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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Meet Tom Longboat, written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas. Scholastic, 2019. $16.99 ages 9 and up

"The way Tom ran was different, too. In those days, most runners took long, high strides with their hands up and still. By keeping his feet close to the ground and his hands low, Tom saved energy as he ran. Not every race ended with a win, but Tom was becoming known as a top racer."

This is the third book in the Scholastic Canada Biography series. The first two featured Viola Desmond and Chris Hadfield. Each of the books in this series is deserving of your attention and a place on the shelf where you keep picture book biographies. They have much to share concerning prominent and admirable Canadians. Your students will find them enlightening and engaging. They will enjoy the accessible text, the design, and artwork of each.

Tom Longboat made his mark as a long distance runner. An Onondaga member of the Six Nations, his accomplishments are many. Ms. MacLeod begins with Tom's early life ... a life filled with running and fun. Sent to a residential school at 12, Tom hated life there. In his second year, he ran away twice and never went back. It would be five years before he entered his first race in 1905. When he came second, he decided he would not lose again.

His training was unlike that of other runners. People were not impressed and made their feelings known. Tom was doing then what many runners do now. As his fame grew, the people of Canada celebrated.

"A huge crowd paraded him to Toronto City Hall for
an official reception. Tome Longboat was famous - not
only in Canada, but all over the world."

His fame continued to grow, despite failure at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. Then, war changed everything. Tom served, and returned home in 1919 to find that running was no longer a revered sport. He could no longer earn a living doing what he loved. So, he got a job, cared for his family and eventually moved back to the reserve he loved. He died in 1949, but his spirit lives on in the Tom Longboat Award given to top Indigenous athletes yearly.

Well researched and presented in a conversational style, this is a welcome addition to a stellar series. Liz MacLeod is an accomplished storyteller, and Mike Deas fills the pages with energy and color in  historical settings that help with understanding. The speech bubbles will be much appreciated by middle grade students wanting to know more about notable Canadians.

Backmatter provides a timeline for Tom's life, and archival photographs.

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