Tag Archives: Prejudice

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. April 17, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 224 p. ISBN: 9780316262286.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 360.

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.
 
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, Drugs, Bullying

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Jerome, a young black boy gunned down while playing in a park with a toy gun, invites readers to bear witness to his story, to the tragedy of being dispatched simply because of a policeman’s internalized prejudice masquerading as fear. One day at school, while he and his new friend Carlos are being bullied, Carlos pulls out a toy gun to scare their attackers. Afterward, he gives it to Jerome so he can have a chance to play with it, to pretend that he is in charge. But when he is shot in the back while running from the police, his soul leaves his body and he becomes one of the army of ghost boys hoping to communicate with those still consumed with racial bias. While looking in on the preliminary court hearing, Jerome realizes that the police officer’s daughter can see and talk to him, and together they try to understand how the world around them could be so cruel. Rhodes (Sugar, 2013; Towers Falling, 2016) beautifully weaves together the fictional and the historical—Jerome comes across the ghosts of real-life individuals like Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin—in this gripping and all-too-necessary novel about police brutality, injustice, and the power of bearing witness to the stories of those who are gone.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
In a story that explicitly recalls the murder of Tamir Rice, Jerome, a 12-year-old black boy killed by a white Chicago cop, must, along with the ghosts of Emmett Till and others, process what has happened and how. With the rising tide of today’s Movement for Black Lives, there has been a re-examination of how the 1955 murder of Emmett Till became the fuel for the mid-20th-century civil rights movement. With this narrative in mind, Rhodes seeks to make Till’s story relevant to the post-millennial generation. Readers meet Jerome, who’s bullied at his troubled and underfunded neighborhood school, just at the time that Latinx newcomer Carlos arrives from San Antonio. After finding that Carlos’ toy gun may help keep the school bullies at bay, Jerome is taken by surprise while playing in the park when a white arriving police officer summarily shoots him dead. The police officer’s daughter, Sarah, is the only character who can truly see the ghost boys as they all struggle to process that day and move forward. Written in nonlinear chapters that travel between the afterlife and the lead-up to the unfortunate day, the novel weaves in how historical and sociopolitical realities come to bear on black families, suggesting what can be done to move the future toward a more just direction—albeit not without somewhat flattening the righteous rage of the African-American community in emphasizing the more palatable universal values of “friendship. Kindness. Understanding.” A timely, challenging book that’s worthy of a read, further discussion, and action. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, for African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, and a memoir, but writing for children remained her dream.

Her website is www.jewellparkerrhodes.com/children/

Teacher Resources

Ghost Boys Reading Guide

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A Few Red Drops by Claire Hartfield

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield. January 2, 2018. Clarion Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780544785137.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

On a hot day in July 1919, three black youths went swimming in Lake Michigan, unintentionally floating close to the “white” beach. An angry white man began throwing stones at the boys, striking and killing one. Racial conflict on the beach erupted into days of urban violence that shook the city of Chicago to its foundations. This mesmerizing narrative draws on contemporary accounts as it traces the roots of the explosion that had been building for decades in race relations, politics, business, and clashes of culture.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. This well-documented text outlines the events leading to the race riot in Chicago in the summer of 1919, which caused 38 deaths and more than 500 injuries. The prologue, the first two chapters, and the last three chapters (out of 20) address the riot; the rest provide a detailed and accessible history of the growth of Chicago as a meat-processing center, the formation and influence of trade unions, the influx of European immigrants, and the WWI-era black migration from the South. Quotes, statistics, and period photos help build background. An epilogue describes the partly successful results of a commission charged with instigating change and mentions other unhappy events of the “Red Summer” of 1919: 25 additional race riots across the U.S. The conclusion paints a positive picture of diverse, present-day Chicago, noting that the past century has brought many needed changes. This solid entry covers a topic not often mentioned in YA literature, and will support researchers looking for balanced coverage for history, civil rights, and economics reports.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
A clash on a hot summer’s day served as catalyst for a deadly race riot in 1919 Chicago.The deep racial and ethnic resentments that permeated Chicago in the early years of the 20th century exploded into violence when the death of a young African-American teen was caused by a rock-throwing young white man, whom a white policeman refused to arrest. The incident quickly escalated, and after days of unrest, 38, whites and blacks, were dead, and more than 500 were wounded. From the epigram taken from a Carl Sandburg poem, this detailed work is deeply grounded in Chicago history. Details about the actual riot bookend the narrative. In between, Hartfield introduces black Chicagoans from the middle of the 19th century as well as later arrivals who fled the racial violence of the South. She includes the role of the black press in articulating the demands of the black community as they became urban dwellers. The stories of white ethnic groups, their struggles to achieve the American dream, and their racial animosity are examined, as is the role of labor unions. Richly illustrated with contemporary photographs, the narrative is also carefully researched, drawing on accounts from the time. There is a great deal to digest, and it sometimes overwhelms the core story. However, it is successful in demonstrating that past conflicts, like current ones, have complex causes. A comprehensive, careful account. (source notes, bibliography, map, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Claire Hartfield received her B.A from Yale University and her law degree from the University of Chicago. As a lawyer, she has specialized in school desegregation litigation. More recently, she has been involved in setting policy and creating programs in a charter school setting on Chicago’s African-American West Side. She heard stories of the 1919 race riot from her grandmother, who lived in the Black Belt in Chicago at the time, and was moved to share this history with younger generations.

