This vivid portrait is sure to encourage young readers and listeners to pursue their dreams.

UNBEATABLE BETTY

BETTY ROBINSON, THE FIRST FEMALE OLYMPIC TRACK & FIELD GOLD MEDALIST

“…all that matters is the runner and the track.”

Spotted racing for a train, Betty Robinson was invited to join the boys high school track team, and after only three competitions, the 16-year-old white girl won the first women’s gold medal in track and field during the first Olympic Games that allowed women to run, in 1928. Action-filled illustrations give a sense of the period and focus on her runner’s stance and determined facial expressions while straightforward text points out her resolve, her experiences, and the challenges she faced as a female athlete. Betty Robinson continued to set records while training for the 1932 Olympics—until her biplane crashed and she was told she would never walk again. Wracked with pain, she began a grueling regimen that enabled her to compete in the 1936 Olympic relay and win with her team. Betty’s resilience is presented in a simple, believable way, not mentioning that recovery from such an injury may be impossible. Focusing strictly on the runner and her struggles and accomplishments—the fact that black women did not compete is not addressed while Jesse Owen’s 1936 win in Berlin is mentioned only in the endnotes—this powerful volume provides a specific but inspiring tale of athletics, feminism, resilience, and teamwork.

This vivid portrait is sure to encourage young readers and listeners to pursue their dreams. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289607-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

JUST LIKE JESSE OWENS

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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