Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-07-30 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 13 user ratings

"This is the true story of a man and his horse who made their mark in history.
William was an African-American born into slavery in Tennessee. As a boy he had a way with animals and was often sent to help other farmers' animals. By the time he'd become a young man he was trusted for his doctoring skills.
William rescued a horse and eventually also owned her new colt born in poor health. William did all he could to nurse the colt to health, earning the young animal's devotion. He named the horse Jim Key and began teaching him tricks.
Over time Jim Key, amazingly, could read, spell, do math problems, and identify many things. William and Jim Key became famous. William became a respected businessman responsible for the movement of awareness of the need for kindness of animals.
In this review I have only skimmed over the depth of this story. It's a fascinating and hard-to-believe story, but a true one. There is very interesting information included at the back of the book and the illustrations are great.
" said.

This story follows a freed slave, William Key who loves working with animals. His experience comes from during his time as a slave he traveled around to different plantations to take care of sick and wounded animals. When the Civil War ended and Doc was freed, he began to dream of breeding a winning racehorse. But those dreams were dashed when his colt was born weak and sickly. Although many people would have euthanized the colt, Doc nursed him back to health and named him Jim. After being freed, William breeds attempts to breed a race horse, but the horse is born sickly. However, he notices that the horse trains easily and responds to kindness, so he begins to teach the horse numerous tricks such as how to recognize letters, read, write, add, subtract, and more.
I thought this story was extremely interesting! I had never heard about this amazing horse, and I'm sure that students would love to read about this astounding horse. Also the book teaches the importance of patience and kindness towards animals and people, rather than cruelty.

" said.

"Years ago, I read the book by Monty Roberts, The Man Who Listens to Horses: The Story of a Real-Life Horse Whisperer. That book is about Robert's mindful approach in training horses: he felt and proved that horses could be trained through kindness rather than cruelty and intimidation. Those who "broke" horses the traditional way were skeptical, and he had his share of antagonism from their ranks. This review is not about that book, though I highly recommend it.

This book is about an ex-slave from Tennessee by the name of William Key. Key was gifted with medicinal healing and as a child in slavery was somehow educated and encouraged enough that he was able to put his skills and views to practice in visiting sick horses to help to heal them. This is how he earned his nickname 'Doc.' Later he builds his own medicinal business and is successful. With some of his earnings, he purchases a female Arabian horse from a circus gone bust, and heals her from her abusive treatment. She is bred and has a colt, but at birth the colt is weak and not what Doc had hoped. Still, he takes pity on the colt and cares for it. He is startled to find out quickly how intelligent the colt is, and how well it responds to him due to his kindness.

This is a story about the intelligence of animals and the benevolence of men like William Key whose pioneering of the kind treatment of animals in training helped to lead to such essential organizations as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
" said.

"This is the story of William "Doc" Key and his educated horse, Jim Key. Yes, you read that right, an educated horse. Jim could read, spell, identify colors, make change from a cash register, file letters and more.

I think it is safe to say that Doc and Jim broke barriers. Doc was able to perform on stages that were only designated for Whites and when he performed in the south, he refused to do so for segregated audiences, making property owners change the rules.

This is an intriguing story. I think animals are intelligent in their own right, but to have such intelligence like this, on a human level, is something new. This horse could spell. He may not have been able to voice the letters or words, but he knew them. Doc and Jim led the way for humane treatment of animals. After seeing that animals are thinking, feeling beings, people begin to treat them better, but there is still more work to do. Today, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are the leading advocates for animal rights. They have Doc and Jim to thank for that.

The resources in the rear of the book are divine. I will have to check them all out. I want to know more about William "Doc" Key and his life.