Ms. Hartfield lives in Chicago. Her website is clairehartfield.com

Teacher Resources

1919 Chicago Race Riots Lesson Plan & Materials

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The Cholo Tree by Daniel Chacon

The Cholo Tree by Daniel Chacon.  March 31, 2017. Arte Publico Press, 24172 p. ISBN: 9781558858404.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

“Do you know what a stereotype you are?” Jessica asks her son. “You’re the existential Chicano.” Fourteen-year-old Victor has just been released from the hospital; his chest is wrapped in bandages and his arm is in a sling. He has barely survived being shot, and his mother accuses him of being a cholo, something he denies.

She’s not the only adult that thinks he’s a gangbanger. His sociology teacher once sent him to a teach-in on gang violence. Victor’s philosophy is that everyone is racist. “They see a brown kid, they see a banger.” Even other kids think he’s in a gang, maybe because of the clothes he wears. The truth is, he loves death (metal, that is), reading books, drawing, the cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and the Showtime series Weeds. He likes school and cooking. He knows what a double negative is!

But he can’t convince his mom that he’s not in a gang. And in spite of a genius girlfriend and an art teacher who mentors and encourages him to apply to art schools, Victor can’t seem to overcome society’s expectations for him.

In this compelling novel, renowned Chicano writer Daniel Chacon once again explores art, death, ethnicity and racism. Are Chicanos meant for meth houses instead of art schools? Are talented Chicanos never destined to study in Paris?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Boxed in by societal prejudices, a young Chicano struggles to find his identity.Split into two separate periods, Chacón’s insightful novel portrays the trials of Victor Reyes, a death metal–loving, artistic teen who’s seemingly ill-fated in life. In the book’s first half, 14-year-old Victor recovers from a shooting—he was dead for a hair over 2 minutes—that leaves him with a fuzzy memory. Almost everyone, including his mom, believes he’s a cholo, a gangbanger destined for trouble. Though Victor tries his best to mend his relationship with his mom, he frequently ends up in incriminating situations. Meanwhile, Victor meets and falls for a feisty part-Mexican, part-Indian girl. The story moves at a meandering pace, which Chacón uses to sketch in disjointed details. Victor’s first-person narration doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but each of the diverse supporting characters features a distinct, if stereotypical, voice to fill in that void. The novel’s second half focuses on 17-year-old Victor, a senior succeeding in school and love. A supportive teacher helps him refine his artistic goals, pushing him to apply for art school. But Victor’s anger and past won’t let him go, and soon he’s knee-deep in the cholo life. Overall, the author employs a well-worn redemption arc, and the often clunky, self-conscious narration doesn’t really help to make it feel fresh: “They looked sort of geeky cool, like journalism students, the kind of kids that YA novels are written about.” A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale. (Fiction. 14-18)

School Library Journal Xpress (July 1, 2017)
Gr 8 Up-This collection of short stories captures the liminal spaces inhabited by Victor Reyes Jr., a Mexican American/Chicano Fresno teenager who is caught between the dangerous allure of the streets and his creative aspirations. At times, the choice between becoming another “cholo” stereotype and going down another path eludes Victor. The gravity of the streets often proves to be beyond Victor’s control. For example, the chain of events that lead to Victor being shot-and, as a result, dead for 2.2 minutes before regaining life-start from adolescent posturing over girls. Victor and his buddy Equis scrap with a group of boys who are part of a gang and have access to guns. Though Victor is an ordinary witty, imaginative teenager with a knack for drawing, at times he seeks danger. Freddy, an older friend who witnessed Victor’s shooting, invites him to tour Fresno City College. A love interest, along with Victor’s teacher Mr. Garcia, offers him outlets and spaces for his intelligence and artistic talents. Chacón breathes life into Victor in these scenes, and the youth becomes someone to root for. After multiple disappointments, Victor sinks headlong into street life and starts seeing the elusive ghosts of living-dead people and reckons with a past that seems to transcend him. He cannot shake off the doomed destiny of gang life. Chacón has written a classic and powerful underdog story about a brown teen building the self-efficacy to see his worth and achieve his dream. VERDICT Recommended for high school classroom libraries and YA collections; will appeal to reluctant readers.-Lettycia Terrones, Los Angeles Public Library

About the Author

Daniel Chacon is author of five books of fiction and editor of A Jury of Trees, the posthumous poems of Andrés Montoya. He is co-editor with Mimi Gladstein of The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes: The Selected Works of José Antonio Burciaga.

