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JIMMY THE GREATEST! by Jairo Buitrago Kirkus Star


by Jairo Buitrago & illustrated by Rafael Yockteng & translated by Elisa Amado

Age Range: 6 - 8

Pub Date: May 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55498-178-6
Publisher: Groundwood

In a thought-provoking twist on the usual immigrant story, a village lad elects to stay put.

Though Jimmy’s town is just a scattering of shacks on a broad beach, there is a tiny gym, owned by Don Apolinar. He gives Jimmy a box full of books and clippings about Muhammad Ali that sparks a yen in the boy to become a boxer. Yockteng depicts the tall, dark-skinned lad running across a sun-drenched landscape at the head of a gaggle of laughing children. He shadowboxes and demonstrates his strength by letting a goat butt him in the chest, carrying huge loads of fish and other feats. But when Don Apolinar departs for the big city, where there are "real jobs," Jimmy decides to stay, taking over the gym and adding a library to it. “Maybe one day he’ll get a match,” the narrative concludes, but then it gives Jimmy the last words: “Listen to me. / This is my town. / … / We dance and we box / and we don’t / sit around waiting / to go someplace else.” Idealized as it may be, the idyllic setting and smiling, bright-eyed faces on view in the illustrations make his choice easy to understand.

Eye-opening inspiration in this unassuming import from Colombia. (Picture book. 6-8)