Tag Archives: sports

The Quarterback Whisperer by Bruce Arians

The Quarterback Whisperer by Bruce Arians. July 11, 2017. Hachette Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9780316432269.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

What is an elite NFL QB and what separates that player from the others? One answer is the coach they share. In the recent history of the biggest game on earth, one man is the common thread that connects several of the very best in the sport: Peyton Manning; Ben Roethlisberger; Andrew Luck; and the resurgent Carson Palmer. That coach is Bruce Arians.

A larger than life visionary who trained under the tutelage of Bear Bryant, Arians has had a major impact on the development and success of each of these players. For proof beyond the stats, go to the sources.

Known around the game as the ‘quarterback whisperer’, Arians has an uncanny ability to both personally connect with his quarterbacks and to locate what the individual triggers are for that player to succeed. No two quarterbacks are the same. And yet with Arians they always share success. In this book Arians will explain how he does it

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

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About the Author

Bruce Arians is currently the head coach of the NFC powerhouse the Arizona Cardinals. In three years he has taken the team from last place in their division to the NFC Championship. He has also guided quarterback Carson Palmer to the best results of his long career. He has twice been named the NFL’s Head Coach of the Year.

His website is www.ariansfamilyfoundation.com

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Auma’s Long Run by Eucabeth Odhiambo

Auma’s Long Run by Ecuabeth Odhiambo. September 1, 2017. Carolrhoda Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9781512427844.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.8; Lexile: 740.

Auma loves to run. In her small Kenyan village, she’s a track star with big dreams. A track scholarship could allow her to attend high school and maybe even become a doctor. But a strange new sickness called AIDS is ravaging the village, and when her father becomes ill, Auma’s family needs her help at home. Soon more people are getting sick even dying and no one knows why. Now Auma faces a difficult choice. Should she stay to support her struggling family or leave to pursue her own future? Auma knows her family is depending on her, but leaving might be the only way to find the answers to questions about this new disease.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Corporal punishment, Negative attitudes toward people with HIV/AIDS, Frank discussion of STIs, Attempted sexual assault

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 6-8. In her impressive debut, Odhiambo throws readers into a bustling nineties Kenyan village with this in-depth look at family grief. Auma is 13 and in year seven at her primary school. She loves running, has dreams of leaving Koromo to go to high school on a track scholarship, and wants to be a doctor. But when her baba (father), looking thinner, returns early from his job in Nairobi, and more people in her village start dying, Auma starts questioning everything she knows. Then her father dies, and Auma must decide whether to continue her schooling or work to feed her family. By the end of the novel, Auma is 15, but she’s grappling with decisions that would overwhelm most adults. In this gut-wrenching look at the AIDS epidemic in Kenya in the nineties, Odhiambo flawlessly weaves Kenyan tradition and culture with appropriate preteen problems (discussing crushes, competing in track meets). A detailed fictionalized portrayal of the effects of a very real disease, this novel would be an excellent asset to classrooms everywhere.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
In Odhiambo’s debut novel, a young girl faces a difficult decision when AIDS hits her Kenyan village. Born “facedown,” 13-year-old Auma knows she’s destined for great things. As one of the fastest runners in school, track is her ticket to getting a scholarship to continue her education. But in her village of Koromo, people are dying at an alarming rate from a disease called AIDS, and few people really know why. Auma’s dream is to become a doctor and help those afflicted. When first her father becomes ill and then her mother soon after, Auma is left shouldering the responsibility of caring for her family. Grades and running begin to take a back seat to feeding her family, and Auma must find the strength to follow her dreams, no matter how impossible they seem. In Auma, Odhiambo draws from her own experiences of growing up in Kenya during the beginning of the AIDS crisis to present a strong, intelligent protagonist who questions and refuses to give in to what is normally accepted. Auma treats readers to beautiful descriptions of the world around her but also gives them a candid look at the fear and superstition surrounding AIDS in its early days in Kenya as well as the grief of loss. All of the characters are black. Honestly told, Auma’s tale humanizes and contextualizes the AIDS experience in Kenya without sensationalizing it. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Eucabeth Odhiambo is a professor of teacher education at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.  As a classroom teacher she has taught all grades between kindergarten and middle school.

