UnStoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army
Written by Art Coulson
Illustrated by Nick Hardcastle
Published by Capstone in 2018
Capstone, the publisher behind Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army, approached its author, Art Coulson (Cherokee), about writing a non-fiction children’s picture book focused on a 1912 college football game between Carlisle Indian School and West Point. In an interview for the blog Cynsations, Coulson notes: “This was a game that the press built up as a rematch of the Battle of Little Big Horn.” Coulson and illustrator Nick Hardcastle do a wonderful job making this snapshot of US history available to young readers in vivid detail that accounts for the difficult circumstances that led Jim Thorpe to the Carlisle Indian School. Coulson maintains a serious tone, at points just shy of celebratory, to bring the unstoppable Jim Thorpe’s story to life.
Coulson takes readers on a journey through Jim Thorpe’s life introducing him as a twelve-year-old football fan excitedly watching a college football game and imagining himself playing. Jim’s challenging childhood is noted but not lingered on, as is the lengthy history of Native American boarding schools which existed to force assimilation, often without the consent of children or their families.
Coulson focuses on Jim’s athleticism, the area of his life in which he truly was unstoppable. For instance, after leading Carlisle to victory against Army, his coach, Pop Warner, helped him train for the Olympics where he won many events, several in a pair of shoes he found in a trash can after his were stolen.
Coulson is generous with his praise, not only of Jim, but other members of the team and coach Warner. He details the creative plays they brought to the field and describes the team’s skill as strategy-based.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story but would have liked to see the historical significance of the game elaborated on. Perhaps I am just a greedy reader!
I appreciated the back matter, including an accessible description of Jim’s post-1912 accomplishments, short biographies of other Carlisle players, and a description of Carlisle Indian Industrial School that details the real horror of boarding schools.
I recommend this book for personal and school libraries. It is a well-researched and descriptive biography of Jim Thorpe that foregrounds the social, political, and familial hardships he negotiated in his remarkable life.
The publisher sent me a copy of the book for review
I reviewed the book for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.
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