Monday, July 17, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Undefeated



Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team 
By Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press, 2017. Informational, 280 p.

Wowzer. That is the first thing that I thought after having finished this older elementary/teen nonfiction book. This is an amazing story. I knew who Jim Thorpe was. I had heard his name and knew he was a legendary sports figure. But really, I didn’t know who Jim Thorpe was. Now I do. Now I know that he was amazing. And the rest of his teammates were amazing as well.

This is the story of Jim Thorpe and the rest of the Carlisle Indian School football team. They were always the underdogs when playing football. White players were allowed to slug or knee them without getting penalized while the Carlisle team had to play clean or risk being tossed out of the game or penalties. There was so much injustice and prejudice that happened during this era. I mean, starting with the fact that these kids were sent to a school that had a mission to take away their culture and identity. They had to fight and work for everything. And it just wasn’t fair.

However, these men raised above all that. They went to games where people stereotyped their team (often using words like “scalp” when describing what they expected to happen to the Carlisle team) or the players (so many of them were nicknamed “chief” by white people). When one player was limping off the field and the coach asked what had happened he explained that he was kneed. When the coach asked what the player said in return he asked the white player (who had kneed him) “Who’s the savage now?” Seriously. This happened.

This nonfiction book is a great example of some really fine people who lived through life throwing harsh punches at them because of their race. They were better than what life gave them. Over and over again it shows that life wasn’t fair. But they were still good people who worked harder than any other team. This is a book about great examples who did not give up in spite of what lot they were given. This is a book about good examples and athletes. This is a book that really shows character counts. Read it. Then you just might say “wowzer” too.

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