Chacon is recipient of the Pen Oakland Fiction Award, a Chris Isherwood Foundation Grant, the Hudson Book Prize, and The American book Award.

Her website is www.danielchacon.net

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The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. May 2, 2017. Disney-Hyperion, 326 p. ISBN: 9781484717165.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 860.

Before Verity…there was Julie.

When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scottish Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister, Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

Prequel to:  Code Name Verity

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Those who had their hearts broken by Julie in Code Name Verity (2012) will relish this prequel opportunity to meet the brash girl who grew into the brave spy. Julie, almost 16, is returning for the final cleanup of her family’s Scottish estate, about to be turned into a boy’s school to pay off its debt. Before her mother knows she’s returned, Julie is conked on the head and winds up in the hospital, missing a few days of memory. Out of this singular event come knotted ropes of story that overlap and intertwine. One strand is the introduction of siblings Euan and Ellen, locally despised Travellers who enlighten and complicate Julie’s life. Another is the disappearance of a cache of glowing river pearls originally found in the estate’s waters. Hanging over everything, like a moldering net, is the death of a scholar cataloging the estate’s holdings, a death Julie may have witnessed. Yet, for all the story’s mystery and history—some of it quite ancient—two other elements take hold: the intriguing characters, brimming with life, and the evocative language seeded with Scottish words and phrasings that forces the audience to read the book as carefully as it deserves. A finely crafted book that brings one girl’s coming-of-age story to life, especially poignant for those who already know her fate.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Wein’s fans will revel in the return of Julie Beaufort-Stuart, the co-narrator of Code Name Verity (2012). Billed as a prequel to that Printz Honor book, this is no mere back story to Julie’s role in World War II but a stand-alone mystery. The 15-year-old white minor noble returns from boarding school in the summer of 1938 to the Scottish country estate of her late grandfather, the Earl of Strathfearn. Her luggage lost, Julie dons “a mothy tennis pullover which left my arms daringly bare and a kilt that must have been forgotten some time ago by one of my big brothers….I was David Balfour from Kidnapped again, the way I’d been the whole summer I was thirteen.” After a blow to the head leaves her unconscious, Julie becomes tangled up in a web of events that includes a missing antiquities scholar, a body found in a river, and the theft of the family’s heirloom river pearls, all seemingly connected to a band of Travellers with ancestral ties to Strathfearn reaching back as far as Julie’s. Well-developed characters highlight the class differences that Julie chafes against while struggling with her family’s place in a changing world. Her plainspoken, charming narrative voice establishes her own place with the same strength of character, on a smaller scale, that she showed in Code Name Verity. Another ripping yarn from a brilliant author. (Historical fiction. 13-adult)

About the Author

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes, and holds a PhD in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Elizabeth is the author of Code Name Verity, winner of the Edgar Award in the Young Adult category and a Printz Medal Honor Book; Rose Under Fire, winner of the Schneider Family Book Award; and Black Dove, White Raven, winner of the Children’s Africana Book Award.

Her website is www.elizabethwein.com

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The Pearl Thief

Point Guard by Mike Lupica

Point Guard by Mike Lupica. April 4, 2017. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481410038.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 810.

Gus and Cassie have always been on the same team off the field, but in this third novel in New York Times bestselling author Mike Lupica’s Home Team series can they stay friends when they’re on the same court?

Everyone assumes that Gus, whose family is from the Dominican Republic, is a baseball guy. But this year Gus is even more excited about basketball than any other sport he’s ever played. He’s been practicing some new moves and lately he’s more surprised when he misses his shot than when he scores. Plus now that he’s convinced his friend Teddy to try out for the team and Jack’s shoulder is healed, it looks like Walton’s home team will be unstoppable.

But this isn’t going to be the season Gus expected, because their team is getting a new player—and she just happens to be one of his best friends. Gus knows Cassie is more than good enough to compete on the boys’ team, and besides they really do need a point guard, so why isn’t he able to shake the feeling that she belongs on their bleachers rather than their bench? And to make matters worse, with their center Steve Kerrigan constantly making comments about his Dominican heritage, and Steve’s dad voicing his views on immigration as he runs for office, Gus is starting to wonder if he really belongs in Walton after all.

