cover image Just Like Jesse Owens

Just Like Jesse Owens

Andrew Young as told to Paula Young Shelton, illus. by Gordon C. James. Scholastic, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-545-55465-7

The Olympic success of Jesse Owens serves as inspiration in Young’s childhood narrative, as relayed by his daughter Young Shelton. Before becoming a fixture of the civil rights movement, Andrew Young (b. 1932) was a middle-class Black boy in segregated New Orleans where, on the playground, “kids didn’t care what color you were. What mattered most was how fast you could run and tag.” Episodic scenes detail Young’s family life; men in the neighborhood shouting what sounded like “Hi, Hitler!”; and a trip to the Orpheum Theater, where, from the “Colored Only” section, Young watches Jesse Owens, “a runner who looked like me, winning over and over and over again” at the 1936 Olympics in Germany. Seeing Owens win four gold medals “in front of a man who thought people like me were not as good as White people” galvanizes him to “play harder, work harder, and try harder... to be the best I could be.” In hazy pastels, James creates a dreamlike backdrop for the historically resonant recollection. Creators’ notes conclude. Ages 6–8. (Aug.)