Auma’s Long Run is her first novel.

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42 Is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport

42 Is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport. September 5, 2017. Candlewick Press, 128 p. ISBN: 9780763676247.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.9.

An eye-opening look at the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and became an American hero.

Baseball, basketball, football — no matter the game, Jackie Robinson excelled. His talents would have easily landed another man a career in pro sports, but such opportunities were closed to athletes like Jackie for one reason: his skin was the wrong color. Settling for playing baseball in the Negro Leagues, Jackie chafed at the inability to prove himself where it mattered most: the major leagues. Then in 1946, Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Jackie Robinson. Jackie faced cruel and sometimes violent hatred and discrimination, but he proved himself again and again, exhibiting courage, determination, restraint, and a phenomenal ability to play the game. In this compelling biography, award-winning author Doreen Rappaport chronicles the extraordinary life of Jackie Robinson and how his achievements won over — and changed — a segregated nation.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Racism and racist language

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 5-7. Early on, young Jackie Robinson was taught to fight back when faced with racial slurs and prejudice, and he did, first as one of the few black kids in his neighborhood and later as one of the few black officers on his army base. But those injustices and the indignities he endured while playing for Negro league baseball were dwarfed by the hostility shown by many white players and fans when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. While children’s books on Jackie Robinson are plentiful, this well-researched, concise biography clearly shows the extraordinary burdens he carried and recognizes his significance as an agent of change within American society. A Dodgers fan as a child during the Robinson years, Rappaport offers an engaging account of the man’s life and presents enough background information about American racism during the 1930s and 1940s to help young readers understand the depth of his courage and the magnitude of his achievement as “a one-person civil rights movement.”

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
A tribute to a man who spoke out forthrightly against racial injustice—until, on a larger stage, he let his deeds do the talking.Beginning with a childhood exchange with a neighbor (she hurls the N-word at him thrice; he responds with “cracker”), Rappaport focuses on her subject’s refusal to stay silent in the face of prejudicial treatment in youth and during his military career. This has the effect of underscoring the strength of character he displayed in controlling his reactions to the vicious provocations of fans and fellow players once he broke professional baseball’s color line, setting readers up for a nicely contextualized understanding of his career. Unfortunately, she ends her account with the 1947 World Series and in a cursory summation barely mentions the rest of Robinson’s achievements in baseball and after. This, along with the lack of photos or even a stat box in the backmatter, gives the profile a sketchy feel next to Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, by his daughter, Sharon Robinson (2004)—a title that is included in the perfunctory list of suggested further reading—or any of the several more complete, better packaged appreciations of his life, times, and legacy available. A pinch hitter, at best, behind a strong lineup of competitors. (timeline, endnotes, index) (Biography. 10-13)

About the Author

Doreen Rappaport is the author of more than fifty books for children, including Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust; Lady Liberty: A Biography, illustrated by Matt Tavares; and Martin’s Big Words, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Doreen Rappaport lives in upstate New York.

Her website is dorreenrappaport.com

Teacher Resources

42 Is Not just a Number Discussion Guide

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Toni by LJ Alonge

Toni by LJ Alonge. June 20, 2017. Grosset & Dunlap, 128 p. ISBN: 9780515158014.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: 4.7; Lexile: 770.

A street-smart, action-packed basketball series with action on and off the court.

Toni isn’t Coach Wise’s favorite player on Team Blacktop. Honestly, she’s not even in his top five. And if she’s being real, her own teammates keep siding with him during practice.

But this isn’t the first time she’s been on her own, and it won’t be the last. If you can’t count on yourself, who can you count on?

