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Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Aliveby Carole Boston Weatherford
Synopses & Reviews
In 1936, America was years away from war with Nazi Germany. But long before the first battle of World War II, a starter's gun fired the first shot in our battle against the Nazis.
Adolf Hitler viewed the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a chance to show the superiority of the German "race" over the rest of the world. He never expected that an American, let alone a black American, would dash his dreams.
Jesse Owens grew up during an age when segregation laws forced him to eat at separate restaurants and stay at different hotels. But Jesse never let it slow him down while setting world records and winning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Once in Berlin, the triumph of Jesse's will helped him run through any barrier, winning not only Olympic gold, but countless fans.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About 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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