The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller and Illustrated by Frank Morrison

This is a perfect book to read as we gear up to cheer on our Olympians in Rio!

Centered around the town of Clarksville, Tenneesee’s preparations for Wilma Rudolph‘s parade, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville (2016, Chronicle) is a children’s picture book that focuses on issues of poverty, racism, and resilience. Written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Frank Morrison, this powerful book is about a girl named Alta who learns that “Shoes don’t matter. Not as long as we’ve got our feet.”

Here’s what I like about this book.

(1) Colorful illustrations. I really love Morrison’s beautiful illustrations. They are vibrant and illuminate the text’s tension and resolution. Though this book has words, its illustrations are so great that the book could exist as a wordless picture book. Not only does this speak to the wonderful illustrations, but it also makes it a great text for beginning readers who can make their own story from the illustrations.

(2) It’s a girl book. Although they have their differences at first, Alta and Charmaine learn to unite around their admiration for the greatest runner of their time: Wilma Rudolph. Alta is able to overlook the fact that she cannot have shoes as new as Charmaine, and Charmaine has to learn to appreciate that another girl in the neighborhood is a fast runner. If you’re looking for a book with strong girls and women who identify as athletes, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is for you.

(3) It’s a historical fiction text that represents empowered African-American characters. There has been a lot of thinking in the children’s literature world about representing characters who are minorities in ways that empower them. The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is not just a book about a young girl named Alta. This is a book that empowers Alta, serving to inspire other girls that they, too, can be strong young women. Alta and Charmaine have to reconcile their own differences (without the help of adults) and have to figure out a way to unite around a common goal.

Tell me what you think about The Quickest Kid in Clarksville in the comments below!

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