Sequel to: Frank

Part of Series: Blacktop (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2017)
The Blacktop series continues on the basketball courts of Oakland, California. Several of her friends have been featured in this series, and now it’s Toni’s turn in the spotlight. She is black and “one tough-ass chick,” but she’s lonely and troubled, and her behavior threatens the whole team. She argues with the coach and is sometimes violent and sometimes too distracted to be a reliable teammate. She is not one to be played with, but that phrase can be taken two ways: opponents are scared to mess with her, and her own teammates can’t play with her when she’s out of control. Other teams don’t want to play her team anymore. Toni’s voice in the first-person narrative comes across as feisty at first, but it turns out she’s not a reliable narrator; she is too self-centered and defensive to listen to what others tell her. Toni has always loved drawing and the art of Rivera, Basquiat, and Kahlo, and readers might predict that art will be her salvation, but her story doesn’t go that way; if there is hope for Toni, it will be on the basketball court. In each volume, Alonge has successfully created well-rounded characters who team up for a multicultural portrait of basketball culture in Oakland; this is no exception. A fine story for sports fans and anyone in the mood for a fast, character-driven read. (Fiction. 10-16)

About the Author

LJ Alonge has played pick-up basketball in Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, Kenya, South Africa and Australia. Basketball’s always helped him learn about his community, settle conflicts, and make friends from all walks of life. He’s never intimidated by the guy wearing a headband and arm sleeve; those guys usually aren’t very good. As a kid, he dreamed of dunking from the free throw line. Now, his favorite thing to do is make bank shots. Don’t forget to call “bank!”

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Toni on Amazon

Toni on Goodreads

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Toni Publisher Page

Inside Hudson Pickle by Yolanda Ridge

Inside Hudson Pickle by Yolanda Ridge. September 5, 2017. Kids Can Press, 256 p. ISBN: 9781771386203.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8; Lexile: 660.

Cut from AAA hockey last season, seventh-grader Hudson Pickle needs to make the basketball team this year. But, after having an asthma attack at the first tryout, his chances aren’t looking good. His former best friend, Trevor, is also trying out. But he won’t even speak to Hudson since Hudson had all but ignored him while concentrating on hockey. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, now his uncle Vic — who’s been staying with him and his mom since a suspicious fire at his house —has been diagnosed with a genetic respiratory illness. Could this mean Hudson has something worse than asthma? And while this DNA mystery is being unraveled, will the truth about what happened to his father finally be revealed as well?

Yolanda Ridge’s compelling coming-of-age novel for middle-graders combines humor, action and mystery — with a dose of genetic science to keep things interesting. It offers a rich reading experience with complex characters and a multilayered story. Thoughtful, authentic and likeable Hudson will inspire readers with the grit and perseverance he relies on to get through his difficulties, and the self-deprecating wit he uses to manage middle-school social dynamics, evolving friendships and a changing family structure. There are also multiple mysteries running throughout the story — involving Hudson’s father, his uncle and his own health — that are sure to keep the pages turning.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Drugs and drug overdose, Suicide

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
A middle schooler struggles to reconcile family secrets, his asthma, and his love of sports and firefighting. White, sports-obsessed seventh-grader Hudson Pickle is frustrated with his life. After his asthma held him back a grade and he was removed from his hockey team due to a massive growth spurt, Hudson feels anxious. He’s lost touch with his two close friends, and without his team he feels even more socially adrift. Desperate not to let his body define him, he anxiously trains for basketball tryouts and stubbornly researches firefighting as his dream career. When his uncle moves in with Hudson and his mom, Hudson’s world is shaken up: 30-something Vic is an eccentric rocker whose unusual levels of fatigue and erratic behavior make Hudson nervous. Vic’s stay pushes more questions to the surface for Hudson: is Vic a drug addict? How did Hudson’s baby brother die when Hudson was 2? Who was Hudson’s father? Hudson’s mom firmly refuses to share any information, but Hudson is determined to find answers, no matter what. Hudson’s first-person narration doesn’t always feel authentically like an American teenager’s (he lives in western New York), with occasional outdated slang and Canadian vocabulary that doesn’t fit. Heavy-handed similes and an extremely tidy conclusion further drag down the narrative. Such stronger middle-grade narratives interweaving sports and life’s struggles as Newbery winner The Crossover and newcomer Shamini Flint’s Ten (2017) mean this one can stay on the bench. (Fiction. 8-12)

