I’ve been matched with a children’s book for this year’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day! It’s like they know me! Okay, maybe I would have adored any book sent, but I am so pleased. It’s not just me—my daughter, especially, lit up with The Quickest Kid in Clarksville!
It’s not a princess book catering to cuteness. It’s not a boring, knock-your-head-on-the-table-non-fiction which should only be pulled out for the dullest of school reports. It does not talk down to kids. It does not use trite cliches to say we are all a gorgeous melting pot or rainbow pot of fondue. (We may be, sometimes, but that kind of very kumbaya “rainbow washing” can diminish the struggles and needs many people and people groups came out of and/or still face). Like I said, I’m so happy to have received a book with depth. (Teachers: scroll down to receive your free book, as well!)
The Quickest Kid… is the polar opposite of every negative trait I listed above. It is truthful, real, and engaging.
This is a book with verve and voice which tells, through a more modern character, just some of what makes track legend, Wilma Rudolph, so deserving to be the focus and inspiration of a book.
Set in Clarksville, Tennessee, the hometown of the revered Wilma, this story is told in the voice of young and spunky Alta. Like Wilma, her absolute idol, she runs. She knows she’s quick. She does not have the means to buy shiny new shoes, no matter how deserving she is. Alma knows and remembers, through a rival and a new friendship, that shoes do not matter. Fast is fast.
The author, Pat Zietlow Miller, and dynamic illustrator, Frank Morrison, must have deeply channeled Rudolph’s energy and lifeblood when they created Alma, her enemy Charmaine, every bit of the need and love for running cleverly depicted.
“I bite my lip. It’s OK. Wilma wore a leg brace and flour-sack dresses before she got big. “Shoes don’t make you fast,” I say. Charmaine’s face tightens.”
See how they insert a little statement like that? A quick dig on the internet, almanac, or this encyclopedia link, reveals countless blow-your-mind-facts about the three-time gold medal Olympian.
- Wilma was number twenty of twenty-two children! When Alma talks about her broken-down, never been white lace shoes before, how much must Wilma have known the inevitability of hand-me-downs!
- That metal leg brace was due to young Wilma’s infantile paralysis, twisted leg, and a bleak bout with Polio at four-years-old. Doctors told Wilma that she would never walk. Her left leg remained paralyzed for years.
“My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”—Wilma Rudolph
- At the 1960s Olympics in Rome, where she snagged three gold medals(!), media and television coverage made it so that Wilma and other athletes, such as Cassius Clay, later called Muhammed Ali, became hugely celebrated and famous, worldwide. The Olympics brought people together—nations, creed, and sex, but still, in Rudolph’s town, segregation was in full effect.
- It wasn’t until the Olympiad’s victorious homecoming, that the town gathered for its first integrated (blacks and whites) event, at Rudolph’s insistence.
When the characters gather to cheer on their idol, we catch a glimpse of some of that power. To be the first female, black, record-setter of all time in 1960? Well, that parade must have coursed with electricity. Wilma didn’t just run. She heralded new things and broke through barriers for people of color, for women, and certainly, for women runners.
She toppled all negative beliefs that she (as a poor, diseased, disabled, perhaps sometimes ignored as a child of twenty-two, segregated, female) couldn’t do much. She blew down the hurdles for girls like Alma for decades and decades to come. No, she didn’t just walk; she ran. And when she ran, she was an elegant gazelle, bounding for the high places, setting records every few paces.
Heroism like Wilma’s is timeless. Passion is infectious and all girls, all children, parents, all adults should know of Wilma Rudolph’s life through the power and spirit of Alma in The Quickest Kid in Clarksville!
View footage from the small but glorious Wilma archive!
More later about my daughter’s responses and questions over dinner. Wilma’s life brings up so much inspiration. Learning her history and surrounding circumstances also helps us to question the challenges she faced so that we might see her strength even more and grow, personally. That is the power of a well-crafted, beautifully created children’s book, inspired by non-fiction.
A valuable Follow-up activity through Colorful Trading Cards! This PDF activity is from Chronicle Books and can inspire and support the kind of research which gets kids connecting the dots and looking for more diversity in leaders within sports or any field.
The athlete penned her own autobiography, Wilma, which I’d certainly love to read.
I’m so thankful for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day for getting this book into our hands. They do good work, not merely looking at a bottom line, but rather to “not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.”
More on MCCBD, this very giving organization:
Our Mission: The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day #ReadYourWorld.
2. Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld
- Our CoHosts-Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Host and you can view them here.
- Classroom Reading Challenge: Help spread the word on our Classroom Reading Challenge . This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children’s book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.
What we could really use some help with is spreading the word to your teacher/librarian/classroom connections so we can get them involved in this program. There is no cost to teachers and classrooms and we’ve made the whole process as simple as possible. You can help by tweeting the below info:
Teachers! Earn a FREE #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books #teacherlife
The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun! Teachers can earn a free diversity book! #teachers, #books