Reviews for Touch the Sky : Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
This free-verse poem with vibrant illustrations chronicles the life of high-flying Alice Coachman, from her childhood as a poor cotton farmer's daughter in rural Georgia through her time at the Tuskegee Institute and as the first African American woman to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. From a young age, Coachman appeared destined for athletic greatness. When an opportunity arose for her to join the Tuskegee Tigerettes as a high jumper, her teachers bought her new shoes to compete. Pinching pennies, mopping the gym, and studying hard, Coachman made a name for herself as a student and an athlete. Though she was at her peak in 1944, there was no Olympics that year, and she had to wait another four years to compete. In 1948, she not only won the gold in high jump but also set a new Olympics record. The engrossing narrative makes this book a can't-miss account of believing in seemingly impossible dreams and pursuing one's passion. Gracefully pictured in Velasquez's oil paintings, Coachman flies high in every way imaginable. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
Alice Coachman dreamed of athletic success as a "never-sit-still girl" in Depression-era Georgia. Her high-jumping career took off in high school, and in 1948 she became the first black female to win Olympic gold. The drama of Malaspina's free-verse telling is mirrored by Velasquez's emotive oil paintings. Appended archival photographs and an author's note expand the inspirational story. Bib.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #2
Malaspina's free verse tells the story of how Alice Coachman went from her Georgia hometown to the 1948 London Olympics, becoming the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. "Sit on the porch and / be a lady," Papa would scold young Alice. But Alice preferred racing down the road, "Bare feet flying, / long legs spinning, / braids flapping / in the wind." She'd play basketball with the boys at recess, make her own high-jump bar with rags tied to sticks and practice, practice, practice. She dreamed of soaring, of touching the sky, and when Coach Abbott invited her to enroll at Tuskegee to train with the Tigerettes, she saw her dreams come closer. She traveled with the Golden Tigerettes and later set a high-jump record at the Olympic Trials. At the Olympics, the American women had no medals going into the final event, the high jump. It was down to two women, and Alice won, setting a new Olympic record. Velazquez's oil-on–watercolor-paper illustrations capture the long-legged grace of Coachman and the power of her jumps, most dramatically her Olympic medal–winning jump in a close-up double-page spread against an Impressionistically rendered crowd in the background. A solid introduction to a lesser-known sports heroine. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 February #3

As a girl, Alice Coachman drew attention in her small Georgia town for her high-jumping skills, even though she used an improvised crossbar made of sticks and rags. After impressing the coach for the Tuskegee Golden Tigerettes and playing with the all-female track team, Coachman set an Olympic trials record and went on to compete at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, becoming the first African-American woman to win gold. Velasquez's majestic, thickly painted oils portray Coachman (b. 1923) with a quiet serenity and assurance, as Malaspina, writing in verse, conveys the magnitude of her accomplishments with agility and lyricism: "As she climbed to the top/ of the winners' stand,/ the crowd rose/ for the bare-feet flying,/ long-legs spinning,/ moon jumper from Georgia." Appended materials include several b&w photographs and biographical details about Coachman's later life. Ages 6-9. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 April

K-Gr 3--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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