Gold medals and a giveaway — plus Wilma Rudolph

The Quickest Kid in ClarksvilleSome stories stay with you.

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the story of Wilma Rudolph. It was probably sometime in grade school.  But I do remember the details of her life.

  • Wilma grew up in a low-income family with 22 children in Clarksville, Tennessee, a segregated town.
  • She often was ill as a child, wore a leg brace and was told she would always need it to walk.
  • Wilma and her family worked hard to heal her leg until she eventually took off her brace and walked without it.
  • She started playing basketball and then began to run and eventually won three gold medals at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy. This made her the first American woman to win three golds at the same Olympics and turned her into a household name.

I remember being inspired by Wilma’s anything-can-happen-if-you-work-hard-enough story. I wrote a speech about her in college and then didn’t think much about her again until I started working on the manuscript that would become THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE, which releases Feb. 9 from Chronicle Books.

The book tells the story of Alta, a girl growing up in 1960 in Clarksville. Alta idolizes Wilma and wants to run just as fast as she does. She’s looking forward to attending Wilma’s victory parade when a girl with fancy new shoes moves in down the block. To Alta’s dismay, Charmaine thinks she’s the quickest kid in Clarksville. The girls compete and, ultimately, figure out a way to work together.

The book is fiction, but I was able to work in a lot of wonderful details about Wilma Rudolph’s life — including something I didn’t  know before I started researching the book. Wilma’s victory parade was the first major integrated event in Clarksville history, and the only reason it was integrated was because Wilma said she wouldn’t participate unless it was.

Researching and writing this book increased my appreciation for Wilma. I even found some awesome quotes from her to pair with Frank Morrison’s brilliant art from the book. (To see more of Frank’s work, check this out.)


And, I would be very happy to send a bright and shiny, brand-new copy of the book to someone who leaves a comment on this blog post. Because I think everyone should know about Wilma’s story. So please say “hi” below and/or tell me who inspires you. I’ll choose a random name as the winner.


  1. Thanks for sharing and spreading Wilma’s story! What an inspirational woman.

  2. I remember being impressed by Wilma! What a wonderful way to bring her story to children. Wilma’s quotes should be plastered in classrooms and on the desks of all aspiring PB authors!!

    • I can’t wait to read this new book! Congrats!! In addition to this wonderful story, it sounds like a great mentor text.

  3. Tahnks for writig such an inspirational story on an inspirational woman. We do need woman power and love.

  4. I have been a Wilma Rudolph fan for a long time. I can’t wait to read the book!

  5. I love how things that mattered to us as kids inevitably come back around to us again, in some way, as adults.

  6. Looking forward to your new book. Loved hearing a little background info from you!

  7. Love it! Very fresh and interesting!

  8. Hi, Pat! I am so excited to see this book. The message sounds just perfect for this summer’s reading program. Congratulations on another winner!

  9. I agree. What great quotes. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Wilma was right, the reward isn’t as great without the struggle. Can definitely appreciate that as an author, but it’s also an important life lesson. Thanks, Pat, really looking forward to buying this book!

  11. I love the first quote: I believe in me more than anything in this world.
    What an affirming belief! Can’t wait to read this book! Congratulations, Pat.

  12. I feel inspired just reading the Wilma quotes. This looks wonderful. Congratulations, Pat!

  13. Congratulations on writing what looks to be another fantastic book! You inspire me!

  14. Looks like a wonderful and inspiring book!

  15. I guess you can call this Historical Fiction for kids. I’m Looking forward to reading it and learning about this part of history with my kids.

  16. Love the quotes! I’m sure it is an uplifting, beautiful story – and book! 😉

  17. Love this insight and can’t wait to read it!

  18. What a fantastic book! Ms. Rudolph has long been an inspiration and the quotes are wonderful. 🙂

  19. I love the story behind Wilma Rudolph, and I love your story, Pat!

  20. Avatar
    Carole Stedronsky

    I love this story. It will inspire children, but also adults who are new to Wilma Rudolph’s story. I look forward to reading, purchasing, and giving this book to others.
    It looks beautiful!

  21. This book will help a lot of kids to believe in their dreams. Can’t wait to read it!
    Keep’em coming Pat.

  22. I loved reading about Wilma. I teach reading to children with learning differences and this is a perfect book to practice reading with and offer an inspirational message they can embrace in their hearts and minds. Thank you.