School Library Journal (July 1, 2017)
Gr 5-7-A serviceable coming-of-age story about family, bullying, sports, and crushes in middle school. When Hudson’s uncle Vic’s apartment catches fire, Hudson’s mom invites Vic to live with them. Hudson is adjusting after being cut from an AAA hockey team and trying to salvage his friendships after being a jerk the year prior. Hudson has trouble talking about his feelings, especially since his mother avoids discussing family issues-mainly, who Hudson’s father is and where he lives. When Hudson’s teacher assigns the students a presentation about their future career choices, Hudson has to decide what he should pursue, which leads him on an emotional roller coaster, with his uncle along for the ride. The narrative tackles a variety of topics: asthma, a fire investigation, amateur sleuthing, and Hudson’s attempts to figure out why words never come out right when he talks to his basketball practice teammate Willow. Readers will enjoy this fast-paced book about awkward middle school adventures, the mysteries of genetics, and one boy’s efforts to cope with dark family secrets. While the characters are not particularly memorable, the journey is. VERDICT Fans of novels about sports and family drama, such as Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, will appreciate this realistic tale.-Jessica Bratt, Grand Rapids Public Library, M

About the Author

Yolanda Ridge worked as a genetic counselor before becoming a writer — a background which helped to inform and enrich Hudson Pickle’s character and story. She is also the author of two previous middle grade novels, Trouble in the Trees and Road Block.

Yolanda lives in the mountains of interior British Columbia with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or crafting her next work of fiction on her treadmill desk, you’ll find her fighting the weeds in her yard or tackling the wilderness by bike. Her website is www.yolandaridge.com

Around the Web

Inside Hudson Pickle on Amazon

Inside Hudson Pickle on Goodreads

Inside Hudson Pickle on JLG

Inside Hudson Pickle Publisher Page

Ten: A Soccer Story by Shamini Flint

Ten: A Soccer Story by Shamini Flint. June 20, 2017. Clarion Books, 176 p. ISBN: 9780544850019.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.6; Lexile: 770.

In Malaysia in 1986, soccer is “a boys’ game,” but ardent soccer fan Maya, age 12, trains herself in soccer skills and pulls together a team at her (girls’) school. Despite all odds, she wins not just an important game but a chance to go to England and watch her favorite pro team play at Wembley—and incidentally make an unsuccessful attempt to pressure her dad into rejoining the family

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Smoking

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
A funny, heartwarming story about a young girl who learns to manage (other people’s) expectations and make her dreams come true. Ten-year-old Maya believes she’s found her calling. She’s going to be a professional soccer star (never mind that she’s never even kicked a ball) or at least marry one! However, the odds are stacked against her. She lives in a conservative seaside town in Malaysia. She’s born to a mother of Indian descent and a white English father, solidifying her status as a misfit. And her grandmother is always harping on her to be a good Indian girl—and good Indian girls don’t play soccer. Although her schoolmates at her all-girls convent school reject soccer as a boy’s sport, Maya perseveres and eventually recruits enough players to make a team. However, she realizes that playing soccer is the least of her problems. One day, Maya’s parents drop a bombshell, devastating her. To bring her family back together, Maya comes up with an outrageous plan that involves London’s Wembley Stadium, the Brazilian soccer team, and all the courage she can muster. Aside from the multiple metaphors only an ardent soccer fan could love, Flint injects humor effortlessly into her prose. Add the antics of a spunky main character and short and sweet chapters for a fast-paced, entertaining read. Universal themes of grappling with race, fitting in, and dealing with divorce help this story transcend cultural boundaries. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Shamini Flint lives in Singapore with her husband and two children. She began her career in law in Malaysia and also worked at an international law firm in Singapore. She travelled extensively around Asia for her work, before resigning to be a stay-at-home mum, writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist, all in an effort to make up for her ‘evil’ past as a corporate lawyer!

