Queen of the Track by Heather Lang
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: Cindy and I really are reading the new 2013 titles but in true Bookends style we can’t bear to give up on some wonderful books from 2012 that we haven’t managed to wedge into our writing schedule. So many good books! Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman Olympic High Jump Champion (Boyds Mills 2012) is one we don’t want anyone to miss. And since the Booklist focus this month is on Black History Month we are happily thematic as well.
And what a story this is! Alice Coachman was born in 1922 in Albany, Georgia, “born to run and jump.” In rural Georgia her opportunities were extremely limited. But Alice’s talents were so outstanding and her determination so strong that she came to the attention of coaches, won a scholarship to the Tuskegee Institute and never gave up. Lang’s clear text gives kids the historical background without slowing the pace of Alice’s inspiring story. With WWII forcing the cancellation of two Olympics, it wasn’t until 1948 that Alice got her chance.
What a competition it was. Alice and the English jumper battled long and hard while the crowd stayed and stayed cheering them on. Finally Alice won, setting new Olympic records and becoming the first African American woman to ever win a gold medal. An Author’s Note provides more information about Alice’s life – and it is just as inspiring.
Floyd Cooper’s illustrations were a highlight for me too but I’ll stop gushing and leave something for Cindy to say.
Cindy: I agree with Lynn’s age designations for the prime audience for this book, but, here is another picture book biography that has me scheming for my middle school. We have had so many wonderful such books published in the past few years from the National Geographic Photobiography series to Monica Kulling’s titles for small press Tundra’s Great Ideas series and many others. I would like to put together a classroom set of 30-40 of these books and have my teachers expose their students to many heroes that the kids might otherwise never meet. With that in mind, I’m going to make a suggestion for using this book and others in the classroom with a CCSS connection below. Now to find a teacher tomorrow who is game to try this…
Common Core Connection:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Using a classroom set of picture book biographies, have students each read one, then pair up with a partner and share the importance of the subjects. Have the pairs then present to the class any similarities that the subjects had in overcoming obstacles, or in the impact they made through their achievements. Ask the students to include how they personally might have benefited by the work of the subjects they read about.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.5 Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.
Require students to present one mulitmedia component that increases understanding of the subject. An important photo, a clip of music or visual arts, or an artifact that relates.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
Have the students submit a two-source bibliography that includes the citation for the biography they read AND for the multimedia component they shared. It is good practice to practice the formatting for both print and non-print sources and to instill the reminder that using images or multimedia requires documentation just like print sources.