So what’s wrong with the book?

By: Diane Benjamin

See this story:

The Undefeated isn’t a bad book, but it was written for 6-9 year olds according to the Amazon listing. A District 87 class of 11 year olds read it, they weren’t allowed to take a copy home.

The dust jacket claims the book is for: The unforgettable, the unafraid, and the undefeated. That is a great message to send to all kids, color doesn’t matter. This book is specifically states it is a love letter to America. The next sentence: To black America. It does mention Black Lives Matter.

The book ends with an extremely brief recap of historical figures and events featured in the book.

Under the “unspeakable” category Michael Brown is mentioned. Claim to fame: “Hands Up Don’t Shoot”. It doesn’t mention that never happened or that the officer who shot him was found justified.

Only one historical figure is mentioned under “unforgettable” – Jesse Owens. Booker T Washington is never mentioned. There is an attempt right now at re-writing his history. He was a freed slave who knew education was the key to success for black children. He went on to build 5000 schools which provided a ray of hope in the face of poverty and discrimination.

The book doesn’t mention Biddy Mason, a women born in slavery who walked to California and died a millionaire real estate investor. She used her fortune to help the poor in California regardless of race.

Mentioned are 9 athletes, 7 singers/musicians, and 8 artists. The book misses a huge opportunity to showcase blacks who changed history. At least 20 freed slaves died millionaires. Where are their stories?

If this book is being used as part of teaching black history it won’t inspire black kids to reach for the stars. Most won’t grow up to be Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Serena Williams, or Muhammad Ali. (all mentioned)

The lives of Elijah McCoy and Benjamin Benneker are inspirational. (Never heard of them?)

Frederick Douglas is pictured on the dust cover but never mentioned in the book.

A present day example of success is Carol Swain. Her life began dirt poor, education transformed her to Ivy League Professor.

Final point: Why are 11 year olds reading this simplistic book? It is a large book by size, not number of pages. It is one of those where the kids could be sitting on the floor as the teacher held the book up and read it while showing the pictures.

Education should inform, motivate, and inspire. This book could have done so much more.

19 thoughts on “So what’s wrong with the book?

  1. I agree, all in all it seems like a good book, BUT… have they REALLY picked the right people to showcase? Could that have been more on purpose than many may suspect? Could a larger book have been written that included more variety such as the people you mentioned as well as some others, and why oh why glorify Michael Brown? I also wonder, why 11 year olds? Actually, I don’t because reading levels these days are for the most part dismal and far too many tend to lag behind. I see 15-16 year olds who can barely read and yet are passed along, so a book intended for 6-9 year olds would likely be appropriate for 11 year olds..


  2. You mentioned that the kids were not allowed to take the book home.
    So much can be learned by using the three letter question – Why?

    It could be as simple as, we don’t have enough books.
    It could be as complicated as we don’t want your parents to know what we’ve given you to read.
    Which then leads to the next question, Why?

    Keep asking Why until you get to the rest of the story.

    When it causes the person being questioned to get angry you know they are hiding something and a serious discussion is required.

    In this day and age too many things go unquestioned even when the question is so very simple.

    To protect our kids we use to tell them to Just say no,
    Today we need to tell them to just ask WHY?

    Don’t assume adults have their best interests in mind and don’t even assume that adults know what they’re talking about. Unfortunately today, even (or maybe especially) teachers.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My grandson was given a book to read for language class and then realized it was about LGBT BS. He immediately returned the book and got one with a scientific theme.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The book is a Caldecott medal winner which celebrates PICTURE books. In other words it celebrates Children’s books artist. It’s also a Newberry Medal winner. “Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes.” It was not the aim of the book to include all Black History or Black history YOU think should be included.

    It seems that you’re trying to force a cultural battle with this book just like you started one over the books by Dr Seuss. No one is forcing anyone one to read this book. As far as LGBT again no one is forcing anything on any agenda by reading this books.

    It also appears their are people here who have never read the book. It also seems sad the a kid returned the book and got something with a “scientific theme”. Undefeated is a poem with illustrations, it is not science, it’s not about white grievance, it’s about the struggle that African Americans in this country over the years.


      1. It’s very interesting that you failed to post my response. The review of the book does NOT match the contents of the books. It’s obvious that you and the reviewer did not read the book. The book is a lyrical POEM on being black in America along with award winning illustrations. It’s also apparent that you’re trying to claim the book is some sort of radical indoctrination of children with no evidence that reading the book does anything of the sort. The fact that you had to ask what sports figures have to do with slavery means you didn’t read the book. At least be honest and say you didn’t read the book.


      2. I don’t post completely uniformed comments. I BOUGHT the book. It’s a simplistic look at what you claim and could have been so much better if the goal was to educate and inform. The class that read it were led from this book to BLM. It was indoctrination, not education. Don’t bother responding, delete button ready.


  5. Correction: It also appears there are people here who have never read the book. It also seems sad the a kid returned the book and got something with a “scientific theme”


  6. There are some great examples of great people we would be better off learning about than just about any athlete, actor, and most others in the entertainment business. I’ll add George Washington Carver as another name that kids and adults of all races should know about.

    We should be having public conversations about opportunity vs. outcomes. About W.E.B. Du Bois vs. Booker T Washington. About the difference between doing what we want vs. doing what we should. About humility vs. privilege. But these conversations no longer take place in any meaningful public discourse. If it’s not happening there, why should we expect it to be taking place in our schools?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So you think as a white woman you can tell two Black men, a poet and an illustrator what to write and paint as a Illustrator? That’s the ultimate definition of intolerance and racism.


      1. And who appointed YOU to pick books and subject matter for classrooms? What qualifications do you have to select books for the education of children? Again, you’re a white women who thinks she can tell Black people how to run their lives and what history is appropriate for African Americans to read.


    1. If the book is being used as an introduction to BLM, aka Marxism, then there is a problem. If the teacher doesn’t want the parents to know what books she is using in her class there is also a problem.
      This may or may not be the case but with our State Board of Education wanting to use teachers to indoctrinate our kids into Critical Race Theory, you can not be to cautious.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. You’re a White accountant who seems to think she’s a expert in Black history and children’s literature. There are all kinds of history about this country’s treatment of African Americans, most of it not very flattering to this country, from brutal slavery to even more brutal Jim Crow to current events. You want to literary white wash that history to the extent that any realistic examination of that history is somehow “indoctrination”.

    There a wonderful story about a Black man who had a immigrant father and was brought up by a single mother. He went to Harvard Law, edited the Harvard Law Review and graduated Magnum Cum Laude. He went on to become the President of the United States. That person was Barack Obama. Obama faced racism his entire life. I don’t see his story anywhere in your criticism of this book.


    1. Real history isn’t told! Slavery and Jim Crow were democrats, also the KKK. Obama dethroned Carter as the worst president in recent history and now he’s making Biden dethrone him. Why talk his history, we all lived it!


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