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Wilma Rudolph, Olympic Runner


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Gr. 3-6. It’s a classic Cinderella story. Stuck at home in Clarksville, Tennessee, in the 1940s, Wilma Rudolph couldn’t attend school. Her leg was in a brace, twisted from polio. The kids called her cripple. But she grew up to become a runner who broke world records. This title in the popular Childhood of Famous Americans series is fictionalized, but it works because it never pretends to be documented biography. The made-up details and conversations seem true to the time, as is the picture of the African American girl who fought not only illness but also poverty, racism, and gender barriers. Sports fans will enjoy the details of training and technique as well as the honesty about Rudolph’s close, and sometimes tense, relationships with her coaches and teammates. Occasional black-and-white pictures capture the drama, from the kid in the hospital to the Olympic winner to the handshake with President Kennedy.

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Jo Harper