Events and Activities
"Major Taylor, Champion Cyclist,"
written by Lesa Cline-Ransome,
illustrated by James E. Ransome
From the Critics
The creators of Satchel Paige turn their attention to African-American cyclist Marshall Taylor, who in 1899 clinched the World Championship title. Cline-Ransome includes details about Taylor's boyhood that will easily snare kids' attention. While a youngster in Indianapolis, he "taught himself quite a collection of tricks" as he delivered newspapers on his bike. His prowess landed him a job in Hay and Willits Bicycle Shop. A full-bleed page divided into four panels shows the boy performing stunts on his bicycle in a military uniform, earning him the nickname of "Major." After winning his first race (a 10-mile road race sponsored by Hay and Willits) at 13, the lad left home to become assistant to professional racer Louis "Birdie" Munger and turned pro himself five years later. Concisely and affectingly, Cline-Ransome describes the racial prejudice that plagued the athlete on and off the race course: "All of the large purses won in races all over the country couldn't buy him a meal in a restaurant or a room in a hotel." Though the narrative concludes on a note of triumph, trumpeting his cycling victory in France over the 1900 world champion, a concluding note outlines Taylor's sad, destitute later years. Period particulars and deft use of light and shadow distinguish Ransome's lifelike oil paintings. Portraits of Taylor are in sharp, striking focus, and effectively convey his athleticism, congeniality and resolve. An appealing, accessible biography. Ages 6-10.
(Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Gr 2-4-A picture-book biography of Marshall Taylor, an African American who became a great bicycle racer. Taylor grew up in Indianapolis, taught himself stunts on his bicycle, and won the first race he entered, in 1891, at age 13. He went on to achieve international fame in a segregated sport. (In this country, he was allowed to compete only because he'd been admitted to the League of American Wheelmen before they voted to bar blacks from membership.) He found a greater level of acceptance in France, and the account of his victory over the French champion Edmond Jacquelin provides the book with its climax. An afterword is frank about the difficulties the athlete encountered after retiring from racing; he died at the age of 53 and was buried in a pauper's grave near Chicago. Overall, the text is smoothly written and greatly enhanced by Ransome's vivid and accomplished paintings. Not quite as long as Cline-Ransome and Ransome's Satchel Paige (S & S, 2000), this book hits only a few high notes in Taylor's life. Mary Scioscia's Bicycle Rider (Harper & Row, 1983; o.p.), illustrated by Ed Young, is a wonderful book for slightly older readers, but focuses only on Taylor's first victory. Useful for reports as well as enjoyable for leisure reading, this attractive book should find a home in most collections.
-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.