The story of a Sudanese “Lost Boy” who pursued and achieved his dream of running in the Olympics.
Seized at age 6 from his village by “rebel soldiers,” Lopepe (a nickname in his native Buya later altered to “Lopez”) escapes with other captives and runs for days to reach the U.N. refugee camp of Kakuma in Kenya. One day he joins a group of children watching the 2000 Olympics on a farmer’s battery-powered TV, and the sight of runner Michael Johnson fires up his ambition to become an Olympian himself. His adoption by a white New York couple and his recruitment by the trainer of a local high school’s cross-country team sends him on his way—to, ultimately, not only the 2008 (and, unacknowledged here, 2012) Games, but a joyful reunion with his biological parents, college, and a foundation dedicated to relief work in South Sudan. Except for name-dropping (notably a reference to “Brittany, the love of his life,” who gets no further mention) Eulate’s account is sketchy, particularly after Lomong’s arrival in the U.S., and thickly sentimental: he last appears figuratively receiving “the medal life gives you when you fulfill your dreams.” Uyá’s illustrations are likewise spare of detail, with stylized, folk-art–like human figures stiffly posed against near-featureless backgrounds.
It’s inspiring, but it presents Lomong more as an object lesson than as a living person. (Picture book/biography. 8-10)