November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: Jim Thorpe: The World’s Greatest Athlete (DVD)

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Jim Thorpe as a young man with his awardsJim Thorpe: The World’s Greatest Athlete. DVD. 85 min./56 min. with tchr’s. guide. Moira Prods. 2009, 2012 release. ISBN 978-0-97710379-9. $85.
Gr 6 Up–Jim Thorpe’s many accomplishments as well as his shortcomings are described in this remarkable film. Born in a one-room cabin in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory in 1887, Thorpe overcame the many stigmas and hardships associated with being a Native American at that time. Even though he resisted being sent to schools intended to minimize his ethnicity, it was just that residence at an Eastern school and the recognition of his athletic potential by legendary coach “Pop” Warner that opened his access to the world. Despite overt discrimination, Thorpe went on to win gold medals in the 1912 Olympics; they were recalled due to controversy about his amateur athlete status, but reinstated after his death. The program doesn’t whitewash the many difficulties in his personal life nor the resiliency with which he moved from track to professional baseball and football to his final work as a booster of Junior Olympics and a motivational speaker to the Native American community. The producers have utilized a rich blend of vintage footage and stills, dramatic recreations, excerpts from oral history collections, as well as commentary by Thorpe’s family to depict this complex yet fascinating individual. The DVD contains two versions of the program, both with a nine-part chapter selection option. The condensed version is perfectly fine for a classroom setting, while the full-length feature adds more details and includes a superior bonus segment of commentary by the filmmakers on the making of the production. A very comprehensive, well-crafted teacher’s guide is available online as well as on the DVD, making this an excellent addition to all media collections.–Dwain Thomas, formerly Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL

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