Bruchac, Joseph. 2004. JIM THORPE’S BRIGHT PATH. Ill. by S.D. Nelson. New York: Lee & Low Books. ISBN 158430166X [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]
The heartaches and heroism of Jim Thorpe have been told throughout the decades. This book is complete with heartache as it focuses on the early life of the famous Indian athlete. The unrelated deaths of his twin brother, his mother, and eventually his father indicate that Jim’s life was not short on adversity. A gifted runner, Jim did not like school, because it “made him feel like a fox caught in an iron trap.” At his father’s continued urging he decided to attend Carlisle Indian School where he could play football, his favorite sport, and study electricity, his greatest interest. The lessons he learned from his family and his experiences at Carlisle helped Jim to realize that he needed to “show what an Indian could do,” obtain an education, and use his athleticism to become a success.
The story ends with no mention of the Olympic scandals that later plagued Jim’s life, however an extensive author’s note and timeline provide that information. The hazy feature of the illustrations lends to the nostalgia of the story, while actual photographs in the final pages provide the proof of the story’s authenticity. Jim’s story is both motivational and thought-provoking as it leads the reader to explore his triumphs over personal and cultural hardships.
If possible, obtain old footage of Thorpe’s Olympic performances, and then discuss whether or not Thorpe’s medals should have been stripped.
Provide information about the Carlisle Indian School (see RELATED BOOKS). Ask children to make a list of the pros and cons of having such an assimilating school.
Other biographies by Joseph Bruchac:
A BOY CALLED SLOW. ISBN 069811616X
CRAZY HORSE’S VISION. ISBN 1880000946
Other books about famous Olympiads:
Batten, Jack. THE MAN WHO RAN FASTER THAN EVERYONE: THE STORY OF TOM LONGBOAT. ISBN 0887765076
Krull, Kathleen. WILMA UNLIMITED. ISBN 0152020985
By Rebecca S. McKee