Multicultural Children's Book Day Review: Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness

Title: Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness
Author: Donna Janell Bowman
Illustrator: Daniel Minter
Publisher: Low & Lee Books
Year: 2016
Ages: 8 - 11
IBSN: 978-1620141489

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness is the extraordinary biographical story of William "Doc" Key and his horse Beautiful Jim Key. Despite being born into slavery, Doc Key became a self-taught veterinarian and developed his own medicine line Keystone Liniment. He embarked in several successful business ventures. One of his dreams was raising a champion racehorse, but his purebred Arabian horse named Lauretta gave birth to a weak colt. Doc Key was a kindhearted man who loved horses so he took really good care of the colt, who he named Jim Key.
Doc Key and Jim developed a special bond. Jim turned out to be an astonishing smart horse. With lots of kindness, Doc Key taught Jim to do tricks and math, read, and write. In 1897, he showed people what Jim could do at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Since the audience loved their show, they got a manager and went on the road. They became famous and Jim became known as Beautiful Jim Key.
Doc Key faced prejudice and racism along their journey, particularly in the South. What is more, humane societies questioned how he treated Jim. They thought abuse was the explanation behind how Jim did all that. Doc Key proved them wrong and taught them all about treating animals with kindness.

My Thoughts on Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness is Donna Janell Bowman's debut novel, and I hope to read more of her work. She managed William "Doc" Key's biography and the subjects of slavery and racism with respect. She included an afterword with historical information, photographs, and sources about his inspiring life. The text comes alive through the splendid linoleum block prints of award-winning illustrator Daniel Minter.

That light is present even in the darkest of times is one of the most important lessons for kids in this book. Doc was born into slavery, and even though he became a successful business man, he continued to face racism and prejudice. Despite of all that darkness, he kept his light and kind heart. With his caring relationship with Jim, he contributed immensely to the cause of treating animals humanely.

Children can think about significant subjects with this book. How to proceed in the face of prejudice? What is the importance of kindness? How we should treat animals? Do I step right up for a cause?

Rating: 5 stars

An activity children can do after reading this book is learn about the work the Humane Society of the United States is doing in the present to help animals. They have an informative section called Just for Kids.

I reviewed Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman for Multicultural Children's Book Day 2017.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
MCBD Links to remember:
MCBD site:
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:
Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with is on social media and be sure and look for/use their official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.


  1. I've never heard of this book and it looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing! -Becky #readyourworld

  2. Thanks for the review. I must read this one.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts