Title: The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby
Author: Crystal Hubbard
Illustrator: Robert McGuire
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 5.9
BookTalk Interview with the Author: http://www.leeandlow.com/p/crystal_hubbard.mhtml
Concepts: jobs, discrimination, human resources
Review: Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield already showed signs of his special bond with horses as a young child growing up on a Kentucky farm in a large sharecropping family. He may have been the smallest child, but he knew how to dream big, and he enjoyed nothing more than hopping up on the workhorses and letting his imagination carry him away as a great jockey. At the age of 16 while working as a stable hand and exercise rider, Wink attracted notice from a horse trainer who asked him to race one of his horses in Illinois. Unfortunately Wink’s first race resulted in a collision involving multiple horses and jockeys, and he was suspended from racing for a year.
Wink returned to the race circuit to earn a long string of victories and four consecutive opportunities to race in the prestigious Kentucky Derby. He earned third place in the Kentucky Derby his first year, then won first place two times (in 1901 and 1902), and the fourth year he placed a heart-wrenching second. Wink went on to race in Europe for the remainder of his career, largely because racial discrimination and the closure of numerous racetracks in the United States led to the virtual disappearance of jobs for black jockeys. With all his racing victories, Wink left a legacy as one of history’s greatest jockeys and the last African American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.
The thrilling text and dramatic oil paintings make it exceedingly difficult to put this book down before reaching the very last page. Carefully intertwined in the tales of Wink’s triumphs and defeats are important lessons about discrimination and job opportunities that had a profound impact on his career progression. The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby makes a valuable contribution to children’s literature by bringing to life the story of an African American hero whose rightful place in sports history has only recently gained recognition and appreciation.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children