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Jim Thorpe, Original All-American

Jim Thorpe, Original All-American

4.1 7
by Joseph Bruchac

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Jim Thorpe was one of the greatest athletes who ever lived. He played professional football, Major League Baseball, and won Olympic gold medals in track&field. But his life wasn’t an easy one. Born on the Sac and Fox Reservation in 1887, he encountered much family tragedy, and was sent as a young boy to various Indian boarding schools—strict, cold


Jim Thorpe was one of the greatest athletes who ever lived. He played professional football, Major League Baseball, and won Olympic gold medals in track&field. But his life wasn’t an easy one. Born on the Sac and Fox Reservation in 1887, he encountered much family tragedy, and was sent as a young boy to various Indian boarding schools—strict, cold institutions that didn’t allow their students to hold on to their Native American languages and traditions. Jim ran away from school many times, until he found his calling at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian School. There, the now-legendary coach Pop Warner recognized Jim’s athletic excellence and welcomed him onto the football and track teams.

Focusing on Jim Thorpe’s years at Carlisle, this book brings his early athletic career—and especially his college football days—to life, while also dispelling some myths about him and movingly depicting the Native American experience at the turn of the twentieth century. This is a book for history buffs as well as sports fans—an illuminating and lively read about a truly great American.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing on meticulous research, Bruchac (Wabi) presents Jim Thorpe's (1887-1953) complex story, focusing on his years at Haskell and Carlisle Indian Schools, as a kind of imagined autobiography. Thorpe excelled at football, baseball and track, winning two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics for the latter. An error-ridden press story stated that he had played summer Class D baseball in North Carolina in 1909 and 1910, earning nominal pay; the piece unleashed a chain of events that culminated in Thorpe signing a proffered "confession" and being stripped of his Olympic honors. By adopting an equanimous, measured voice to serve as Thorpe's first-person narrative, Bruchac shines new light on facets of the Sac and Fox Indian's amateur career, from highlights of Carlisle's wins against college football's greats, to the mishandling of funds endemic at both the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian schools. Bruchac illuminates Thorpe's complicated relationship with his Carlisle football coach, Glenn "Pop" Warner, whose own flaws emerge. (Warner led his winning teams while controlling proceeds from ticket sales and, arguably, Thorpe's amateur status.) In a cogent author's note, Bruchac explains that his research revealed many errors in previous books about Thorpe; and although he calls this a "novelized" account, he quickly points out that "this is not a work of fiction" and "much of the dialogue is taken from research." A selected bibliography and a peppering of period photographs round out an impressive work of scholarship. Ages 10-up. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Mary Loftus
This biography is written in the first person, which may create initial confusion for readers who struggle to grasp the difference between autobiography and biography. The content of the book is rich and an author's note explains the decision to tell the story in "Jim's voice," gleaned from letters and texts of his speeches. However, the conversational tone is a bit distracting. Once the reader clears the point of view hurdle, the story of this baseball, football, and track and field star is thoroughly engaging. Thorpe's Carlisle football experience includes anecdotes about early rules that will appeal to football fans. However, this is not just a story of athletics but also of the attempts to eradicate Indian culture. The aim of the Indian Agency School was to assimilate those "poor uncivilized" Indian children into "civilization." Photographs of Thorpe and the students before and after their traditional clothes are exchanged for military uniforms show readers what assimilation meant for them. The dedication of Thorpe to succeed in athletics in the face of many obstacles is inspiring. It was through athletics that Jim Thorpe was able to follow his father's advice, and "show those other races what an Indian can do."
VOYA - Steven Kral
Born in 1887, Jim Thorpe, a Native American of the Sauk and Fox tribe, was the consummate athlete. Eventually sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, he discovered track and football and fell under the tutelage of Carlisle's legendary football coach, Pop Warner. Excelling in track, baseball, and football, he won gold medals for the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympic games. Despite being stripped of his Olympic medals based on questions of his amateur status, he went on to play baseball for the New York Giants and was the first president of the American Professional Football Association, which later evolved into today's NFL. Bruchac concentrates on Thorpe's early years. He begins the book at Thorpe's birth, ends it just after Thorpe is stripped of his medals, and includes Thorpe's post 1913 life in an author's note. Although the book is a biography, Bruchac relates the story in first person as if the reader is listening to Thorpe tell about his early life. It makes the book less a dry recitation of facts and events and more a novel. This conceit is extremely effective, and combined with Bruchac's excellently written first-person reminiscences of key football plays and Olympic competition, will make the book appeal to reluctant readers who might otherwise not read biographies. The book would make an excellent addition to the biography section of a junior high or middle school library.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-A fictionalized biography. Thorpe spent his life running-running away from school, running on the baseball diamond, running the football, or running to win both the pentathlon and the decathlon in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. His accomplishments, his kindness and consideration of others, his defeats, and his exploitation are related in first-person narration, from his childhood on an Oklahoma reservation to the loss of his Olympic medals for playing on a professional minor-league baseball team. Readers learn about his athletic performances (some related play by play), his triumphs, his friendships, and his hardships through the use of dialogue and description. The trust that Thorpe had in others and his own perseverance show both his personal weaknesses and strengths. While the writing is accessible, Bruchac's use of the first person is likely to mislead or confuse readers. Twelve poor-quality, black-and-white photographs document the subject's time at Carlisle Indian Industrial School and show him receiving the gold medal for the pentathlon from King Gustav V of Sweden.-Janice C. Hayes, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Jim Thorpe was a modern American Indian hero. At Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Thorpe excelled in sports and later became known as the world's greatest athlete. Taking money to play semi-pro baseball one summer in North Carolina led to trumped-up charges that he had become a professional, and he was stripped of the gold medals he had won in the 1912 Olympics. But newspapers came to his defense, and he remained a hero to many people. Following up on his picture book, Jim Thorpe's Bright Path (2004), illustrated by S.D. Nelson, Bruchac has Thorpe tell the story in his own voice. The novel is a superb blend of fiction and nonfiction, rooted in the author's usual careful research. Not just a sports-hero tale, this delves into such important issues as the line between amateur and professional sports, the effect of big-time money on sports, racism and the relationship of Native Americans to a dominant society. (Fiction. 10+)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
950L (what's this?)
File size:
870 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Joseph Bruchac is a highly acclaimed children's book author, poet, novelist and storyteller, as well as a scholar of Native American culture. Coauthor with Michael Caduto of the bestselling Keepers of the Earth series, Bruchac's poems, articles and stories have appeared in hundreds of publications, from Akwesasne Notes and American Poetry Review to National Geographic and Parabola. He has authored many books for adults and children including Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, Skeleton Man, and The Heart of a Chief. For more information about Joseph, please visit his website www.josephbruchac.com.

