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Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  140 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Born as Arthur John Johnson in the southern state of Texas, Jack Johnson was one of the most renowned boxers of the twentieth century. Through hard work and persistence, he climbed the ranks, taking a swing and a jab and eventually busting the color barrier. As the first black man to win the Heavyweight Championship, there was more than a title on the line.
Published to co
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Hardcover, 40 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by Roaring Brook Press (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Alyse Erickson
Dec 11, 2014 Alyse Erickson rated it liked it
Shelves: classroom-books
The novel “Black Jack the Ballad of Jack Johnson” is about an African American man named Jack Johnson whose goal in life is to become the worlds best heavy weight champion. However the only problem is that Jack Johnson may not be let into the ring to fight and win that title, due to the color of his skin. After plenty of hard work and determination he finally climbed his way to the top and gets his chance to fight in the ring as an African American man. Johnson ends up completely dominating the ...more
Julia
Jan 22, 2011 Julia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson, is a picture book biography written in verse. It is the story of Jack Johnson, the son of former slaves, who learns to stand up to his bullies by fighting them. Black Jack becomes a professional boxer but is not given the opportunity to fight white boxers. He is tenacious in his fight (no pun intended) to be equal to the most famous white fighter of his day.

Jeff Jeffries, the heavyweight champion, retires from boxing rather than have to fight Black Jack. H
...more
Barbara
Like a rhythmic one-two punch, the text of this picture book biography tells the story of boxer Jack Johnson who became the world's first black heavyweight champion in 1910. While I like some of the powerful text, some of the lines are awkward to say aloud without much practice. Still, young readers will like the way certain important words appear in larger font and will surely savor the incredible illustrations throughout the book's pages. Back matter includes "And Then What Happened?" ...more
Donalyn
The striking illustrations and layout cover the many flaws in this bland story of the first African-American heavy-weight boxing champion, Jack Johnson. The rhymes seemed forced and unimaginative and the story seems too short and simple for young readers to understand the importance of Jackson's accomplishments.
Richie Partington
Jul 17, 2013 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
22 December 2009 BLACK JACK: THE BALLAD OF JACK JOHNSON by Charles R. Smith Jr. and Shane W. Evans, ill., Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, June 2010, 40p., ISBN: 978-1-59643-473-8

"I'm Jack Johnson -- heavyweight champion of the world! I'm black! They never let me forget it. I'm black all right; I'll never let them forget it."

-- spoken by Brock Peters (who played Tom Robinson in the film To Kill a Mockingbird) at the conclusion of the Miles Davis album A Tribute to Jack Johnson.

"A lover of cars,
Jack co
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Jill
Feb 08, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it
The combination of Charles Smith and Shane Evans adds up to a great piece of work, bringing to life the challenges faced and triumphs achieved by Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world.

Jack was born in 1878 to freed slaves who taught him he could do anything if he wanted it badly enough. He used to get beat up regularly by neighborhood bullies, but his mother encouraged him to fight back, and soon nobody could touch him. He was also inspired by the stories he read in sch
...more
Ali Hartlein
Dec 03, 2013 Ali Hartlein rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ethnic
The novel “Black Jack the Ballad of Jack Johnson” is about an African American man named Jack Johnson whose goal in life is to become the worlds best heavy weight champion. However the only problem is that Jack Johnson may not be let into the ring to fight and win that title, due to the color of his skin. After plenty of hard work and determination he finally climbed his way to the top and gets his chance to fight in the ring as an African American man. Johnson ends up completely dominating the ...more
Caitlin Schoessler
Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson written by Charles Smith Jr is the story about how Jack Johnson made history by becoming the first black heavy weight champion of the world. One of the main reasons I enjoyed this book is because of the theme. One of the themes is how hard work and determination can pay off. Jack was determined to become the first African American champion heavyweight boxer and because of this determination be worked to hard to accomplish this goal. I think many individuals ...more
Samantha
Apr 26, 2016 Samantha rated it really liked it
Black Jack the Ballad of Jack Johnson is about an African American man named Jack Johnson. He has a goal in life and that is to become the heavy weight champion boxer. While it is a a great goal for any young man to have, he faces problems getting into the ring because of his skin color; black. He was the son to former slaves and faced a lot of racial discrimination during his career. Jack did not give up and continued hard training and climbing his way to the top. When Jack finally made it to ...more
Jordan Lee
Apr 16, 2013 Jordan Lee rated it it was amazing
Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson is about the first Heavyweight Champion of the World that was African American. Jack was a strong minded and strong fisted individual. He fought hard to be given the chance to prove he was just as powerful as the White boxers of his day. Up until that point black fighters and white fighters never got into the ring together. Jack proved his worth and that he was the best Heavyweight fighter in the world. What I really liked about this book was the ...more
Maureen
Jun 18, 2014 Maureen rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
1. Twin Text: Jimmy the Greatest by Jairo Buitrago (2010)

