Are you a parent or a teacher of a sporty child who loves competition, the one that “just gotta win”? Are you searching for a book that teaches children the values of determination, reaching their goals and above all a great value of friendship? Finally, are you looking for a book that incorporates multicultural characters? Then, you’re going to enjoy The Quickest Kid in Clarksville as much as we did!
We read that story on our holiday in Italy, accompanied with chocolate bread rolls for the boys and an espresso for mummy, so it was a very nice experience.
I’ve had the privilege to review The Quickest Kid in Clarksville for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) that falls on the 27th January 2016.
Please find below my review, follow-up discussion and activities, and more information about MCCBD.
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Frank Morrison is a story of Alta, a little girl from Clarksville who loves running and hopes to be as fast as her favourite athlete, Wilma Rudolph, who’s a three-time Olympic gold medalist, one day. See, Alta is the quickest kid in Clarksville, just like Wilma once was! As you can imagine, Alta is not really happy when a new girl, Charmaine, comes to town, who “comes sashaying my way like she owns the sidewalk and everything on it”, who has brand new running shoes and who challenges her to a race, claiming that SHE is the fastest kid in Clarksville!
Who’s gonna win the race? “Alta, of course”! said Andrés; he identified easily with the story main character since he claims that he’s the fastest kid of our city – Poznań!
Unfortunately, Alta doesn’t have a “shoe-buying Daddy” and she has to race in very worn shoes. When the girls race for the first time, she wins; however, when they race again, she loses the race and she gets very upset with Charmaine. However, on the next day, when Wilma Rudolph, their big idol, comes to town, the two girls decide to work together and organize a relay race to carry a banner with Wilma’s name to the parade faster. Suddenly it’s not important who’s faster or who’s got nicer shoes; both girls are happy to get the job done.
This lovely story teaches children that sports are not only about winning, but also about working as a team and having fun. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; but you can always rely on your team’s suport and friendship.
A few questions to discuss with your child:
- What’s your favourite sport/activity?
- When was the last time you won? How did you feel?
- When was the last time you lost? How did you feel?
- Sometimes when we looe, we can feel angry and upset. How can we deal with these feelings?
- Is there someone in your class who’s as good in (football/running/…) as you? How do you feel about it?
Activity: a relay race
Just like Alta and Charmaine, you can organize a relay race in which children take turns to run and hand off a baton to the next child within a certain zone. You can measure the whole team’s time and congratulate the children on doing a great job together. It’s a great activity for all energetic kids who love to run!
Our relay race at the Lido beach (Venice); Andrés is ready to start off the race!
Now, Andrés is going to pass the scarf to Michał, who’s going to continue the race.
Go, Michał,go! Andrés is animating his brother to finish the race.
Andrés and Michał are used to playing lots of games in varied groups of kids and adults, so winning or losing is not a big deal in our house. However, they told me about their conflict with a friend who throws a tantrum anytime she loses a game. “You know, Mummy, once she got mad when we were playing Snakes and Ladders and she threw the board at me”! – said indignated Andres (6yo). I suggested they play games that are aimed at cooperation, not competition, such as:
- Building a Lego house together; each child can be responsible for another area,
- Building and painting a cardboard box house,
- Preparing a simple meal together,
Michał(4yo) had another experience related to competition. “My friend Kuba is usually a goal keeper and he’s very sad when his team loses. Then I come up to him and give him a hug. Maybe when we come home, we can make cookies for my team?”
Alta is upset because Charmaine has brand, new running shoes and she has to race in very worn shoes; she doesn’t have a “shoe-buying Daddy”.
Many children feel worse than others who have nicer clothes, toys, or electronic devices. I’ve always tried to raise my boys brand blind and fortunately they’ve never told me that they feel sad because another kid has more toys or nicer clothes, but I’m aware that one day it may happen.
At the end of the story Alta realizes that “shoes are not important as long as you have yor feet”. Her experience can help children to realize that fashionable clothes or sports equipment are far less important than determination and hard work.
A few questions to discuss with your child:
- Is there someone in your class who’s got something cool that you’d really like to have? What is it? How does it make you feel?
- Some children, like Alta, may feel upset because they don’t have nice toys or clothes. How can we help children who have less? (Ideas: share snacks, give away toys, be friendly).
- What makes you good at your favourite sport/activity? Think also about positive character traits: determination, courage, creativity, kindness, patience.
Positive role model: Wilma Rudolph. Racial inclusion.
At the end of the story we can read a short biography of Wilma Rudoplph, Afroamerican three-time Olympic gold medallist. Wilma’s story is truly inspirational since she came from a very poor family, she was wearing a brace on her leg as a young kid and she was told by doctors that she would never walk without support again. However, Wilma exercised and worked hard for years until her leg was strong again and became the first woman from the United States to win three gold medals at the same Olympics.
Wilma was also an important figure in the civil rights movement. She grew up at the segregated town of Clarksville. When after her victories Clarksville wanted to honour her with a parade and a banket, Wilma said that she will only attend if the events are open for everyone. The organizers agreed, which is reflected in the book; Alta comments that there are many “black and white faces” at the parade, which became the first major event for blacks and whites in Clarksville history.
As you can see, this is not only a book about sports and competition; this story raises as important topics as inequality, self-esteem and racial inclusion. We have really enjoyed this book and we can recommend it to all little readers!
More About Multicultural Children’s Book Day
Multicultural Children’s Book Day was established in 2014 by co-founders Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book http://www.jumpintoabook.com// Audrey Press. The event’s mission is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. According to the MCCBD team, “Our young readers need to see themselves within a page of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions.
Who can join the event? (…) readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians can follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld
Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Hosts and you can view them here.
Classroom Reading Challenge
MCCBD holds a Classroom Reading Challenge. This very special offering offers teachers and classrooms the chance to very easily earn a free hardcover multicultural children’s book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are also pre-screened and approved by them as well. Click HERE to earn your book!