Monday, May 5, 2008

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crow, illustrated by Richard Waldrep

Reading level: Grades 3-4
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (October 31, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1584302763
ISBN-13: 978-1584302766
Source of book: Review copy from publisher

Duke Kahanamoku was born in Hawaii in 1890 and learned how to swim when he was four years old. He could be found in the ocean swimming and surfing nearly every day from that point forward. Though he struggled in school, his swimming talent was extraordinary. So much so that he went onto win Olympic gold and became a hero and role model to people all over the world.

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku chronicles Duke's story in a manner approachable to children. Through a chronological account of his life, Ellie Crow presents Duke as a talented, courageous, kind, and humble person. His courage and determination especially shine through as he is faced with racism when he travels to different US cities to qualify for the Olympics. The main focus of the book, however, celebrates the life of Duke Kahanamoku and introduces him to young readers who may have never heard of him before.

Richard Waldrep's brilliantly-colored "art-deco like" illustrations perfectly compliment the story, giving it a nostalgic feel. A time line and world map in the back highlight key events in Duke's life.

This would make a great choice for children who are interested in biographies, swimming, and surfing, and for boys who are looking for strong male role models. Social studies and language arts teachers can also use it as a supplemental resource in lessons about the Olympics, notable Asian/American figures, WWI, and discrimination.

Visit the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

What Other Bloggers are Saying: "At a time in American history when racism was widely acceptable, Duke Kahanamoku overcame the dual stigmas of being both poor and dark-skinned to achieve athletic excellence and to earn the respect and admiration of people all over the world. Ellie Crowe's lovingly crafted biography should inspire many readers to follow his example." (Read more...)

BookMoot: "Duke's Creed of Aloha is a fitting ending to an excellent biography of a man who always exhibited good sportsmanship and Olympic ideals. Richard Waldrep perfectly illustrates the story with wonderous full color illustrations that evoke vintage art deco travel posters." (Read more...)

If you have a review of Surfer of the Century, leave a comment with the link, and I'll post it here.


  1. Ooh, I loved this one, too!

  2. this looks like a good book to be the next project, to me and my children, or why not inclusive, this could be one of the my favorite books.