cover image Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe

Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe

Don Brown / Author, Don Brown / Illustrator Roaring Brook Pres

In this rather disappointing picture book biography, Brown (Mack Made Movies) spotlights the early years of Native American Olympian athlete Jim Thorpe through to his participation in the 1912 Olympics. He was born on land belonging to the Sac and Fox Indians in 1888, and called Wa-tho-huck, meaning Bright Path. The author covers a lot of ground here, and though readers learn a lot about Jim's life, they don't get much of a sense of his character. The first few spreads establish the boy's love of the outdoors, growing up on his family's Oklahoma farm. At six, he was sent to a boarding school for Indian children where he was ""taught to act and dress like white people."" Before the age of 13, his mother died, and eventually Jim's father sent him to a ""military strict"" Indian school in Pennsylvania, where he felt ""like a quail in a cornstalk snare."" But it was there that, on a lark, Jim tried to clear the high-jump bar and wound up breaking the school record, turning him onto track and football. At the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, he won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon. (A concluding note fills in details of Thorpe's later years and being stripped of his medals, a decision that was reversed in 1973.) In trying to cover such an expanse of events, the narrative sacrifices depth, and the artwork seems less crafted here than in Brown's other works. Ages 5-9.