African-American football player Chuck Ealey grew up in a segregated neighborhood of Portsmouth, Ohio. Against all odds, he became an incredible quarterback. But despite his unbeaten record in high school and university, he would never play professional football in the United States.
Chuck Ealey grew up poor in a racially segregated community, but his mother assured him that he wouldn't stay in Portsmouth forever. Education was the way out, and a football scholarship was the way to pay for that education. So despite the racist taunts he faced at all the games he played in high school, Chuck maintained a remarkable level of dedication and determination. And when discrimination followed him to university and beyond, Chuck Ealey remained undefeated.
This inspirational story is told by Chuck Ealey's daughter, author and educator Jael Richardson, with striking and powerful illustrations by award-winning illustrator Matt James.
K-Gr 3—Young Chuck and his mother live in a poor, segregated neighborhood in Portsmouth, OH, in the 1960s. Frustrated by his situation, Chuck begins throwing rocks at the passing train cars, learning how to hit specific letters on the train as it speeds by. Using this newfound focus and determination, he succeeds academically as well as physically, as he attempts to be the quarterback for his high school. Finishing with Chuck winning his first game and beating the odds, the book includes an afterword about the subject, Chuck Ealey. Ealey later went on to play football for the Canadian Football League, as the NFL was still heavily segregated. The volume brings home the message that hard work pays off and is one of the few picture books to mention segregation outside of the Southern states. Perhaps the book's greatest strength is James's beautiful artwork. His vivid mixed-media oil paintings are filled with texture and depth in each scene. His energetic brushstrokes and unblended colors show the desperation of young Chuck and the injustice of the segregated times. Some of the smaller images at the end of the book have clearly been painted on cardboard, their frayed edges purposefully showing, adding to the authenticity of the work. VERDICT An excellent addition for sports fans and a great vehicle to spark conversation.—Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WICopyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Richardson, the daughter of African-American quarterback Chuck Ealey, explains that her father's knack for football began with throwing stones at passing trains during his childhood in segregated Ohio in the 1950s and '60. James's smudgy artwork conveys the deprivations of Ealey's youth through thick strokes of paint and images of barren streets and cupboards; on the football field, though, Ealey is a formidable presence in a blue uniform and gold helmet. Richardson focuses on Ealey's upbringing and early athletic career, emphasizing the value of practice and determination. A closing note fills in subsequent details, explaining that Ealey was never able to play professional football in America due to racial bias (he instead joined the Canadian Football League). Ages 5-up. Author's agent: Carly Watters, P.S. Literary Agency. Illustrator's agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (May)Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.