In The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, Pat Zietlow Miller tells the story of a young African American girl named Alta who dreams of running as fast as her idol, Wilma Rudolph, despite sneakers that are falling apart. The story takes place in 1961, at the time of Olympic gold medalist Wilma Rudolph’s homecoming parade in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Competition ensues when a new girl named Charmaine with brand new running shoes enters the neighborhood with the same dream as Alta, and the two girls begin to race to see who is the faster runner. As they race, Alta mentally chants, “Wil-ma Ru-dolph” repeatedly, producing a rhythm consistent with her feet on the pavement and enhancing the book’s themes of overcoming obstacles, such as a pair of worn-out shoes and girl power as the two young girls strive to achieve their dreams.
Frank Morrison’s illustrations are vibrant and colorful, echoing the girls’ lively personalities and persistent spirits. This book tells the story of determination, dreams, and friendship, features a proud African American community and shines the spotlight on an important African American woman in history who inspires young girls of color to persevere and continue dreaming and working hard to achieve those dreams.