2. Rationale: Black Jack tells the rise of boxer legend Jack Johnson. Jack grew up believing he 'could do anything you want if you want it badly enough'. He overcame obstacles while becoming one of the greatest heavy wight fighters of that time. In the fictional story, Jimmy grew up in a small town and had to overcome obstacles some the same and some different than Jack. They both worked very hard toward a dream they both had and achieved
...more
Laura Walker
Dec 03, 2015 Laura Walker rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This story is about Jack Johnson who was the first black heavyweight champion of the world. Jack was a strong man and very brave, he was born in Texas in 1878. He was bullied as a child, until his mother told him to fight back. Jack was able to make money using his strong fists; he believed he could accomplish anything he put his mind to. Though Jack wanted to be great he was faced with discrimination because he was black. He was unable to fight many opponents because they refused to fight a ...more
Chloe Bohlman
Apr 21, 2016 Chloe Bohlman rated it liked it
This book is about an African American man named Jack Johnson. He has a goal in life and that is to become the heavy weight champion boxer. While it is a great goal for any young man to have, he faces problems getting into the ring because of his skin color; black. He was the son to former slaves and faced a lot of racial discrimination during his career. Jack did not give up and continued hard training and climbing his way to the top. When Jack finally made it to the top, he only had one fight ...more
Adam Donald
This is the story of the great Jack Johnson, the heavyweight boxer, not the musician. Jack Johnson was the first African American man to become a National Heavyweight Champion. This book begins by detailing Jack’s rough childhood, which included getting bullied regularly due to his ethnicity. As a form of self-defense, jack needed to learn how to fight back. After several years of working odd jobs, Jack decided he wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer. For many years of ...more
Stephanie Field
Apr 28, 2015 Stephanie Field rated it really liked it
This book is well written and has many strengths. The depiction of the interaction between whites and blacks at the time Jack Johnson is living and striving to become the greatest boxer in the world is discussed many times. The book mentions “the color line” many times because as the story says “white only fought white.” Jack was unable to fight the champion for many years because of the color barrier and this is fully and accurately portrayed within this story. The uniqueness of style is ...more
Jordan Cummings
This book tells the story of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion. This was set in the early 1900s, and Jack was born a free man, unlike his parents who were both slaves. Jack knew he was free and expected to be treated like the free man that he was. He found a passion in boxing, and eventually became the heavyweight champion while making history; he was not only the first black heavyweight, but he was also the first to cross the “color-line” in boxing, which means that he was the ...more
Mrs. Tongate
Jack Johnson, the son of slaves, who would read about and be inspired by the stories of great men, wanted to be a great man. But professional boxing was not integrated when he was at his prime, and Jack Johnson wanted a shot at Jim Jeffries the white heavyweight champion. Jim Jeffries finally retired rather than fight Jack Johnson. It took years, but finally on July 4th,1910 Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion of the world. And then Jim Jeffries came out of retirement so ...more
Sarah
Picture book biographies have become increasingly common these days, which I find somewhat of a puzzle. There is not much demand for them on the part of children of a suitable age to read them, and teachers don't assign them or check them out in any great numbers. On one hand the format allows children and adults to learn about someone who not much is known, but they don't always give a lot of information. They also don't fit into what children are assigned when it comes time for biography ...more
Kodi Jones
Apr 29, 2014 Kodi Jones rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Boxing great, Jack Johnson definitely didn't have it easy making his way into the world of professional boxing during the late 1800s. As a child, Jack was constantly beat up, until his mom told him to FIGHT BACK. After that day, Jack never lost a fight. The story follows Jack through his many trials at making is way to the top of boxing. Due to the rules at the time, African-Americans weren't allowed to fight professionally but a recently crowned world champ agreed to face Jack in the ring. ...more
Janet
May 08, 2010 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: ecasl
I found this book a welcome addition to my African American history collection. Wonderful and easy to read for grades K to to 3. I love the way the font changes to emphasize meaning. Shane Williams' illustrations are just marvelous and the kids kept reaching up to touch the book when I held it up to show them, inching forward on the rug. The story is just enough for them to understand and get a decent meaning of this engrossing mans' life.

