In this stirring biography of Scott, the only black race car driver to win a NASCAR race, Velasquez’s expressive pastels showcase the driver’s determination and resourcefulness as he “quit school and drove a cab to put his sister through college.” After serving in WWII, Scott started a family and “to make ends meet... ran moonshine,” but never lost his love for cars, soon turning to racing. Even when, in 1963, Scott was denied recognition for his NASCAR win because of his race, his conviction didn’t waver. With as much attention paid to Scott’s life off the track as on, readers won’t need to be racing fans to be drawn in. Ages 7–11. (Oct.)
Weatherford presents a profile of Wendell O. Scott, the first and (so far) only African American to win a NASCAR race, as an all-too-typical tale of pervasive racial discrimination and harassment overcome by quiet, stubborn endurance. She makes it clear, though, that he hung in there and spent most of his life with 'one pocket nearly broke, the other pocket full of dreams,' not to break down racial barriers but simply for love of the sport during his long career, which ended in 1973. Though generic faces and static compositions give the art a staid look, Weatherford's lively writing animates this unique profile and introduces a groundbreaker whose achievements, like those of competitive bicyclist Major Taylor, have fallen into unjust obscurity. An afterword fleshes out the history.
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
"Wendell Scott was in a hurry from day one," the text of this engaging picture book biography begins. Scott drove his mama on errands before he had a driver's license, bought his first car at age fourteen for fifteen dollars, collected plenty of speeding tickets, and began auto racing the minute a race promoter offered him the chanceeven though it was a chance to let white drivers try to run him off the track. H ow else could Scott achieve his dream of racing at the Grand National competition "with hand-me down cars, a hauler converted from an old tire truck, and no big-money backers?" The story of Scott's ultimate triumph as the first black driver ever to win a NASCAR race is bittersweet: he was first denied his title because of racism and then received only "pitiful" recognition for "the biggest win of his career." Still, it is a story supremely worth telling, vividly presented by Weatherford, with energetic illustrations by Velasquez in a wide horizontal format that captures the joy of racing and of one brave, passionate man's pioneering achievement. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Born in 1921, in segregated Virginia, African-American Wendell Scott was a far cry from the typical competitor in the then all-white sport of stock car racing. Weatherford's understated, cadenced text and Velasquez's soft pastels follow his entrepreneurial fascination with cars and racing and show how this once-moonshine-running racer's speed gained him a slim toehold in a career that included winning a championship NASCAR race. (That 1963 win was bittersweet—Scott came in first, but a white driver was declared the winner and awarded the trophy.) The simple text is enriched by a biographical note from the author. Heavily pictorial, this slim picture-book biography will add a welcome dimension to sports collections.—Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
"Wendell Scott was in a hurry from day one." Having earned enough ("fifteen bucks") to buy a Model T Ford at the age of 14, he went on to drive a cab (and collect a prodigious number of speeding tickets), operate a garage and run moonshine. "So when a race promoter wanted a black driver, the police said, ‘Scott's your man. Ain't nobody faster.' " Weatherford develops her character neatly and with conviction, hitting hard at his seemingly unquenchable enthusiasm for speed and his resilience in the face of enduring racism. Readers will feel her anger and his when, after becoming the first (and only) African American to win a NASCAR race, he had to watch blatantly biased judges award the trophy to a white man (they recanted later, giving him a replacement, "a wooden piece of junk," a month later). Velasquez's typically heroic pastels depict the smiling white driver mugging for the camera while a furious Scott looms outside the frame. Although the prose is less poetic than others of the author's works, it retains a gritty vitality appropriate to the subject. Eye-opening, exhilarating and inspiring. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)
What People are saying about this
Wendell Scott's story really inspired me. As I pursue my own NASCAR dream, I hope it helps to encourage every young person to become all that God created them to be. It was Wendell's determination that paved the path that I am on. He never gave up, and my goal is to follow his example. (Chase Austin, 19-year-old NASCAR Driver)
As a boy, Wendell Scott loved fast cars. He dreamed of becoming a NASCAR racer. But Scott was black, and the sport hadn't opened its doors yet to African-Americans. Brave and determined, Scott became the first black NASCAR driver. He won many races, opened many people's hearts, and helped America become a fairer country. Thanks to this exciting book, young readers will enjoy a dramatic story that, unfortunately, they'll probably never hear about in school. (Brian Donovan, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Scott's biography, "Hard Driving: The American Odyssey of NASCAR's First Black Driver.)
Wendell Scott has been a hero of mine from the time I became involved in NASCAR. His story is one of inspiration and one that I hope is told for years to come. While I did not have the opportunity to meet him personally, I feel I got to know him through his family. They even allowed me to sit behind the wheel of one of his last race cars that still sat in his old garage. I will also never forget the honor I had of helping to induct him into the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall Of Fame in New York. If it were not for the courage and conviction of Wendell Scott, I may have never realized my dream of competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He was a true American sports pioneer.