"Bare feet shouldn't fly. Long legs shouldn't spin. Braids shouldn't flap in the wind. 'Sit on the porch and be a lady,' Papa scolded Alice." In Alice's Georgia hometown, there was no track where an African-American girl could practice, so she made her own crossbar with sticks and rags. With the support of her coach, friends, and community, Alice started to win medals. Her dream to compete at the Olympics came true in 1948. This is an inspiring free-verse story of the first African-American woman to win an ...
"Bare feet shouldn't fly. Long legs shouldn't spin. Braids shouldn't flap in the wind. 'Sit on the porch and be a lady,' Papa scolded Alice." In Alice's Georgia hometown, there was no track where an African-American girl could practice, so she made her own crossbar with sticks and rags. With the support of her coach, friends, and community, Alice started to win medals. Her dream to compete at the Olympics came true in 1948. This is an inspiring free-verse story of the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Photos of Alice Coachman are also included.
As a girl, Alice Coachman drew attention in her small Georgia town for her high-jumping skills, even though she used an improvised crossbar made of sticks and rags. After impressing the coach for the Tuskegee Golden Tigerettes and playing with the all-female track team, Coachman set an Olympic trials record and went on to compete at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, becoming the first African-American woman to win gold. Velasquez’s majestic, thickly painted oils portray Coachman (b. 1923) with a quiet serenity and assurance, as Malaspina, writing in verse, conveys the magnitude of her accomplishments with agility and lyricism: “As she climbed to the top/ of the winners’ stand,/ the crowd rose/ for the bare-feet flying,/ long-legs spinning,/ moon jumper from Georgia.” Appended materials include several b&w photographs and biographical details about Coachman’s later life. Ages 6–9. (Jan.)
- Phyllis Kennemer
Alice Coachman loved to run and she loved to jump. Her papa was not happy. Girls should act like ladies and help with the family livelihood. Times were hard in Albany, Georgia, in the 1930s. There was always work to do. But Alice took advantage of every opportunity to run and jump. She played basketball with the boys at recess and tried to touch the sky. One day she saw a boy jump a crossbar at a track meet and she knew that was what she had to do. None of the fields or tracks would allow Alice to practice. Blacks were not allowed in either public or private venues. Alice knotted rags, hung them between sticks and practiced in her own yard. Finally, a high school teacher recognized Alice's talent. He bought her the appropriate clothes and got her entered in the bar-crossing jump for a track meet. She won first place and her career was launched. She enjoyed many successes in pole vaulting and in 1948, she become the first Black woman to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Alice's strengths and challenges are explained in lyrical free verse. Full-page paintings contribute additional meaning to this story of extraordinary courage. Two pages in the back of the book contain black and white photographs of Coachman and an author's note. An inspiring biography. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—With oil paintings crafted from photographs, Velasquez captures the unconventional style of Alice Coachman's high jumps in this picture-book biography of the first African American woman to win an Olympic Gold. Free-verse text focuses on details such as the athlete's tendency to suck lemons during competitions: "the lemon made her feel lightning-fast,/feather-light, moon-jumping strong." Full-bleed images with inset text appear on almost every spread. One shows Coachman as a young girl jumping a twisted cloth strung between two trees while a man comments to her mother that she's likely to jump over the Moon one day. Her mother's response is not included, but her posture conveys her attitude. It was not her parents who encouraged her, though, but teachers who recognized her talent and offered opportunities for her to train and compete. Readers are likely to empathize with this tomboy who loved to run, jump, and play sports with the boys despite her father's admonitions that she "sit on the porch and/be a lady." This book does not emphasize Coachman's racial experiences except for a brief list of issues the Tuskegee Golden Tigerettes faced traveling in the South. An author's note mentions a reception in her hometown where well-wishers were divided by race. Four black-and-white photos of Coachman and a close-up of her medal are included. This is not a resource for reports, but it is an inspiring introduction to an obscure athlete.—Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library
Malaspina's free verse tells the story of how Alice Coachman went from her Georgia hometown to the 1948 London Olympics, becoming the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. "Sit on the porch and / be a lady," Papa would scold young Alice. But Alice preferred racing down the road, "Bare feet flying, / long legs spinning, / braids flapping / in the wind." She'd play basketball with the boys at recess, make her own high-jump bar with rags tied to sticks and practice, practice, practice. She dreamed of soaring, of touching the sky, and when Coach Abbott invited her to enroll at Tuskegee to train with the Tigerettes, she saw her dreams come closer. She traveled with the Golden Tigerettes and later set a high-jump record at the Olympic Trials. At the Olympics, the American women had no medals going into the final event, the high jump. It was down to two women, and Alice won, setting a new Olympic record. Velazquez's oil-on–watercolor-paper illustrations capture the long-legged grace of Coachman and the power of her jumps, most dramatically her Olympic medal–winning jump in a close-up double-page spread against an Impressionistically rendered crowd in the background. A solid introduction to a lesser-known sports heroine. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)
Even as a child, Ann Malaspina liked to write stories. Ann has written numerous books for young people including Finding Lincoln and Phillis Sings Out Freedom. Ann lives in New Jersey with her husband and two sons. annmalaspina.com
Eric Velasquez, the son of Afro-Puerto Rican parents, was born in Spanish Harlem and grew up in Harlem in New York City. As a child, his love for doodling and drawing was strongly encouraged by his mother. From his grandmother he inherited a love of music and from his father he developed a love of movies. Growing up in this setting, Eric says, "Becoming an artist was a natural choice for me. I have never thought of being anything else." ericvelasquez.com/