Students, of course, love to create, so some exercises in invention are in order as an extension to this fun book. There tons of sites on invention, but I'm a teacher, and I know you don't want messy, time-consuming projects to litter your classroom! Here instead are a few simple, neat web links to explore:
- African American Inventors is a site designed for upper grade students, but can be easily navigated with just a little assistance. There students can research achievements of an assigned Black American. If you need a few names to get started, see Cengage Learning's Invent-O-Rama page.
- Meet Me at The Corner is a cool virtual field trip site, and their video on Kid Inventors' Day is supplemented with some simple follow-up questions and activities.
- Whizzball allows students to either solve or create a pathway of gadgets to move a ball from one place to another in a Mousetrap-like environment. Extremely open-ended and adaptable to many skill levels.
- The History of Invention is a cool invention timeline which can be scrolled either vertically or horizontally. There students can learn about the origins of the "stuff" they use every day.
- After reading this book, students may want to explore the world of horse racing, and the Reading Recommendations page from the official Kentucky Derby Museum is a good place to start.
- For more information about black jockeys, and Isaac Murphy in particular (mentioned in The Last Black King as one of racing's most successful riders), check out the article African-Americans in Racing.
- Lee and Low books provides an interesting interview with author Crystal Hubbard. In addition to speaking about The Last Black King, Hubbard discusses what readers can learn from books about sports. Reading that interview may spark an idea for a wider reading of sports picture books (see Floyd Cooper's titles below). Also be sure to check out Hubbard's most recent book, Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream.
- And of course, here's a silly horse racing game your students will probably enjoy.
Be sure to check out Ali's complete biography, as this book is certain to prompt questions from many students. From Ali's own official site, you'll find many video segments of his greatest fights.
Willie and the All Stars, written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, is one of that author's finest titles. While many of us know Floyd Cooper as simply an illustrator, providing beautiful images for the words of others (as in Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea, by Joyce Carol Thomas), Willie and the All-Stars establishes Cooper as a double threat talent.
This book would, of course, be a perfect companion title to Let Them Play, mentioned in my Recommended Picture Books for Black History Month, Part I post. Let Them Play details the struggle of young players which mirrored those of their idols.
Following a reading of Willie and the All Stars, students may wish to explore the history of Negro Leagues. A good place to start would be Carole Boston Weatherford's A Negro League Scrapbook or Kadir Nelson's excellent We Are the Ship. See my Going Extra Innings with Baseball Picture Books post for questions, lessons, and more online extensions.
For further research and activities, you'll find everything you need at the Negro Baseball League site at 42Explore (Four to Explore). Using the resources there, students can create a baseball card, player biography, or team poster, or complete a webquest on Negro Baseball.