in New York"). The narrative follows Owens to Berlin, where Nazi flags line the streets, and beyond the city, to sobering images that Owens, and spectators of the Games, were "not meant to see"—the concentration camps. Hitler's presence casts a dark shadow over Owens's brilliance on the track ("Hitler does not want your kind here,/ does not believe you belong./ Prove him wrong"). After describing the fourth of the athlete's gold medal–clinching events, Weatherford asks, "Who'd have thought/ that a sharecropper's son,/ the grandson of slaves,/ would crush Hitler's pride?" In the tale's final victorious note, Owens rides "like a prince" in the lead car of a Manhattan ticker-tape parade honoring his team. An endnote provides facts about Owens's life before and after his Olympic feats. Sometimes calling to mind old-time photographs, Velasquez's (The Other Mozart, reviewed above) pleasingly grainy pastels easily convey the movement and speed, determination and triumph at the core of Owens's uplifting story. Ages 6-11. (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The year is 1936, and Owens is about to win an unprecedented four Olympic gold medals in Berlin, toppling Hitler's dream to showcase Aryan superiority. Written in second-person narration, the book focuses tightly on Owens's accomplishments, giving details about each of the four races and his role in uniting people across racial lines. Rich pastel illustrations, many of them based on historical photographs, make this title stand out from biographies illustrated with black-and-white photographs. As a picture book, it gives a sparsely detailed sketch of the events and has a few references that will need further explanation, such as Jim Crow, the autobahn, and concentration camps. The author omits the controversy surrounding Owens's last-minute replacement of a Jewish runner in the 400-meter relay. Briefly referring to the sprinter's childhood and segregation in the United States, the narrator encourages him to "Trounce Jim Crow," illustrated with a fictionalized picture of him running past segregated water fountains. What details exist are clearly researched. The book works well as an introduction for students old enough to begin talking about segregation in the United States and Hitler's Germany. Endnotes give background information.
Suzanne Myers HaroldCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Meet the Author
Carole Boston Weatherford's first act as an author was at six years old, when she dictated a poem to her mother. Today, she is an award-winning author of nineteen books of poetry, nonfiction, and children's literature, including Walker & Company's The Sound That Jazz Makes, winner of the Carter G. Woodsen Award. As a writer, she wants to make sure that kids are always free to pursue their dream, just like Jesse. She resides in High Point, North Carolina, with her husband, Ronald, and their children, Caresse and Jeffery. Visit her Web site at www.caroleweatherford.com.
Eric Velasquez hadn't used pastels in over twenty years when he illustrated this book. He believes the change from oil painting was inspired by the challenging, vital subject: "Something about Jesse Owens cried out for an immediate medium such as pastels." His illustrations for Walker & Company's The Piano Man won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and now lives in Harsdale, New York, with his wife, Deborah.
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