Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper

Ann Malaspina
Illustrator:  Eric Velasquez 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Albert Whitman & Company, 2012   ISBN: 978-0807580356

Alice’s father expected her to behave like a young lady and sit on the porch or do household chores. Though she did her best to help out around the house, Alice preferred to run and jump so that her feet went “flying, “ her legs went “spinning,” and her braids went “flapping.” At school she loved to play basketball with the boys so that she could jump high. Alice wanted “to touch the sky.”

   Alice’s teacher sensed that there was something special about the girl and she took Alice to a track meet where Alice saw a boy doing the high jump. Alice wanted to try the high jump so much that her “feet tingled.”

   The problem was that fields, tracks, and doors were closed to Alice because of their race and their place in society. However, Alice and her friends were not discouraged. They set about making their own high jumps, and Alice practiced over and over. One day a man saw Alice jump and he told her Momma that Alice was “gonna jump over the moon one of these days.”

   Then one day Alice’s high school coach decided to send Alice to the Tuskeegee Relays where she competed against “the finest black athletes in all the south.” Alice won first place and a coach invited her to go with his team, the Tuskeegee Golden Tigerettes, when they went to Connecticut for a National Championship event. On September 3rd, 1930 Alice won her first of national medal.

   In this remarkable picture book the author’s lyrical free-verse is paired with expressive paintings to give readers an inspirational story about a young woman who became one of the greatest athletes of her time.

   An author’s note at the back of the book provides young readers with further information about Alice Coachman, and there are also period photos of Alice, and one of her gold medals, to look at.