Jimmy the Greatest!
by Jairo Buitrago; illus. by Rafael Yockteng; trans. from the Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary Groundwood 48 pp.
5/12 978-1-55498-178-6 $18.95
e-book ed. 978-1-55498-206-6 $18.95
What happens when a boy from a nondescript small town grows up to be a talented boxer? Most would dream of bigger and better places, but not young Jimmy. When gym owner Don Apolinar encourages him to start running (despite his missing shoes), Jimmy decides he will become a boxer, inspired by a box of clippings and books about Muhammad Ali. When his trainer leaves to make his fortune, Jimmy makes a poignant and surprising decision to stay and support his little town with a library and a fixed-up boxing gym. This town could be anywhere in the tropics, but the (Colombian) author and illustrator do not identify it, giving the book more universal appeal. The background colors of the illustrations — the brilliant blues of the sea and the tempered beige of the sand — highlight the stylized brown villagers, including lanky Jim and bearded Apolinar. Understated poetic language permeates the whole story, but the last page soars. “There are no elegant houses / or fancy things. / But we’re really great. / We dance and we box / and we don’t / sit around waiting / to go someplace else.” In a world where so many must leave their homes to find work, it’s inspiring to see Jimmy able to do a truly great thing, right where he wants to be.