From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5–This picture-book biography describes how 12-year-old Murphy, the grandson of slaves, accepted a chance offer to ride a racehorse in 1873 in Lexington, KY, changing his life forever. He became one of the most successful jockeys in history, holding records that remain unbroken to this day. The exciting depiction of a match race in 1890, an event for just two horses and riders, concisely captures the action and drama of the sport. Trollinger's prose style is clear but not oversimplified, and she does not sidestep the issue of the eating disorder that led to Murphy's death at 35. An author's note explains that Murphy's perfect timing pertained not only to a horse race but also to his career. If he had raced 20 years earlier it would have been as a slave, and 20 years later, racial discrimination had forced most black jockeys out of racing. Lagarrigue's russet-hued oil paintings are vibrant and full of movement. This interesting biography is unique in its historical perspective on race relations and sports.–Ann Robinson, Moultonborough Academy Library, NH
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This picture-book biography, Trollinger's debut title, celebrates a legendary African American jockey. Using the jockey's "perfect timing" as a framework, Trollinger begins with a serendipitous moment, when Murphy was 12, that started his career. Off-track scenes, such as Murphy's marriage, appear, but Trollinger focuses on Murphy's rigorous training and the thrilling races, described in moment-by-moment detail. The straightforward text will read aloud well, and the subject will interest boys and girls alike. Lagarrigue's elegant paintings wonderfully enhance the story. As in his illustrations for Deborah Wiles' Freedom Summer
(2000), for which he received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award, the images reinforce the story's sense of looking back through time with blurred, abstract acrylics, which, like memories or historical stories, only capture part of the picture. Kids will be drawn particularly to scenes on the track, spiked with the color of bright silk uniforms, which evoke the speed and the excitement of both horse and rider. A note adds more historical context about African Americans in horse racing. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved