|Step Right Up, by Donna Bowman and Daniel Minter|
Written by Donna Janell Bowman
Illustrated by Daniel Minter
Lee & Low Books, 2016
Grades 2-8, 48 pp., 910L
Biography, Kindness, Non-fiction, Animals
"Spring 1889 stretched a blanket of wildflowers over Shelbyville, Tennessee, but William "Doc" Key barely noticed. He paced and fidgeted like an expectant father. He had been on hand for plenty of births before, but this one was special. Visions of a future champion racehorse darted through his mind as he comforted his mare Lauretta. Finally a dark, wet colt lay shivering at her side.
"Doc knelt to welcome the little fellow, but something was terribly wrong. "He's the most spindly, shank-legged animal I ever did see," he said.
"Most folks would have given up on the colt right then. But Doc had a kind streak that ran clear through his heart and all the way back to his childhood."
Doc Key was born a slave. Throughout his life he taught kindness through his actions. As a free man he opened a veterinary clinic in Tennessee. He especially had a way with horses. He once spent a small fortune on a mare which he believed would parent a valuable racehorse, but when the colt was born, it was sickly. Doc spent all his time and energy raising that colt, though it was clear it would never win a horserace. But the horse, Beautiful Jim Key, turned out to be an amazing animal. Doc taught him to count and spell, for one thing. Jim lived was much like a pet dog: he followed Doc around, slept in his house as often as he could sneak in, and delighted in learning tricks. So Doc and Jim went on the road to make their fortune, but more importantly, to spread a message about God's creatures, about education, and about the miraculous transformative power of compassion.
What I Love:
I'd seen Mim Rivas's Beautiful Jim Key years ago, and knew it would make a splendid children's book. Their story is a real-life fairy tale. And while Jim is the star, Doc's quiet compassion and his patient temperament make him the hero of the story. Jim may seem like a miracle horse, but I don't believe anyone else could have brought out his talents. the story focuses on their life together and the underlying stream of selflessness in Doc Key, which saw the good in others and chose to give his all for those around him.
Excellent illustrations. Well-chosen text. Fact-filled and beautifully organized. The author includes thorough back matter on this fascinating duo. Don't miss this book. As a side-show barker might have said, you won't believe your eyes.
|Chocolate-covered Nutter Butter Cookies|
from Krazy in the Kitchen
2. Learn the history behind the books at Beautiful Jim Key, including links to a documentary, kids' contests, and more.
3. If you're anywhere near Tennessee, you can visit the memorial to Jim Key in Shelbyville.
4. Lee & Low has posted an interesting interview with the author.
5. Safe Haven Humane Society offers tips for kids who want to show kindness to animals, and how they can volunteer. Google the local SPCA, and you'll find pages of information like I did. Kids who can't volunteer can sponsor a drive for food, blankets, towels, dishes, toys, and other necessities to keep our shelters running.
7. Equine therapy is another great way for kids to learn kindness. Centers all around the country work with either adults or children struggling with anger management, physical or mental handicaps, autism, and depression. These camps are a great place to learn to work with people or animals, and they always need compassionate volunteers. Maybe there's one in your area.
8. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.
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Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!