  23. My daughter wears a leg brace, too. Can’t wait to share Wilma’s (and Alta’s) story with her. Congrats, Pat!

  24. I just learned new things about Wilma and Clarksville, TN, so I can’t wait to read your new book, Pat! I’m already hooked by your inspirational post, the captivating illustrations by Frank Morrison, and the life affirming quotes from Wilma.

  25. Wilma is a great role model. Thank you for writing this wonderful book to bring her story to kid’s of today and the future. Looking forward to reading it.

  26. I love the way you’ve imagined the real Wilma through the eyes of a fictional child–can’t wait to read it!

  27. I cannot wait to read this one, Pat! It is such an inspiring story, and Frank Morrison’s art is perfect! Congrats to you!

  28. I can’t wait to read this book! I love books that inspire;)

  29. This looks like a fantastic books!

  30. What great and inspiring quotes. I’m so looking forward to reading this book. Congratulations!

  31. Sounds like a wonderful book. I’ve learned something about Wilma just from this blog post. All I really knew about her before was that she was an olympic medalist! I’d love to add this book to my collection.

  32. I can’t wait to read this inspiring book! Thank you for sharing the story behind it.

  33. Hi Pat! Congratulations on this book – can’t wait to read it! As for what inspires me, YOU inspire me, old friend. =)

  34. I’m still stuck on the 22 children. WOW! But seriously, this sounds like an incredible read about an incredible girl. Cannot wait! Congrats, Pat.

  35. It sounds absolutely lovely! Congratulations.

  36. Thanks for sharing the story’s journey, Pat. I am inspired by the power of books to introduce us to people we might never otherwise have met.

  37. As a reading specialist/reading coach, I’d go into classrooms and model reading lessons for the teachers. In fifth grade–in preparation for the Illinois Standardized Achievement Test–I’d hand out a biography about Wilma Rudolph for the kids to read. Then I’d ask them the four types of comprehension questions. Anyway, I loved introducing kids to Wilma Rudolph. We even had an actor play the Olympian winner at an assembly. And, Pat, you asked who inspires me . . . anyone who puts others first.

  38. WOW! So inspirational! This one looks like a must-read. Thanks for writing it!

  39. Such an inspirational story! And the illustrations give so much movement to your words. I look forward to seeing this!

  40. I love AGAINST ALL ODDS stories like this. My many readers who stop by my Little Free Library would, too. Thanks for another lovely book to enjoy.

  41. I’m really looking forward to this book, Pat. It sounds wonderful!

    Thanks for sharing more about it.

  42. What a great story to tell, Pat! I like that you found Wilma stood up for having a racially-integrated parade!

  43. Pat, these posters are terrific!
    WIlma Rudolph’s long been a hero of mine, and now it suspect I’ll have a couple of little fictional heroines to join her!

  44. Can I say that you inspire my Pat. Thank you for telling this story!

  45. I look forward to reading this book. Thanks for sharing.

  46. Pat,
    These quotes are perfect for emerging PB writers like myself as well! Thanks for the inspiration! I am definitely reading this book and against all odds I may win it too!

  47. Awesome idea! Looking forward to reading it.

  48. Another winner of a book about a Winner the World needs to know!
    Thanks for sharing the back story, Pat.
    I bet those poster-like pages will get lots of use.

  49. Avatar
    Becky Scharnhorst

    As soon as I heard about this book, I added it to my wish list. Now I’m even more excited to read it! Thank you for sharing some of the background information of what is sure to be an inspiring story.

  50. I did not know about Wilma. What an amazing person to have persevered to reach such triumph. Thanks for writing this important story at a time when it is needed so much.

  51. My girls would love a copy of this book!

  52. Not only is Wilma inspirational, but so are you for telling her story! Thank you.

  53. Wilma was my childhood hero. I learned about her by reading a book from the school library in third grade. Because of her, I grew up to be love the Olympics, running, and become a teacher too. Did you know Wilma was a teacher for a while? All of my students learn about Wilma. My former students, who grew up to teach with me, grew to love Wilma too because of what they learned with me.

    The often untold story of how she refused to attend a segregated dinner honoring her in her hometown of Clarksville after the Olympics spoke volumes to me when I heard it. After standing up to segregation, she sat down with folks of all colors to celebrate the many victories that made up her unique story.

    My dream was for her to come to my school one day to thank her and let her inspire a new generation, but she passed away before she could come. Her story and inspiration lives on in each of us who tell her story. She taught us that greatness lives within each of us. We just have to believe in the power of our own dreams.

    I have to look for your book for our school library. Maybe you’ll even write a sequel some day.

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