Jimmy the Greatest by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng
Jimmy lives in a small village in Latin America where there is nothing but a small church and a little gym. Thanks to that little gym, Jimmy and the other children in town spend their time learning to box. Since Jimmy didn’t have much else to do, he started to train. He wanted to become a famous boxer and get his mother the icebox she needed. It all changed though when his trainer, Don Apolinar, gave Jimmy a box of clippings and books about Mohammad Ali. Jimmy started reading all about Ali, started wearing his glasses, and even shadowboxed while continuing to read. Jimmy learned about respect and dignity from Ali, creating his own sayings from Ali quotes. He grew into a great boxer. When Don Apolinar left the village for a larger city, Jimmy stayed behind and kept up the gym and opened a library.
This picture book took my breath away with its ending. As Don Apolinar headed to the bus to leave town, I assumed that Jimmy was joining him or following close behind. Instead, Jimmy stays where he is and continues to pass on the training he received and share his inspiration and learning with others. It is a tribute to those who stay in their home communities and make a difference. Jimmy learned a lot, let his dreams flow, and still stayed, not because he felt trapped or stuck, but because he wanted to.
Yockteng’s illustrations are filled with warm, yellow light. They display the barren environment around the village, the lack of things to do, and yet they also show a community of bright-colored shacks and friendly people. There is a beauty to the barren landscape and certainly a beauty to the people themselves.
Highly recommended, this book pays homage to the local hero, the person who stays and makes a difference. It’s one character that is often missing in children’s picture books and it’s great to see such a wonderful tribute. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.