Reviews for Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby : The Story of Jimmy Winkfield


Booklist Reviews 2008 September #1
Like Patsi Trollinger's Perfect Timing (2006), this picture-book biography celebrates an African American jockey who became famous in the nineteenth century. Jimmy Wink Winkfield grew up working the land, the son of sharecroppers, but he entered the world of horse racing while still in his teens, moving from stable hand to exercise rider and finally to jockey, a career that brought him international renown. Hubbard's text is richly informative and filled with exciting sensory details on the track, but the lengthy passages make this better suited for sharing in installments rather than reading aloud in a single sitting. Some of the human figures in McGuire's oil illustrations are awkwardly rendered, but the stirring scenes of horses streaking down the track, hooves pounding through clouds of dust, will easily capture children's attention. The background history of discrimination and African Americans in horse-racing history, spelled out in the foreword and expanded on throughout the text, adds even more heft and curricular ties to Wink's personal story, which is helpfully summarized in an afterword. A solid introduction to a fascinating subject. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2009 February
Stories from the road to freedom

Another fascinating but largely unknown story is told in The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby about jockey Jimmy Winkfield, who lived from 1882 to 1974. Crystal Hubbard's detailed, well-paced text, illustrated by Robert McGuire, starts with a foreword about horse racing, which in this country began with many slaves as jockeys.

Winkfield was born into a family of sharecroppers in Kentucky, the youngest of 17 children. He went on to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbies in 1901 and 1902, and narrowly missed winning a third in 1903. Hubbard's crisp writing makes each of these races come alive. She explains how black jockeys were forced out of racing for a while, and how Winkfield then trained and raced horses in Poland and Russia for many years. When Winkfield returned for a Kentucky Derby banquet in 1961, he and his daughter were not allowed to enter through the front door. Hubbard's picture book biography is a superb addition to any library for young readers. Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

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ForeWord Magazine Reviews 2008 November/December
Isaac Murphy, Willie Simms, Jimmy "Wink" Winkfield: few people recognize these names or know they were victorious black jockeys. Winkfield, the subject of this book, was born in 1882 in Kentucky, and started riding horses at sixteen. He eventually won two consecutive Kentucky Derbies: one in 1901 while riding His Eminence and the other in 1902 while riding Alan-a-Dale. Robert McGuire, who has illustrated biographies of Frederick Douglass and Amelia Earhart, uses oil paintings to depict jockeys on horses racing toward the finish line. A moving illustration shows a teary-eyed Winkfield sitting triumphantly upon His Eminence, as the crowd cheers behind him.

After two major victories, "Wink was a genuine star...[and] he was feeling confident when he mounted a horse named Early in the Kentucky Derby on May 2, [1903]." Though "Wink could almost taste victory," he won second place, and failed to earn the third consecutive win he was hoping for. Racism, segregation, and the decline of interest in the sport drove black jockeys away from American horse racing, resulting in Winkfield's longtime distinction as the last black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.

In an afterword, the author, a 2006 Amelia Bloomer Project Award winner, explains that Winkfield was eventually honored for his accomplishments. This book, with its informative introduction, is a teaching tool for children eight to ten years old that can be used to discuss an overlooked part of American history. Perhaps one day someone else will earn Winkfield's crown. (August)

< ©2008 ForeWord Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
At the turn of the previous century, African American jockey Jimmy Winkfield "was a genuine star" in the horse racing world. This picture book biography focuses on race highlights and on the effects prejudice had on Wink's career. The expository text is wordy and the oil paintings lack much dimension, but the book offers a worthwhile look at its subject. Bib. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2008 August #1
Indomitable African-American jockey Jimmy Winkfield, known as Wink in horse-racing history, is the subject of Hubbard's dramatic picture-book biography, which explains Winkfield's career struggles as the last African-American to win a Kentucky Derby, in 1902. From Winkfield's initial love of horses as a sharecropper's child to success at the raceways, loss of opportunity in the United States and the development of a successful career in France, his ambition is a dominant thread. The emphasis is on the races, however, the narration reading like a race call as Wink maneuvers his mounts to victory--and sometimes defeat. McGuire's rough, realistic oils depict both racing action and turning points in the life of this two-time Derby winner. The foreword, afterword and list of sources will guide readers to more information. As a whole, this overview of Winkfield's life as a jockey stands as both a celebration of racing and a snapshot of one determined man. (Picture book/biography. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2009 March/April
The last black king of the Kentucky Derby nearly won his third consecutive Derby in 1903. After two thrilling Derby victories and 22 other victories that year, Jimmy Winkfield was hoping to be the only jockey to win three Derbies in a row. But it was not to be. Though a skilled jockey whose skill with horses took him from backbreaking field work to the green grass of Kentucky, Wink?s ambition wasn?t enough to win the race. Soon after, racism forced black jockeys out of racing. Wink continued racing in Europe, where black jockeys were still welcomed. This book tells the intriguing story of the jockey who has come closest to winning three consecutive Derbies. Oil paintings are sparse in background, which keeps the reader?s focus on the beauty of the horses. Students interested in horses as well as African-American history will be drawn to this valuable addition to any picture book biography section. Recommended. Catherine Trinkle, Media Specialist, Hickory Elementary, Avon, Indiana ¬ 2009 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 November

Gr 2-4--Born in 1882 in Kentucky, Winkfield loved to ride horses from the time he was a boy and dreamed of becoming a jockey. After working as an exercise rider and stable hand, he was finally given a chance to race. Eventually, he won two Kentucky Derbies and raced throughout Europe. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, black jockeys rode in prestigious races but, later on, racism denied them these opportunities. Wink lived the last years of his life on his horse farm in France. This is both a personal story of determination and dedication and a brief look at the history of horse racing and the social injustice that led to Wink being the last African-American jockey to win the Derby. Vibrant oil paintings bring readers right into the action and capture the special relationship between Wink and the horses he rode and raised. This well-written and interesting biography will be a welcome addition to most collections.--Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA

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