Do you as an adult need a quick book to read about a impo
...more
Meghan
Dec 03, 2012 Meghan added it
This book has powerful words and illustrations. I enjoyed reading this story of how a young black man breaks barriers during a time when that was needed. It is a story of how a young black boy who grows up poor ends up being the heavyweight champion in boxing. It includes his struggles along the way to accomplish this dream.
This would be a good book to teach about accomplishing goals and about history. I would recommend this book for elementary students.
Cheryl
Jun 26, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cheryl by: El Paso Public LIbrary
Great introduction to Black Jack Johnson, a boxer from the early 1900s. Not only was he the first black heavyweight champion but he also was an inventor and played the bass to relax. He was a trendsetter This was my first introduction to this particular individual and the book made me want to learn more.

As interesting as I found it, I would have to practice to read the rhyming text aloud fluently.
Jess
Sep 25, 2011 Jess rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jack Johnson fans, 5th grade or so, teachers working on a unit, kid boxing fans
The Ballad of Jack Johnson.

The illustrations / layout of text is fantastic & appealing. The poetry isn't as great or rhythmic as I'd like (you're going to want to practice before reading aloud) but I'll take it. A short biography and a list of sources appear in the back.


Some reviewers commented that this doesn't include enough information. It's a ballad, not a biography; it fits the bill it set out to.
Liz
Apr 07, 2013 Liz rated it really liked it
Perhaps 3.5 stars, but a book that I did enjoy. The graphic type illustrations were powerful. The story told in verse (and varied text size) might not have told enough, but I felt like it was a poem that invited further investigation of Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world. "And Then What Happened" can be found in the back matter, along with a short bibliography. Another look at racism and prejudice in America's past.
Reader
Oct 01, 2010 Reader rated it really liked it
This biography begs to be read aloud to a group of early elementary students. (my second and third graders loved it!) Striking illustrations paired with rhyming text tell the story of Jack Johnson, the first black heavy weight champion. Smith's rhymes were occasionally a little clunky when read aloud, which kept it from getting 5 stars, but it still will make a great addition to any picture book biography or Black history collection for younger readers. ~s
Alixis Waltrip
Apr 24, 2012 Alixis Waltrip rated it it was ok
One thing unique thing about this book is the way the text looks. Some words are bigger than others which gives the reader a clearer understanding of what the author is trying to communicate. Students who are interested in boxing would really enjoy this book, since it is about the first black heavyweight champion. The illustrations have a unique texture to them which may attract some readers even more.
Laurie
Jul 16, 2010 Laurie marked it as to-read
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by...

I read a biography of Joe Louis (Joe Louis: America's Fighter by Adler) to the class I read picture books to, and it was a huge hit with the kids. So I'll definitely buy this for the library.
Alison
Jun 21, 2012 Alison rated it really liked it
Audience: This book is perfect for elementary aged boys that enjoy sports, competition and learning about athletes.

Appeal: This is a true story about Jack Johnson overcoming the odds and breaking the mold. This story is very inspiring and teaches a great lesson while at the same time readers learn about our cultures history.

School Library Journal: Best Non-fiction 2010
Monique
Mar 01, 2016 Monique rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-book
Jack Johnson was the first Black Heavyweight Champion of the world. He lived his life unapologetically and did exactly what he wanted to do. He loved fighting, fast cars and fine living. The illustrations are magnificent and match the incredible story of Black Jack. Great story for children that love sports, especially boxing. 5 stars
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
I have mixed feelings on this one. Some strengths and some weaknesses. It's almost as if the book (esp. the text) can't make up it's mind in terms of how it wants to read (narrative, verse, etc.) as well as unsure of the real message.
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Charles R. Smith Jr. is an award-winning author, photographer, and poet with more than thirty books to his credit. His awards include a Coretta Scott King Award for illustration for his photographs accompanying the Langston Hughes poem "My People" and a Coretta Scott King Honor for his biography of Muhammad Ali, Twelve Rounds to Glory. He is the author of Rimshots, Hoop Kings, Hoop Queens, Tall ...more
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