I am so not a sports person it’s almost laughable.. well though I really shouldn’t say that. I enjoy watching soccer, and seeing my lad and hubby do archery, and seeing my son’s improvement in Karate brings joy to my heart.
But reading sports oriented book…not really my cup of tea.
So imagine my surprise when this book “Undefeated” captured me completely. I started reading the book and simply didn’t put it down (except when I HAD to…one needs to be safe while driving) until it was finished.
Undefeated is the story of the Carlisle Indian School football team, back when the game was just starting. I never knew the start of football (can’t say I ever really cared) but boy oh boy was it a rough and tough, let’s potentially be killed game. Not at all like the clean cut game that we see now-a-days with full protective gear, rules that are enforced, and various safety measures taken. Games change as people take action to maintain the joy of the game, whilst protecting the young men who play them. This book did a good job of spelling out the why and how some of those changes were made.
Steve Sheinkin does an excellent job of portraying the difficulties of life in the Indian Schools both in terms the deliberation of the administrators of the schools (whose aim was to force assimilation into white culture) and the harsh realities of being a student in those schools (who would rather have stayed with their families). He did so in a manner that didn’t sensationalize either end. It was simply difficult and continues to have repercussions among Native Americans to this day.
What kept me spell bound though … was the writing of the story, of the seeing how these Indian boys reacted to the pressures exerted upon them… the school, the racism of the day, the hard work, just the hardships of life that were thrown upon them. These boys acted with a grace and dignity so often was found lacking in their opponents.
This book captured my thoughts, spoke to me of the history of my southern neighbours, and enlightened my imagination to how people can live above how they treated. There was indeed a nobility to be found among these young men.
Pride in their victories.
Stolid in their defeat.
Battered by the world around them.
These young men proved their mettle in the world of men in their day.
Jim Thorpe was an interesting boy… by today’s standards you’d say he was all jock, not wanting to look at books or do his studies, only wanting to be out playing sports or running on the land. A lad (and later a man) with a determination that was set deep within. He would train, he would win, and he would persevere…and he did.
Winning in football, winning at the Olympics, standing by what he knew to be right, and being loyal to his friends. This was Jim Thorpe.
This book speaks mostly about Jim Thorpe, but also talks about his football coach Pop Warner. A selfish, egotistical man, who knew how to play football, who bent his will when needed to the needs of his team, who struggled to understand the students he worked with, and looked out for himself in the end. He always thought with pride on his Carlisle Indian School Football Team.
Throughout the book were pictures of the history of Thorpe and football.
What other reasons can I give you for getting this book yourself?
- It would be a great book to give your youth, to ask them to do a book report, or have conversations with them about the themes…how they would preserve under these situations, what their solution to the Indian problem could have been, and such like, even discussing how they might have reacted to the danger of early football.
- HISTORY…it’s part of the history of this world, and if you are American, it’s part of the history of your land. It’s not an easy part in many ways, but in others, it’s a glimpse of what strength of character people can have.
- It’s a good read. It just is. My hubby was so surprised at how quickly I went through this book, and how much I enjoyed it. “It’s not really your type of book hun”. It really isn’t, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll be keeping it for my lad to read when he gets a touch older.
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team.
Author: Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press
6.56 x 9.26
Ages 10-14 years
Reviewed for: Raincoast Books.