When I was in a different job and the kids were in first grade, we’d sit together and read in a quiet corner or a loud hallway. Some would ask me, “Why don’t you just read it?” Maybe they weren’t interested, didn’t want to, or were afraid they’d do it wrong – it could be any number of things stopping them. But when you’re learning to read, you need the practice. You need a lot of practice.
Jim Thorpe practiced constantly. Even when he sat down, he visualized the next race or what he could do differently the next time. Things might have slowed him down once in a while, but it doesn’t sound like anything stopped him. Whether on the football field or in an Olympic stadium, he and his teammates worked and prepared for excellence, even when many of the words written and thrown out at them were racist, belittling, and just plain wrong.
I’ve been waiting for this book for several months, because I’ve enjoyed Steve Sheinkin’s past work for young people. The Port Chicago 50 and Most Dangerous are non-fiction favorites of mine, and this is a great addition. Even if you aren’t a football fan, you might find yourself reading about the big games with a surprising amount of intensity.
I’m also a fan of Bill Bryson–graduate of the high school up the road from me. I’m always telling people how much I like his work. He could write about pineapple plantations or particle physics, and I’d read it. He can write about things I’m not interested in at all, and I know I’ll still love reading it. Bill Bryson, here’s your new buddy. Write about anything, Steve Sheinkin. I’ll read it.
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin