cover image Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness

Donna Janell Bowman, illus. by Daniel Minter. Lee & Low, $19.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-62014-148-9

Born into slavery, William “Doc” Key drew national attention at the end of the 19th century for his training of a horse that eventually became known as Beautiful Jim Key, teaching the animal how to “combine letters to spell words, choose numbers to make sums, find flags to identify states, move clock hands to tell time, and a whole lot more.” Themes of racial injustice and the harsh treatment of animals offer a poignant supplement to the main narrative (“Kindness, kindness, and more kindness, that’s the way,” was how Doc Key described his success with Jim), which has another sturdy complement in Minter’s (Ellen’s Broom) bold linoleum block prints. Though debut author Bowman focuses on Doc’s relationship with Jim, a substantial afterword will leave children eager to learn more about Doc Key’s remarkable life, including his reluctant service work with Confederate forces during the Civil War and his efforts to free the enslaved. Ages 7–12. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (Sept.)

This review has been corrected. An earlier version incorrectly named the breed of horse described in the book.