Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper, written by Ann Malaspina and illustrated by Eric Velasquez, is nominated for the 14-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Touch the Sky gives young readers a closer look at a sports figure they may not know much about. Alice Coachman, a young, black girl from Georgia, wanted to fly through the air. Even though things were not always easy for Alice and her family in the South in the 1930s, Alice always dreamed of doing more than people had planned for her.

After seeing a track meet for the first time, Alice knew she was meant to soar. With the help of her friends, she practiced high jumping, and she was soon invited to join the Tuskegee Golden Tigerettes. Alice eventually went on to win national medals, she attended Tuskegee Institute High School, and she competed in various track and field events.

Segregation still closed many doors for Alice, but she didn’t let that stop her. This National Champion high jumper went on to compete in the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Alice not only competed, but she won the only gold medal for the U.S. women track and field team. Even today, Alice Coachman is recognized as one of the most gifted athletes in Olympic history.

Touch the Sky is a great book for teaching the importance of perseverance through difficult obstacles. Alice Coachman battled prejudice and the wishes of her own family to achieve her dream. She let nothing, not even her own doubts, stop her. That is an example that anyone can stand to follow.

Photographs and an author’s note at the end of the book provide more information about this awe-inspiring athlete. I’m hoping that many of my students use this book as a springboard for research during Black History and Women’s History Months. This book could even add to discussions about segregation, inequalities in women’s and men’s sports programs, and the history of the Olympic games.