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Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper



by
Ann Malaspina
illustrated by
Eric Velasquez

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
Albert Whitman
Imprint
Albert Whitman
ISBN
9780807580356

Awards and Honors
Booklist Top 10 Sports Books for Youth: 2012; 2013 Amelia Bloomer Project, Early Readers Nonfiction; IRA Children’s Choices, Young Readers, 2013; NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2013, Biography
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QTY
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Though her papa said, “Bare feet shouldn’t fly,” and there was nowhere in town for black kids to practice track, Alice jumped her way to the 1948 Olympics. Author’s note. Bibliography. Black-and-white photographs. Full-color oil illustrations.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
None

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

32

Trim Size

8 1/2" x 11"

Dewey

796.42092 B

AR

3.6: points 0.5

Lexile

AD600L

Scholastic Reading Counts

1

JLG Release

May 2012

Topics

Alice Coachman (1923- ). 1948 Olympic Games (London, England). Track and field athletes. African American women athletes. Jumping.

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Cover Art

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal

Junior Library Guild

  • Ann Malaspina tells the little-known story of African American athlete Alice Coachman, who became an Olympic high jumper despite the racism and economic inequality she faced growing up in 1930s Georgia.
  • The lyrical text flows rhythmically, especially when Malaspina describes Alice’s graceful movements: “[The landlord] saw Alice, / bare feet flying, / long legs spinning, / braids flapping, / in the yard.”
  • Includes interesting details, such as Alice’s habit of sucking on a lemon before she jumped, which made her feel “lightning-fast, / feather-light, / moon-jumping strong.”
  • Eric Velasquez’s realistic paintings emphasize Alice’s weightlessness and seemingly effortless movements, rarely depicting her feet on the ground.

School Library Journal

With oil paintings crafted from photographs, Velasquez captures the unconventional style of Alice Coachman’s high jumps in this picture-book biography of the first African American woman to win an Olympic Gold. Free-verse text focuses on details such as the athlete’s tendency to suck lemons during competitions: “the lemon made her feel lightning-fast,/feather-light, moon-jumping strong.” Full-bleed images with inset text appear on almost every spread. One shows Coachman as a young girl jumping a twisted cloth strung between two trees while a man comments to her mother that she’s likely to jump over the Moon one day. Her mother’s response is not included, but her posture conveys her attitude. It was not her parents who encouraged her, though, but teachers who recognized her talent and offered opportunities for her to train and compete. Readers are likely to empathize with this tomboy who loved to run, jump, and play sports with the boys despite her father’s admonitions that she “sit on the porch and/be a lady.” This book does not emphasize Coachman’s racial experiences except for a brief list of issues the Tuskegee Golden Tigerettes faced traveling in the South. An author’s note mentions a reception in her hometown where well-wishers were divided by race. Four black-and-white photos of Coachman and a close-up of her medal are included. This is not a resource for reports, but it is an inspiring introduction to an obscure athlete.—Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library

Praise & Reviews

Junior Library Guild

  • Ann Malaspina tells the little-known story of African American athlete Alice Coachman, who became an Olympic high jumper despite the racism and economic inequality she faced growing up in 1930s Georgia.
  • The lyrical text flows rhythmically, especially when Malaspina describes Alice’s graceful movements: “[The landlord] saw Alice, / bare feet flying, / long legs spinning, / braids flapping, / in the yard.”
  • Includes interesting details, such as Alice’s habit of sucking on a lemon before she jumped, which made her feel “lightning-fast, / feather-light, / moon-jumping strong.”
  • Eric Velasquez’s realistic paintings emphasize Alice’s weightlessness and seemingly effortless movements, rarely depicting her feet on the ground.

School Library Journal

With oil paintings crafted from photographs, Velasquez captures the unconventional style of Alice Coachman’s high jumps in this picture-book biography of the first African American woman to win an Olympic Gold. Free-verse text focuses on details such as the athlete’s tendency to suck lemons during competitions: “the lemon made her feel lightning-fast,/feather-light, moon-jumping strong.” Full-bleed images with inset text appear on almost every spread. One shows Coachman as a young girl jumping a twisted cloth strung between two trees while a man comments to her mother that she’s likely to jump over the Moon one day. Her mother’s response is not included, but her posture conveys her attitude. It was not her parents who encouraged her, though, but teachers who recognized her talent and offered opportunities for her to train and compete. Readers are likely to empathize with this tomboy who loved to run, jump, and play sports with the boys despite her father’s admonitions that she “sit on the porch and/be a lady.” This book does not emphasize Coachman’s racial experiences except for a brief list of issues the Tuskegee Golden Tigerettes faced traveling in the South. An author’s note mentions a reception in her hometown where well-wishers were divided by race. Four black-and-white photos of Coachman and a close-up of her medal are included. This is not a resource for reports, but it is an inspiring introduction to an obscure athlete.—Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library

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