Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"No one expected such a tiny girl to have a first birthday," begins this inspiring biographical sketch of a legendary track stars. Born in 1940 in Tennessee, the chronically sickly though "lively" Rudolph contracted polio just before her fifth birthday. Though not expected to walk again, the fiercely determined girl persevered with her leg exercises; by the time she was 12, she no longer needed her steel brace. Eight years later, Rudolph represented the U.S. in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, where, despite a twisted ankle, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals during a single Olympic competition. Krull's (Lives of the Musicians) characteristic, conversational style serves her especially well here. Through her words the nearly superhuman Rudolph seems both personable and recognizable. Rendered in acrylic, watercolor and gouache, Caldecott Medalist Diaz's (Smoky Night) imposing, richly hued illustrations have a distinctive, cubist feel. The artist's bold design superimposes this art against sepia-toned photographs of relevant background images: playground sand, wooden fence slats, the gravel of a running track. This juxtaposition yields busy, effectively textured pages, flawed only by the text's curiously embellished font-the letters look as though they have been speckled with either ink blots or dust. A triumphant story, triumphantly relayed. Ages 7-12. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 5An athlete's determined efforts to succeed against all odds. The dynamic artwork is as fluid and vivacious as Rudolph herself. (June 1996)
nger for reading aloud. Wilma Rudolph was a wonder. Though partially paralyzed by polio as a child, she managed--through indomitable spirit and unlimited determination--to transform herself from a disabled 5-year-old to a world-class runner at age 20, the first woman ever to win three gold medals in a single Olympics. In this biography for younger readers, Krull skillfully demonstrates that in achieving her historic triple victory, Rudolph also claimed victory over three obstacles: a normally crippling illness, growing up African American in the segregated South of the 1940s, and competing in what was then regarded as a men's sport. The never didactic text includes a suspenseful and dramatic retelling of Rudolph's triumphant participation in the 1960 Summer Games in Rome. Enhancing the text are Caldecott medalist Diaz's richly colored, stylized illustrations that--though painted--have the look and permanence of wood carvings. These single-and double-page pictures are set on sepia-tone backgrounds that, like his Caldecott Medalwinning art for "Smokey Night" (1994), Diaz assembled and photographed. He has also created a striking new font called Ariel for the display and text type. Both Krull's words and Diaz's illustrations are celebrations of an inspiring life that deserves to be remembered. An appended author's note offers additional historical context.
Only after reading this book does the subtitle"How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman"appear rife with understatement. In spite of a low birth weight and childhood bouts with scarlet fever and polio (the doctor said Wilma would never walk again) and after years of painful, relentless exercise, she not only walked, she ran: to college on scholarship, and to the Olympics, where she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the same games. Krull (Lives of the Artists, 1995, etc.) tells the inspiring tale in rolling, oratorical prose; Diaz, coming off his Caldecott-winning work for Eve Bunting's Smoky Night (1994) again lays stylized painted scenes over textured background photoshere, sepia-toned close-ups of fences, ivy, and bare footprints in loose dirt. Though a mannered, blotchy typeface (also Diaz's creation) gives the pages an overly designed look, the book as a whole is a dramatic commemoration of quite a heroic life. Rudolph died in 1994; her post-Olympic accomplishments are described in an afterword.
From the Publisher
"Inspiring."—The New York Times Book Review
"A triumphant story, triumphantly relayed."--Publishers Weekly