Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson - Charles R. Smith Jr. - Shane W. Evans

Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson by Charles R. Smith Jr. illus by Shane W. Evans

Smith tells the story of Jack Johnson the first Black Heavyweight champion of the world in verse.

Before Jack Johnson becomes the champion, he's a regular guy. Smith does a very good job of letting the reader know who Jack Johnson is outside of the ring. Jack Johnson the boxer was determined to get the opportunity to prove he was the best in the ring.

"But what Jack wanted most was to be a great man, so he challenged the times. But it was Jack who was challenged when he faced the color line."

At the time fighting was segregated but that didn't stop Johnson.

"So Jack chased the champ, from fight to fight, challenging Jim Jeffries to prove his might."

I was really looking forward to reading Black Jack. My expectation build up kept me from enjoying this one has much as I would've liked. I am a fan of Evan's style, Olu's Dream was one of my favorite picture books last year. In the case of a Jack Johnson biography, I would've liked more realistic illustrations of the fighter.

Though Black Jack wasn't for me, I think young readers will really enjoy it. There is a lot of movement in Smith's lyrical and visual text. Evan's draws Johnson in such a way that he comes across as smooth and strong. He appears larger than life, which is very appropriate for this biography. Smith includes additional information about Jack Johnson once the ballad is over

Smith and Evans talking about Black Jack @ publishers weekly

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