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Surfer of the century : the life of Duke Kahanamoku

by Ellie Crowe


Syndetic Solutions - [Book Review for 9781584302766]

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Starred Review. Gr 3–6—This picture-book biography celebrates the life of champion swimmer and surfer. The athlete's life spanned a key period in Hawaii as it grew from a sleepy rural backwater to a tourist mecca. Kahanamoku grew up in and on the water in his hometown of Waikiki. His natural swimming abilities soon attracted a coach, and he began to train for the 1912 Olympics. In a race in August, 1911, he shattered swim records, but the Amateur Athlete Union would not recognize his accomplishment because it found his times too amazing to be believed. Nonetheless, he earned the right to compete in the Olympics where he won gold and became friends with Jim Thorpe. Kahanamoku also did much to popularize the sport of surfing through his travels and his later career. This appreciative biography does a fine job of summarizing his accomplishments. Crowe depicts his encounters with racial discrimination with sensitivity, underscoring the courage and character he developed to face these setbacks. The text is concise and readable, ably supported by Waldrep's full-page color art on every spread. These vibrant, action-filled illustrations, reminiscent of old-fashioned travel postcards, add much to the book's overall appeal. Well researched and fact-filled, this book will appeal to a wide audience of general readers.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Syndetic Solutions - [Book Review for 1584302763]

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From BookList, September 1, 2007, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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This strikingly illustrated picture-book biography celebrates Duke Kahanamoku, who broke records as an Olympic swimmer and introduced surfing around the globe. Crowe begins in 1917 with an exciting account of 27-year-old Kahanamoku's nearly two-mile ride on a giant wave. Subsequent spreads hark back to Kahanamoku's early years, when he lived across the road from Waikiki Beach, through swimming training that earned him Olympic gold and worldwide fame. Although Crowe references the racial discrimination that Kahanamoku encountered, younger readers may still need help putting some generalizations ("public beaches and pools on the mainland were mostly closed to people of color," for example) into historical context. In addition, the short, lively text, suitable for reluctant readers, loses focus as it shifts between Kahanamoku's swimming and surfing accomplishments. A thorough time line helps pull things back together, while dramatic colored-pencil-and-gouache artwork enhances the sense of Kahanamoku's iconic persona in glossy stylized images of the muscled athlete charging through sparkling waters. A welcome introduction to a groundbreaking figure rarely covered in books for youth. Engberg, Gillian.

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