Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Touch the Sky

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper
written by Ann Malaspina; illustrated by Eric Velasquez
2012 (Albert Whitman & Company)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at The Nonfiction Detectives

As a child in 1930s Albany, Georgia, Alice Coachman loved to run and jump. She played basketball with the boys. Her teacher took Alice to a track meet where she watched the high jump. This inspired Alice to tie rags to sticks planted in the clay and practice her jumping over the makeshift bar. Alice's high school was going to the Tuskegee Relays and needed a jumper. Teachers pitched in and bought her the necessary equipment so she could compete. Alice won first place which caught the eye of Tuskegee coach Cleve Abbott. She was given a one meet tryout at a national meet which resulted in another first place and an invitation to join the Tuskegee Institute High School Tigerettes. Her papa wasn't sure, but he knew he couldn't stand in the way of Alice's dream. To pay her way, Alice took on many chores including sewing, mopping, and rolling tennis courts. Becoming a national champion, Alice then looked to the Olympics. World War II interrupted her dream in 1944, but she received another chance in 1948. Competing against the world's best in London, Alice did indeed touch the sky and became the first African American female and only U.S. female in London to win a gold medal. In the author's note, we learn that Alice later became a teacher and was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Touch the Sky is a biography in free verse that shines light on an athlete who was probably unknown to many sports fans like myself. We teach character traits, such as determination, to students and stories of historical figures like Alice Coachman help in this regard. Alice had many obstacles (poverty, racism) in her path, but she worked hard to overcome these and realize her dream of winning a gold medal. Touch the Sky would be an excellent addition to your picture book biography collection. Click on this link to find a teacher's guide provided by the publisher.

Other reviews of Touch the Sky:
 A Year of Reading
Picture Book of the Day


  1. Jeff,

    Thank you for the nice mention of Touch the Sky and for encouraging teachers to bring Alice's story into the classroom!


  2. Wow...this sounds like such an inspiring read! Thanks so much for the review.

  3. Hi Jeff! The story of Alice sounds like an inspiration to all, not just to athletes and sports enthusiasts. I enjoy reading books like this, and it being a picture book biography makes it a really great read. Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Thank you everyone for stopping by! Congratulations, Ann on a great book.


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