The Unstoppable Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team

Football. No one would ever claim that I was a big football fan. But the story of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football team is one that I would recommend to anyone and now I know of not one, but two marvelous books on the topic!

I first heard of Jim Thorpe when the book Undefeated: The Story of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team made its way onto this year’s NC Middle School Battle of the Books list. This book is so much more than a story about a great football player and his team. This book is about coach Glenn “Pop” Warner, Jim Thorpe, and the treatment of Native Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.

Many American school children learn about how the Indians were pushed from their lands into “territories” so that “Americans” could claim the land for themselves and move west. But we don’t hear much about the boarding schools for Native Americans that tried to erase their heritage. The concept was “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” and the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania was the first of these school to open (for more history, click here.) I had learned about these schools in Canada from two books last year, but it was disheartening to realize that the United States had done the same thing. So while I don’t like that the schools existed to assimilate Native Americans, learning how one group of Native Americans changed the face of football is an important bit of American history as a whole

Undefeated is a fascinating book. The first chunk of the book barely even mentions Jim Thorpe, rather it focuses on Pop Warner and how he built the Carlisle football team. Readers get a look at how the sport of football evolved in the United States and how it almost died after there were so many injuries and deaths sustained by college students in the early 20th century. While rarely discussed in football history, the Carlisle team under Warner were the first team to utilize the forward pass in a game and players like Thorpe utilized amazing running skills for the first time in the game, rather than focusing on brute force. Steve Sheinkin does an amazing job of balancing football history and the horrors of the treatment of Native Americans in a way that will entice readers.

So when I discovered that there was also a nonfiction picture about Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle team, I jumped at the chance to read it. Writer Art Coulson and illustrator Nick Hardcastle took the same story and turned it into a powerful picture book published by Capstone Press called Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army. Thank you very much to Capstone Press for sending me a copy of this book to review as a part of this year’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day and for continuing to be a sponsor of this important event.

Unstoppable focuses on the early years of Jim Thorpe, his experiences in these assimilation schools, how he came to play football, and his impressive experience in the 1912 Olympics. It then focused on the historic game that Carlisle played against the Army team at West Point in 1912. Just as with I am not a Number, the images of Native Americans being taken from their homes and their hair being cut are incredibly powerful.

The game against Army was historic for the Carlisle team. The public expected the “bigger, stronger, better-equipped Army team” to crush Carlisle. But it was Carlisle’s new take on football, their reliance on speed and brains to win the game, that would lead them to their landslide win of 27-6. It was an important game to show a large audience that Native Americans were not the savages that so many people assumed them to be. This amazing team should be a part of the lesson about Native Americans that our children learn about in school.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents, and educators.

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following
Medallion Sponsors on board

Medallion Level Sponsors Honorary: Children’s Book Council, The Junior Library Guild, Super Platinum: Make A Way Media GOLD: Bharat Babies, Candlewick Press, Chickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito, KidLitTV, Lerner Publishing Group, Plum Street Press, SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Carole P. Roman, Author Charlotte Riggle, Huda Essa, The Pack-n-Go Girls, BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul,Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift, T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following
Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie Flett, Mehrdokht Amini, Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm,Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing,Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Claudia Schwam, Lori DeMonia, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts: A Crafty Arab, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Biracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read,Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin Lee, Jump Into a Book, Imagination Soup, Jenny Ward’s Class, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Raising Race Conscious Children, Shoumi Sen, Spanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media!

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details. FREE RESOURCES From MCBD Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians, and Educators: Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the info about Multi-Cultural Children’s Book Day! I have this book about Jim Thorpe on my list, know something about the schools where Native Americans were sent, a horrible time. Thanks for the detailed review!

Leave a Reply