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Review of The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon

The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 
Olympic Marathon
by Meghan McCarthy; 
illus. by the author
Primary   Wiseman/Simon   48 pp.
3/16   978-1-4814-0639-0   $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-0640-6   $10.99

The year 1904 saw the running of the first Olympic marathon on American soil, taking place in St. Louis during the World’s Fair. How fitting that this particular marathon was a race for the ages, with cheating runners (one caught a ride in a car), contaminated water, pilfered peaches, and strychnine poisoning. All this makes great fodder for McCarthy (Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton, rev. 5/13, and many others), who mixes the zany events into another appealing informational picture book. The colorful cast of characters — most of whom feature in a montage near the book’s start — are rendered in McCarthy’s recognizable cartoonlike acrylic illustrations. As the race heats up, McCarthy picks up the pace suitably, following myriad subplots — one athlete being chased off course “by an angry dog,” another stopping to pig out at an apple orchard, and a medic driving cinematically over an embankment (complete with hats flying and chickens squawking). While McCarthy’s writing can get a tad too chatty — she peppers the text with exclamation points whose surfeit becomes monotonous — it’s nonetheless another winning title for young readers.

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a former elementary and middle school teacher. He is currently senior children's librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio.

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