5 Stars
" said.

"What a fabulous debut book for author Donna Janell Bowman! I have been anxious to read this one and her follow up book about Abraham since meeting her at the Texas Library Association conference in April 2018. I was impressed by her sweet, yet passionate, temperament and expected much from her books. Step Right Up did not disappoint. In it, Bowman lays out the almost unbelievable, yet true, story of “Doc” William Key and his highly educated horse named Jim. After working tirelessly to save Jim after his fragile start in life, that same kindness and perseverance resulted in a horse that could read, spell, solve mathematics problems and more. The pair performed for large crowds and even presidents. Throughout their 9 years on the road, the messages of equality for all and humane treatment for animals were woven into their act. This picture book will appeal to fans of horses, history, and books with valuable life lessons. Lovers of beautiful illustrations will enjoys Daniel Minter’s skilled use of linoleum block printing with acrylic paint. The higher reading level of this picture book may put it outside the range of the typical K-2 student, but students in grades 3-5 will all gain much from it and teachers in the younger grades will find it a worthwhile read aloud. Art teachers in many grade levels may want to use this picture book as an example of a beautiful art medium." said.

"The true story of how a man and his horse helped change the world for better! Doc was a former slave, who after the Civil War became a successful veterinarian. On his travels he buys/rescues an Arabian mare and nurses her back to health. Imagining he could get an amazing racehorse out of her, he has her breed and sure enough she has a foal! However, the foal is sickly and obviously not cut out to race, so Doc has to nurse him to health too. While spending so much time with the foal, who he named "Jim Key", Doc realizes that Jim is very smart and starts to teach him. At first it's just tricks, but soon Doc is teaching Jim how to recognize letters, numbers and colors and before long, they are on the road showing others Jim's amazing talents!

There are so many ways this could have gone too far, but it doesn't. Doc had one point to make with Jim, kindness is a better teacher than fear and they make that point well! (Loved the story of Jim and the newspaper guy who didn't have a treat for him!) This would be a great story to pair with Sewell's Black Beauty, either as a contrast or as an "answer". Highly recommend for animal lovers!

As a bonus note, Doc Key was a really amazing person and I would recommend reading the bio in the back and am a little disappointed I'd never heard of him before!

Content notes: No issues; negro is used as the time period correct word for describing African-American people, but the author has a note on this as well to help the readers understand it. (Bravo, Ms. Bowman!) And though mistreatments of animals and people are mentioned they are not detailed or shown.

" said.

"William “Doc” Key was born into slavery. Fortunately for Doc, the people who owned him, John and Martha Key, believed it important for slaves to be educated and allowed Doc to learn with their sons. His mother had shared her love of horses with him. Doc helped a mother horse birth her colt. The colt had not looked as healthy as most colts did once born but Doc didn’t give up on the colt because of his kind heart. Doc was so good with animals he never gave up on them even after others had.

When Doc was around nine years old the people who owned him allowed him to work with animals at other farms. Doc learned from his mother how to distill roots and herbs into homemade remedies and he used those homemade remedies to treat horses’ injuries and ailments.

After the Civil War ended, Doc, now a free man, bought a patch of land and started a horse hospital, opened a blacksmith shop, a wagon wheel-and-harness-making shop, a restaurant, and a hotel and built a racetrack. Doc even formulated Doc’s Keystone Liniment. He bought a medicine wagon, hired entertainers and went on the road to sell his remedies.

Doc bought a purebred Arabian horse that had been abused and nursed her back to health the paired her with one of the fastest racing stallions in the country. Her colt, Jim Key, was born sickly and Doc nursed the colt to good health. Jim Key was a smart and amazing colt who grew into a smart and amazing stallion. Jim Key’s brilliance caught the attention of humane society and helped bring attention for the need of horse ambulances and rescue cranes, to fund education programs and encourage libraries to carry books about animals. Doc proved with kindness anything is possible.

Jim Key’s story is amazing and Jim’s story is a story to behold.

Daniel Minter illustrations helped tell the story.

Step Right Up How Doc and Jim Key Taught The World About Kindness is a story to be enjoyed by all readers.
" said.

" Kindness over cruelty. Beautiful message woven inside the pages of a story about the gift of kindness payed forward between a former slave and his beloved horse. " said.

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