Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion

Heather Lang
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Boyds Mills Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-1590788509

Alice Coachman was born and raised in the Georgia, and like so many other African Americans living in the south at that time, she had to live under the iron fist of the Jim Crow laws. It quickly became apparent that Alice loved being active, and whenever she got the opportunity, she ran, jumped, or played basketball. Even when her father told her that her running and jumping were not “ladylike” activities, Alice kept on doing what she loved to do.

Being an African-American in the segregated south, Alice did not have access to sports facilities that were comparable with the ones used by white people. There were no gyms, parks, or tracks that she was allowed to use, but Alice did not let this stop her. She ran barefoot on dirt roads, and made her own high jump using sticks and rags.

Then the coach in Alice’s high school noticed that the seventh grader was a gifted athlete, and he arranged for her to attend her first athletic meet in Alabama. Even though she had never left home, run on a proper track, or worn track shoes before, Alice won first place. Not long after, Alice was offered a scholarship at the Tuskegee Institute. At the Institute Alice was able to get a good education and proper support for her athletic training. Little did she know that this training would help her to one day attain the world’s most prestigious athletic award.

In this beautifully written picture book, the author tells the story of one of America’s greatest women athletes. Young readers will see how Alice Coachman not only had to overcome the usual challenges that face athletes, but how she also had to overcome racism and poverty to win her rightful place on an Olympic podium.

At the back of the book there is further information about Alice, and about the 1948 Summer Olympics, which took place in London.