Minter’s acrylic-painted linoleum-block prints combine with Bowman’s story of a former slave who trained a brilliant horse for a memorable book.
Born circa 1833 in Shelbyville, Tennessee, William “Doc” Key earned his nickname by developing expertise in caring for horses. He had helped many horses give birth, but when his purebred Arabian, Lauretta, gives birth to a weak, “spindly, shank-legged” colt, Doc despairs of ever raising a prizewinning racehorse. Raising Beautiful Jim Key with the attention a doting parent gives a child, Doc soon realizes that he has no ordinary horse. Over time, Doc teaches Jim to answer questions, spell words, and write letters on a blackboard. Doc makes a living from selling his liniments on a medicine wagon, but when Jim performs in the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, held in Nashville in 1897, it catapults both of them to fame, which Key uses to promote animal welfare. Surrounding this amazing and mostly true story is the American segregation that prevented Doc and Jim from performing in certain places and for certain audiences. The strong, black lines of Minter’s prints give the book an old-time–y feel; colored in a palette of gold, brown, and green, they glow with life. Photographs of Doc and Jim in the backmatter along with useful historical information on the pair will give readers valuable background and context.
An incredible story that ought to be widely known—a must-read. (Picture book/biography. 7-12)