Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Review - Fast Enough

Fast Enough
by Joel Christian Gill
Date: 2019
Publisher: CubHouse
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Have you ever been told that you're not enough? That you're not strong enough, tall enough, fast enough? Bessie was told she was not enough. Bessie dreams of riding her bike with the boys after school, but they tell her she is not fast enough. When she finally gets a chance to race, she proves not only that she is fast enough, but she is faster. Fast Enough combines an imagined story of Bessie Stringfield as a young girl with historical facts about Bessie as an adult. Bessie Stringfield went on to become the first African-American woman to travel solo across the United States on a motorcycle. Not only was she fast, but she was a true adventurer, daring to ride to places unsafe for African Americans in the 1930s and '40s.

Fast Enough is an inspirational story for anyone who's been told they are not enough.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Bessie Stringfield sounds like she was an interesting character. Unfortunately, I didn't really get that from this book, except in the author's note; those five pages are really the only thing worth reading here.

The rest of the book is an insipid little story about a fictionalized young Bessie who wants to ride her bike with the boys. They say she can't because she's not fast enough. So she prays to God to ask Him if she really is fast enough. Then she rides faster than the boys, discovers there's such a thing as motorcycles, and realizes she could go even faster. And that's all there is to the actual narrative.

The illustrations are really uneven. Some of them are cute, but some of them almost look like they were done by a different artist. The way Bessie is drawn isn't super consistent; at times, especially when the viewer is far away, she loses all detail... which is a weird contrast with the closeups where there's almost too much detail at times. I also question why Bessie was riding a boys' bike that lacked a step-through frame; it's possible that she got the bike secondhand, but it was never explained, and it would've been unusual (and unsightly) for a girl of that time to ride a bike that couldn't accommodate a skirt.

I think I got more out of the notes at the end (and a subsequent reading of the Wikipedia page on Bessie) than I did out of the actual story. It's pretty weak. It's too bad, because if the focus of this book had been different (perhaps concentrating on her work for the military during World War II or her stints as a carnival performer), it could've been a really interesting biographical picture book. As it is, though, it falls short.

Thank you to NetGalley and CubHouse for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.67 out of 5

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