Can Gus find a way to bring the home team together both on and off the court, or will all these prejudices block their shot at a winning season?

Part of Series: Home Team

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Lupica trots his Home Team ensemble out onto the court for a whirl of fast-break hoops action threaded with provocative personal issues. Gus Morales is upset when his intensely competitive friend Cassie tries out for the boys’ town basketball team. To Cassie and everyone else, his disturbance reads as a case of prejudice—an accusation he stoutly denies. Cassie’s vitriolic refusal to talk things out and some of her behavior after she makes the team only solidifies Gus’ suspicion that she’s out to win at any cost rather than be the best teammate (or friend) that she can be. Is he right or just rationalizing? Is her attitude justified or just a sign of selfishness? Lupica leaves it to readers to decide (and perhaps give their own buried attitudes a fresh once-over) as he carries the Walton Warriors through a series of dramatic last-second wins and losses. A subplot featuring racially charged local and student elections that directly mirror 2016’s ugly presidential campaign will, hopefully, become less topical over time.

About the Author

Mike Lupica is the author of multiple bestselling books for young readers, including the Home Team series, QB 1HeatTravel TeamMillion-Dollar Throw, and The Underdogs. He has carved out a niche as the sporting world’s finest storyteller. Mike lives in Connecticut with his wife and their four children. When not writing novels, he writes for Daily News (New York) and is an award-winning sports commentator.

His website is www.mikelupicabooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Point Guard Reading Guide

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Point Guard on Amazon

Point Guard on Goodreads

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Point Guard Publisher Page

Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes

Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes. November 8, 2016. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481462525.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

From the author of Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy comes a thought-provoking, action-packed page-turner based on the little-known history of the Japanese Americans who fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

Yuki Nakahara is an American.

But it’s the start of World War II, and America doesn’t see it that way. Like many other Japanese Americans, Yuki and his family have been forced into an internment camp in the Utah desert. But Yuki isn’t willing to sit back and accept this injustice—it’s his country too, and he’s going to prove it by enlisting in the army to fight for the Allies.

When Yuki and his friend Shig ship out, they aren’t prepared for the experiences they’ll encounter as members of the “Four-Four-Two,” a segregated regiment made up entirely of Japanese-American soldiers. Before Yuki returns home—if he returns home—he’ll come face to face with persistent prejudices, grueling combat he never imagined, and friendships deeper than he knew possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. In December 1941, FBI agents arrest Yuki Nakahara’s father without cause. By 1943, 18-year-old Yuki and his family have been “relocated” from California to an internment camp in Utah. Despite this, Yuki enlists in the U.S. Army with his best friend, Shig, and they join the Second Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (which comprises only Japanese Americans, as whites refuse to fight alongside them). Yuki initially boasts about becoming a war hero, but is sobered as he sees friends killed by German artillery. After months of relentless battle, Yuki and Shig’s comrades-in-arms suffer countless casualties and gain a reputation as “the Purple Heart Battalion.” Finally, because generals view the nisei soldiers as expendable, Yuki’s battalion is sent on an almost impossible mission to rescue white American soldiers surrounded by German forces. Hughes’ writing effectively evokes the horrors of war and the internal conflict of young men fighting for a country that has treated them unjustly. The challenges of Yuki’s reentry into the States are also well conveyed: the guilt of survival, the difficulty of communicating the war experience to civilians, and the continued widespread racism. Though a couple of conversations seem stilted for the sake of exposition, in general the dialogue reads naturally (even the pidgin English spoken by Hawaiian soldiers is decent). This is historical fiction at its finest—immersive and inspirational.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2016)
The book’s title refers to the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was composed entirely of Issei and Nisei (first-generation Japanese immigrants and their children, respectively) who served in WWII, and which earned the name Purple Heart Battalion because so many of its soldiers were either wounded or killed in battle. In December 1941, Hughes’s protagonist, Berkeley high-schooler Yuki Nakahara, watches helplessly as FBI agents arrest his father as a spy and unceremoniously haul him away. Less than six months later, Yuki and his siblings, all American citizens, are deported with their mother to the Topaz internment camp in Utah. Yet Yuki decides to join the army because he believes it’s the only way he’ll “ever be respected in this country.” Readers follow him through basic training; the agonies of battle, loss, and injury; and his return home. Events, characters, and dialogue create an indelible sense of time and place. When Yuki’s mother protests her husband’s arrest, an FBI agent spits out: “That’s enough, lady. Your husband’s a sneaky little slant-eyed Jap. That’s all we need to know.” A Denver barber refuses to “cut Jap hair” even though Yuki is wearing his Silver Star and Purple Heart. Yuki’s wish to put it all behind him realistically characterizes so many of “the greatest generation”; his father’s lack of physical affection is a cultural marker; and the sweet, naive romance with the girl back home reflects the times. A predictable story arc lessens the novel’s tension; still, Yuki emerges as a true hero during a dark period of American history. betty carter

