Long, Heather. Queen of the Track. Boyd's Mills Press unp $16.95
978-1-59078-850-9 elm/ms E-BNe Biography
Alice Coachman grew up in the early 20th century, when there was prejudice against blacks as well as against female athletes. Despite adversity of all kinds, she entered the 1948 Olympics, jumped the high jump and won a gold medal. This is an excellent book about an African-American woman who did not let the times in which she grew up, the reality of racial segregation, or physical pain prevent her from achieving her goal. Queen of the Track is all about high-quality literature for children. The story is beautifully written, the illustrations are subdued yet detailed, and the layout is impeccable. From the time a young reader sees the action photo of Alice Coachman jumping around the fields of Albany, Georgia, to the illustration of Alice on the podium with her opponents in 1948, the story proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that with hard work and determination, one can achieve success. Not only did Alice face opposition because of her race and sex, but also from her own father, who did not want her to run and jump, because she had cooking, cleaning, cotton picking and child care to do. Her destiny was written in stone, however, because in the seventh grade, a coach recognized her ability and sent her to the Tuskegee Relays, which she won easily. A benevolent force in her community, she volunteered to deliver food to tornado victims of her town. The drama, the yearning and the positive spirit come through, and readers of all ages will learn something new from this book. When the king of England shakes her hand, the reader will smile, because Alice accomplished something in England that she was unable to accomplish in America in that era, namely the breaking of barriers between the races and full equality.
When dealing with such a lovely book, it is painful to mention that on a few of the pages, the text is difficult to read due to the background color. However, this book is great for readers of all ages. Elementary schools and public libraries must have a copy of this book. As a biography, it shines!
-- Martha Squaresky