Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Book Review of 'The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby'

Some time ago I was asked to read and review The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby by Crystal Hubbard, a children's book about the life of jockey Jimmy Winkfield. It’s an excellent book and I quickly found my review resembling the back jacket of a book on the New York Times Best Seller list:

    Lively and entertaining! I couldn’t put it down!

    Wonderful detailed story … Ms. Hubbard weaves Wink’s exciting racing triumphs with his struggles of enduring racism, world war and exile.

    Dramatic artwork …

An inspiring story of hope and dreams with important lessons about racial discrimination and injustices. But let’s face it, although it is a lively and entertaining detailed story with dramatic artwork, it’s a book that’s written for children and belongs in an elementary school library. So my opinion means squat.

Conveniently, my daughter, Alice, is in 2nd grade. Not only is she a voracious reader – Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary is currently on her bedside table – but she’s also my occasional companion at the racetrack, so she has a basic understanding of horse racing, albeit she’s kind of clueless about the prominence of the Kentucky Derby.

Nonetheless, I asked Alice to read and review The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby. I merely transcribed and edited her review, answered a few questions, and made popcorn.

* * * * *

My Book Review of The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby
By Alice
(Age 8)

This book is really really good. I give it two thumbs up. I like going to the racetrack with Mom but she says that the Kentucky Derby is not at Lone Star Park and that I will never see the race in my lifetime because it costs more that our trip to Walt Disneyworld and Mom says I would have to marry a millionaire. If Hudson becomes a millionaire I could marry him when I grow up and go to the Kentucky Derby! Also, I think that Hudson would like this book because he is smart. He also likes horses, I think. And cats, too.

In the story, Jimmy Winkfield is a jockey and he’s a good jockey. But I guess people don’t like him because he’s black. “Racial conflicts,” it says in the book. I don’t understand it. I mean, President Obama is black. So’s my friend, Alexis. Everybody likes them and they’re good people.

Anyway, Jimmy Winkfield – they call him Wink, for short – won two Kentucky Derbies in a row in 1901 and 1902. That was a long time ago, even before my Mom and Dad were born. The horses’ names were His Eminence and Alan-a-Dale. The next year he wanted to win another race but he came in second. Then he moved to Russia.

It is a good book and I will bring it to my teacher, Mrs. Lewis, and maybe she will read it to our class.

* * * * *

Mom says: This book provides a wonderful opportunity for young children to learn about horse racing as well the struggles endured by African-Americans; it certainly opened up some serious discussions with my own child. And more importantly, it teaches that you can achieve your dreams.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! I'll add this to my 'need to have it' collection of books that I use for teaching. Art, horses, and books = imagination inspiration.

suebroux said...

Footnote: This book was published by Lee & Low and they've posted BookTalk with the author, Cyrstal Hubbard, which provides some interesting tidbits and some of her thoughts about Jimmy Winkfield.

Pimlico Boiler Repair said...

where can i get the book from? Thanks

John said...

Alice write better book reviews than I do!

Crystal Hubbard said...

Dear Alice,

Thank you so much for your review of The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby. I like writing books about people that young readers might not know about. My first book, Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream, is about an African-American girl who wanted to play professional baseball. My next book is about Arthur Ashe. Arthur Ashe is probably the most well-known person I've ever written about.

I like writing books about people you might not know about who make their dreams come true even when it seems like they can't. Wink was a great jockey who traveled all over the world. His life was truly adventurous.

My daughter Rosie is in the second grade, too, and she likes my books a lot. Even though she's my daughter, she'll tell me if my books are boring or if there's something she doesn't understand.

I'm so pleased that you took the time to read my book, and I'm very flattered that you liked it enough to share it with your teacher.

More important, I'm glad that you liked Wink. He is proof that you don't have to be big to do big things.

Crystal Hubbard

PS -- Runaway Ralph was my favorite book when I was eight. I also liked Ramona the Pest. Whoever heard of a doll named Chevrolet!