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4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jim Thorpe original all american was a wonderful book to read over the month. to reall know he was a a real athlete icon for people every where that admires him. Jim was a fascinating man while reading Joseph Bruchac autobiography I think. Jim was a REAL athlete that not a lot of us can say for others, like winning Olympic gold medals in track and field, I haven't heard any other athlete doing what he did. Also he played pro football and MLB, that's a guy all kids can look up to if becoming a pro athlete.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book which relates to the lives of native americans and tells us a clear understanding of Jim's life. A great sports book and a must read
Guest More than 1 year ago
What genre is Mr. Bruchac's book? It is not really autobiography, though at first it seems to be. The author writes in the first person, as if he is Jim Thorpe. The problem is that a character should fit with his times and, using this method, Thorpe does not 'fit' with his. Mr. Bruchac puts a new head on old shoulders, meaning he gives Jim Thorpe insights about his life that he would only have looking back on his life - from the present time. About halfway through the book, we realize we are reading more about Joseph Bruchac and his feelings 'about the way Thorpe was treated' than we are about Thorpe himself. This short-changes Jim Thorpe. The author has an ax to grind, which becomes repetitious and tiresome. It is possible to write about Jim's life - all the unfair things that happened in it - without becoming pedantic. Just presenting facts about the way things were for Thorpe would be enough. When writing an historical book, it is necessary to give references as to the sources of the facts. If some of the facts seem wrong, this can tip the reader from belief to disbelief. If you are an author writing about a particular figure, or figures - in this case, Thorpe and Pop Warner - you owe it to them to be accurate. Unfortunately, there are mistakes among Mr. Bruchac's 'facts', no references to back them up - not even an index. At the end of the book, he actually states he is not naming all his sources. Is this the best model for young readers on how to write history? My grandfather managed the W&J team mentioned in the chapter 'The 1912 Season'. They held the Carlisle Indians to a scoreless tie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was so exciting i saw the book in my ming as i read it.