Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness
by Donna Janell Bowman and illustrated by Daniel Minter
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
This is a lovely picture book biography of former slave Bill “Doc” Key who became a self-trained veterinarian. As a free man he started traveling with his medicine wagon and found a rundown circus with a neglected and abused gray mare. He bought the horse and nursed her back to health. As she was a purebred Arabian he hoped her offspring might become a champion racehorse. But the colt was spindly legged – and most thought he should be put down. Doc was determined to heal the colt as best he could.
The colt, Jim seemed to watch Doc’s every move – even when he played with his dog. Soon Jim was showing Doc that he could do dog tricks like fetch, sit, and roll over. Doc took the horse on the road and entertained as he sold his medicines. Doc began to wonder what else Jim could learn – and through patience and kindness he learned to read, add and write. They became one of the most famous entertainment acts at the turn of the twentieth century.
The author has brought to life the patient Doc Key and his extraordinary horse. Although they were famous in their day their story has faded over time. This book provides a well-deserved reminder of the duo and their accomplishments. The picture book has beautiful illustrations rendered as linoleum block prints painted with acrylic by Daniel Minter. These illustrations are an integral part of the book and expand the story. (The illustrator lives in Portland.)
Doc and Jim Key clearly show that kindness towards animals brings great rewards.
Madeline Finn does not like to read. She does not like to read anywhere at any time. It is hardest at school when asked to read aloud. It is too hard to figure out the words, make her mouth work and listen to the giggles of classmates. Madeline desperately wants to receive a star sticker from her teacher – but all she ever gets are hearts that say Keep Trying. She wishes upon a star that she will get her very own star. But everyday she struggles to read aloud. One day at the library she is introduced to a reading dog. Bonnie, a big white dog, does not giggle, does not squirm – she just listens. Bonnie and Madeline read together every week. Madeline Finn learns that reading is fun and with Bonnie by her side she is not afraid to go slow or make mistakes.
Find a copy of this book at the library and find out if Madeline Finn earns her own star!
The Portland Public Library has Reading Dogs – Emmie and Flip. They are at the library on Tuesday afternoons from 3:30 to 5:00. Registration is required. Come and read to one of them – perhaps Madeline Finn and the Library Dog would be the perfect choice.
10 double-page spreads introduce the numbers 1-10 – and animals that are vulnerable and endangered. Each spread includes an illustration of animals in the accompanying number and has a short free verse poem about the species. The book is hard to categorize: it doesn’t totally work as a counting book because the numbers are spelled out only; the information about the animals really targets school aged children and not preschoolers; the subtle hint that counting the species is a reminder of dwindling numbers targets adult readers; the impassioned foreword by Virginia McKenna (animal activist and actress from Born Free) is definitely written for the adult reader. Still it is an important book – but where will it go in the collection?
The illustrations are exquisite. They are charcoal drawings that are photo-realistic. The cover drawing of the lion is as rich and detailed as any photo. The book is over-sized which will make shelving difficult. It is like a coffee-table book for the younger reader. It is a beautiful tribute to endangered species and worth looking for a place on your shelves to host it.