Malaspina’s free verse tells the story of how Alice Coachman went from her Georgia hometown to the 1948 London Olympics, becoming the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
“Sit on the porch and / be a lady,” Papa would scold young Alice. But Alice preferred racing down the road, “Bare feet flying, / long legs spinning, / braids flapping / in the wind.” She’d play basketball with the boys at recess, make her own high-jump bar with rags tied to sticks and practice, practice, practice. She dreamed of soaring, of touching the sky, and when Coach Abbott invited her to enroll at Tuskegee to train with the Tigerettes, she saw her dreams come closer. She traveled with the Golden Tigerettes and later set a high-jump record at the Olympic Trials. At the Olympics, the American women had no medals going into the final event, the high jump. It was down to two women, and Alice won, setting a new Olympic record. Velazquez’s oil-on–watercolor-paper illustrations capture the long-legged grace of Coachman and the power of her jumps, most dramatically her Olympic medal–winning jump in a close-up double-page spread against an Impressionistically rendered crowd in the background.
A solid introduction to a lesser-known sports heroine. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)