Reviews for Major Taylor, Champion Cyclist
Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 2004
Gr. 2-4, younger for reading aloud. African American cyclist Major Taylor, 1899 World Cycling champion, was as famous for the color of his skin as he was for his indomitability on the racetrack. This account covers Taylor's transformation from a kid who loved to ride, "aware only of the wind against his face and the road he left behind," into an internationally known athlete. His story bears all the elements of a traditional sports tale, complete with a climactic showdown between rivals and a triumphant ending. Yet the theme of racism looms large, from the white bike-shop owner who treats 13-year-old Taylor as a publicity gimmick to the white competitors who "boxed him out" during races. Cline-Ransome's storytelling is less smooth and sprightly than it was in Satchel Paige (2000), but her husband's arresting oil paintings capture the beauty of an athlete in peak condition, and, like the similarly stark compositions of Edward Hopper, express bitter emotions simmering under the surface. A thoughtful afterword puts Taylor's career into grim perspective: he died a pauper, his former glory all but forgotten. ((Reviewed February 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Fall
This is the story of a lesser-known African-American athlete breaking down racial barriers. Major Taylor rose to the top of the cycling world in the early 1900s, starting out working in a bike store as a boy and ending up a world champion cyclist. The engaging narrative and rich oil paintings create an impressive portrait of an inspiring man. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2003 December #2
Glorious, light-filled oils are not enough to save this lackluster picture book biography of "Major" Marshall Taylor, the first African-American world-champion cyclist. From his beginnings as a hired stunt rider in an Indianapolis bicycle shop in 1891 to his triumphant defeat of the reigning world champion in Paris in 1901, the text emphasizes his determination and class in the face of prejudice and hostility both on and off the track. It's an inspiring story, but it never really takes flight. As a subject, Taylor lacks the mythic flair of Satchel Paige, the subject of the pair's 1999 collaboration, and consequently the narrative lacks snap. Perhaps in an effort to compensate for Taylor's relative stolidity and to reach out to child readers, Cline-Ransome peppers her text with invented dialogue, an unfortunate choice in today's world of children's nonfiction. Ransome's full-bleed illustrations emphasize mood and form, featuring a muscular, solemn, and almost driven Taylor. An author's note summarizes Taylor's life after 1901, discusses the racial climate of turn-of-the-20th-century cycling, and cites sources. (Picture book/biography. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 December #4
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.
School Library Journal Reviews 2004 February
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.