Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Great American Foot Race by Andrew P. Speno

The Great American Foot Race: Ballyhoo for the Bunion Derby!
by Andrew P. Speno
Calkins Creek: an Imprint of Highlights. 2017
ISBN: 9781629796024
Grades 6 and up

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical until February, 2018.

At 3:30 in the afternoon on March 4, 1928, Charles Cassius “C. C.” Pyle lit the firecracker that started a 3,400-mile foot race, nicknamed the Bunion Derby. Starting in Los Angeles and ending at Madison Square Garden in New York City, The Great American Foot Race embraced runners from around the U.S. and around the world. Some were seasoned athletes while others saw it as an opportunity to make some big bucks. All who entered hoped to at least finish in the top ten and win some cash. (The purse was $25,000)

First time author, Speno, takes readers along as he recounts the ups and downs of the “greatest, most stupendous athletic accomplishment in all history.”  Can you image averaging 50 miles per day, running through deserts, up mountains, and hilly New England with little food and water for 84 days? All the excitement is recorded here in Speno’s deft hand. The narrative is engaging (I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting) with lots of historical details seamlessly woven into the text. 

For instance, before 1920, “most of the roads outside major U.S. cities were still unpaved, especially in the South and West. Roads were indirect and rarely went far in any one direction.” It wasn’t until 1925 that the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) began building interstate highways. One of the newly made highways went from Chicago to Los Angeles, traveling through the state of Oklahoma. This road would one day become famous through song and story as: Route 66. The Transcontinental Foot Race ran on Route 66 as a way to promote the highway and the towns along its route.

Complementing the text are archival black & white photos that brings this amazing event to life. 

Back matter includes a map of the route, source notes, a fantastic bibliography, and index.

Speno is an author to watch. His ability to make history exciting is a great skill. To learn more about Speno, visit his webpage by clicking here.

For history fans and those who love running.

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