About the Author

Dean Hughes is the author of more than eighty books for young readers, including the popular sports series Angel Park All-Stars, the Scrappers series, the Nutty series, the widely acclaimed companion novels Family Pose and Team Picture, and Search and Destroy. Soldier Boys was selected for the 2001 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list. Dean Hughes and his wife, Kathleen, have three children and six grandchildren. They live in Midway, Utah.

His website is www.deanhughes.net.

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Four-Four-Two on Amazon

Four-Four-Two on Goodreads

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Four-Four-Two Publisher Page

Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin. January 17, 2017. Roaring Brook Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9781596439542.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8.

Jim Thorpe: Super athlete, Olympic gold medalist, Native American
Pop Warner: Indomitable coach, football mastermind, Ivy League grad

Before these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. Called “the team that invented football,” they took on the best opponents of their day, defeating much more privileged schools such as Harvard and the Army in a series of breathtakingly close calls, genius plays, and bone-crushing hard work.

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team is an astonishing underdog sports story―and more. It’s an unflinching look at the U.S. government’s violent persecution of Native Americans and the school that was designed to erase Indian cultures. Expertly told by three-time National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin, it’s the story of a group of young men who came together at that school, the overwhelming obstacles they faced both on and off the field, and their absolute refusal to accept defeat.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-9. Though arguably best remembered as a supremely gifted track-and-field star, Native American Jim Thorpe was also a preternaturally gifted football player, as the award-winning Sheinkin demonstrates in this biography of the sports phenomenon. Sharing the stage is Pop Warner, the man who would ultimately become his coach at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The first part of the book is devoted to biographical material about Thorpe and Warner and colorful contextual information about Carlisle, its football team, and the state of the sport at the time (i.e., the early years of the twentieth century). With that established, the book hits its stride as Thorpe arrives at Carlisle and meets Warner. The result is history. Though never a good or willing student, Thorpe—between his prowess on the football field and his triumphs at the 1912 Olympics—became, as Sheinkin ­succinctly puts it, “the best athlete on the planet.” He evidences this with stirring accounts of Thorpe’s games, especially his white-knuckle coverage of a symbolically important 1912 matchup with Army. But even better are the psychological insights he offers into Thorpe’s character. Containing a generous collection of black-and-white period photographs, this is a model of research and documentation, as well as of stylish writing that tells an always absorbing story

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
Young readers of this biography may be surprised that Jim Thorpe, an athlete they may never have heard of, was once considered “the best athlete on the planet.” Most students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania were shocked by the treatment they received under superintendent Richard Henry Pratt, who believed white American culture was superior and to “help” his students meant to “kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” New students were given new names, new clothes, and haircuts and were allowed to speak English only. It was a harsh, alien world, and only a small percentage of students ever graduated. The child of a Sac and Fox/Irish father and Potawatomi/French-Canadian mother, Jim Thorpe grew up in a mix of white and Indian culture and was better prepared than many when he entered Carlisle at the age of 15. Sheinkin weaves complicated threads of history—the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the story of Carlisle, the early days of football, and the dual biographies of Thorpe and his coach Pop Warner—with the narrative skills of a gifted storyteller who never forgets the story in history. He is unflinchingly honest in pointing out the racism in white American culture at large and in football culture, including headlines in the newspapers (“INDIANS OUT TO SCALP THE CADETS”), preferential officiating, and war whoops from the stands. Sheinkin easily draws a parallel in the persisting racism in the names of current football teams, such as the Braves and Redskins, bringing the story directly to modern readers. Superb nonfiction that will entertain as it informs. (source notes, works cited, acknowledgments, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-16)

About the Author

A former textbook writer, Steve Sheinkin is now making amends by writing history books that kids and teens actually want to read. His award-winning, non-fiction thrillers include Bomb, The Port Chicago 50, Most Dangerous, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. His newest book, Undefeated, tells the story of the astonishing rise of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team. Steve lives with his family in Saratoga Springs, NY.

His website is www.stevesheinkin.com

Teacher Resources

Indian Boarding Schools Resources

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Undefeated on Amazon

Undefeated on JLG

Undefeated on Goodreads