The story of a wounded child who found refuge in sports.
As a child growing up in Indian Territory, Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) was taken from his family to Haskell Institute, a boarding school where Native children were forced into a white assimilation education system. After running away from Haskell several times, Jim was sent at 16 to the Carlisle Industrial School, where his father hoped he would learn a trade. Coulson’s straightforward account informs readers that it was at Carlisle where Jim turned his talent for running to track, encouraged by coach Glenn “Pop” Warner. Though Jim was small for his age, he excelled in baseball, lacrosse, and hockey—and his ability to dodge bigger players landed him on Carlisle’s varsity football team. The twin highlights of his career were making it to the 1912 Olympics, where he won several gold medals, and leading Carlisle to defeat the champion Army team. Hardcastle’s fine-lined ink-and-watercolor illustrations project an appropriately bygone air, depicting Thorpe in motion more often than not. Though the book is a welcome celebration of this Native American sports hero, the text skates over the impacts of forced cultural assimilation and separation from his family on Jim. Coulson (Cherokee) does mention a more personal family history in the backmatter, as well as the stripping of Thorpe’s Olympic medals (and their posthumous restoration), but his failure to integrate it into the story keeps readers from appreciating Jim’s victories in their full scope.
Solid if incomplete. (glossary, further reading, notes) (Informational picture book. 6-10)