cover image The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon

The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon

Meghan McCarthy. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4814-0639-0

With her signature narrative zeal and goggle-eyed characters, McCarthy takes readers to the first Olympic marathon in America, held during the St. Louis World’s Fair. The vehicles trailing the pack kicked up dust that choked and blinded the runners. Cuban Felix Carvajal couldn’t resist stopping for fresh fruit or practicing his English with cheering onlookers. South African Len Tau “was chased a mile off course by an angry dog.” American Fred Lorz, first over the finish line, probably rode most of the course in a car. And Thomas Hicks, another American and the eventual official winner, was given a concoction of egg white and strychnine en route. Readers who have grown up with highly orchestrated sports events on TV may be surprised to learn just how slapdash, hazardous, and idiosyncratic early competition could be. But the story requires a marathoner’s concentration to keep track of its 10 main characters, and the subject matter doesn’t offer McCarthy the kind of meaty ambiguity that have made her previous works like Earmuffs for Everyone! so fun and compelling. Ages 4–8. Agent: Alexandra Penfold, Upstart Crow Literary. (Mar.)