________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 29 . . . . March 30, 2018


Runner: Harry Jerome, World's Fastest Man.

Norma Charles.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2017.
135 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-888995-553-0.

Subject Headings:
Jerome, Harry, 1940-1982.
African American athletes-Biography-Juvenile fiction.
Racism-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Elaine Fuhr.

**** /4



The night of May 5, would be burnt into Harry Jerome's memory forever. It was probably his very first race. It happened when he was just nine years old.

That race was against the raging Red River near his home in St. Boniface, Manitoba, known as Winnipeg's French district. Harry was among the many who tried to stop the river from overflowing its banks and flooding the city.

The evening started in the most ordinary way. Harry was sitting at the kitchen table after supper, reading his new Superman comic, when his mother called from her bedroom. "I'm getting up now and those dishes better be done." Her voice was scratchy as if she were getting a cold.

The table was still cluttered with dirty dishes from their supper of wieners and beans. Harry sighed and wished he could have the exciting life of a superhero like Superman. He'd fly out there into the night and save mankind from destruction.

Author Norma Charles was engaged to Trinidadian Carlos Charles, a sprinter at the University o British Columbia, when she first met Harry Jerome. She realized that Harry had something special. Not only was he fast, but he was a serious and determined athlete, though quiet and reserved. She also met Harry's sister, Valerie, who was making her own way in the track scene. After Norma and Carlos's married and left track and field, they both kept a watch on Harry's career. That started back in the Sixties, but a couple of years ago, Norma realized that, while Harry had been famous for his track skills and his successes for Canada, most of today's young people probably had no idea who he was. Harry Jerome would make an ideal real life role model for our youth, and, moreover, his story would be an excellent story of the ordeals experienced and the determination needed by an Afro-Canadian family, especially given that there are few such stories.

      At nine years of age, Harry was a typical boy living in St. Boniface, MB, with his parents and sisters. He, like many others, wished he could have an exciting life like the superheroes in his comics. Would helping to save the city of St. Boniface from the flooding of the Red River be considered exciting? At first Harry thought so, until, many hours later, after working with his Wolf Cub pack to fill bags with sand for a dike against the river, the dike failed. Though he was more tired than he ever thought he could be, the Pack and the military still needed to get to safety and then evacuate families. Harry's family and neighbours returned to homes so badly damaged that many, including Harry's family, cleaned up and moved.

      This event brought them to North Vancouver where Harry's family was not well accepted because of the colour of their skin. They persevered, and Harry developed a love of baseball and later, track and field. Though Harry never truly felt accepted, he got a job delivering papers with a group of young workers who accepted him unconditionally, and later, in high school, he joined a track team with his sister. They both excelled, but Harry found his true love in track. He went on to compete for British Columbia and for Canada. There were times of extreme defeat and times of amazing successes. Harry would not be defeated without doing his very best at all times and, indeed, this attitude paid off.

      On November 28, 1982, at 42 years of age, Harry suddenly passed away – but he left a legacy that will not be forgotten, and Norma Charles has assured that his memory will live on through the pages of her book. Hopefully, Harry's life story will encourage children and youth of today to take their passions to the highest level possible, to meet the challenges that they will face with courage and not give up because, with enough determination, success will be theirs.

      Thank you, Norma Charles, for sharing the life of this amazing man with all of us.

Highly Recommended.

Alberta's Elaine Fuhr is a retired elementary and middle school teacher.

To comment on this title or this review, contact cm@umanitoba.ca.

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