Friday, April 25, 2008

Poetry Friday: Jesse Owens, Fastest Man Alive

Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive
By Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

I recently got to meet Carole Boston Weatherford at the VSRA conference. I really enjoyed hearing the stories behind many of her books. One of my favorite genres is picture book biographies. And I really enjoy poetry. Weatherford has composed all three into one book.

Each poem in this book tells the story of Jesse Owens. It doesn’t begin with his childhood, but it does give us a glimpse into where he was from. Jesse Owens was a track and field star during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, at a time when Hitler was the dictator of Germany. Jesse Owens crushed Hitler’s expectations of the Germans sweeping the Olympic medals. Weatherford gives some historical background in her author’s note.

Here is one of Weatherford’s poems about the day Jesse Owens received his fourth gold medal.

Medal #4: The 400-Meter Relay

With three gold medals,
you could rest on your records,
but the Germans have saved
their fastest for last.
Your coaches need
a secret weapon—

You run the first leg of the relay,
passing the baton and the lead
to the next runner.
By the finish line, the race
and your fourth medal are won.
Who’d have thought
that a sharecropper’s son,
the grandson of slaves,
would crush Hitler’s pride?
Who knew that you would trample
German might like a clod of dirt
in a field of glory?
Who’d have thought your star
would burn so bright?

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

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