Shamini writes children’s books with cultural and environmental themes including Jungle Blues and Turtle takes a Trip as well as the ‘Sasha’ series of children’s books. She also writes crime fiction featuring the rotund Singaporean policeman, Inspector Singh. Singh travels around Asia stumbling over corpses and sampling the food …

Her website is www.shaminiflint.com

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Ten: A Soccer Story on Amazon

Ten: A Soccer Story  on Goodreads

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Ten: A Soccer Story  Publisher Page

Point Guard by Mike Lupica

Point Guard by Mike Lupica. April 4, 2017. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481410038.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 810.

Gus and Cassie have always been on the same team off the field, but in this third novel in New York Times bestselling author Mike Lupica’s Home Team series can they stay friends when they’re on the same court?

Everyone assumes that Gus, whose family is from the Dominican Republic, is a baseball guy. But this year Gus is even more excited about basketball than any other sport he’s ever played. He’s been practicing some new moves and lately he’s more surprised when he misses his shot than when he scores. Plus now that he’s convinced his friend Teddy to try out for the team and Jack’s shoulder is healed, it looks like Walton’s home team will be unstoppable.

But this isn’t going to be the season Gus expected, because their team is getting a new player—and she just happens to be one of his best friends. Gus knows Cassie is more than good enough to compete on the boys’ team, and besides they really do need a point guard, so why isn’t he able to shake the feeling that she belongs on their bleachers rather than their bench? And to make matters worse, with their center Steve Kerrigan constantly making comments about his Dominican heritage, and Steve’s dad voicing his views on immigration as he runs for office, Gus is starting to wonder if he really belongs in Walton after all.

Can Gus find a way to bring the home team together both on and off the court, or will all these prejudices block their shot at a winning season?

Part of Series: Home Team

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Lupica trots his Home Team ensemble out onto the court for a whirl of fast-break hoops action threaded with provocative personal issues. Gus Morales is upset when his intensely competitive friend Cassie tries out for the boys’ town basketball team. To Cassie and everyone else, his disturbance reads as a case of prejudice—an accusation he stoutly denies. Cassie’s vitriolic refusal to talk things out and some of her behavior after she makes the team only solidifies Gus’ suspicion that she’s out to win at any cost rather than be the best teammate (or friend) that she can be. Is he right or just rationalizing? Is her attitude justified or just a sign of selfishness? Lupica leaves it to readers to decide (and perhaps give their own buried attitudes a fresh once-over) as he carries the Walton Warriors through a series of dramatic last-second wins and losses. A subplot featuring racially charged local and student elections that directly mirror 2016’s ugly presidential campaign will, hopefully, become less topical over time.

About the Author

Mike Lupica is the author of multiple bestselling books for young readers, including the Home Team series, QB 1HeatTravel TeamMillion-Dollar Throw, and The Underdogs. He has carved out a niche as the sporting world’s finest storyteller. Mike lives in Connecticut with his wife and their four children. When not writing novels, he writes for Daily News (New York) and is an award-winning sports commentator.

His website is www.mikelupicabooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Point Guard Reading Guide

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Point Guard on Amazon

Point Guard on Goodreads

Point Guard on JLG

Point Guard Publisher Page

The Playbook by Kwame Alexander

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander. February 14, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780544570979.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 970.

You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?

Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer/Music Video

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Alexander uses sports as a metaphor for life in this earnest gathering of personal reminiscences. “I was tall. I thought I could ball,” he writes. “Turns out, my passion was on a different court.” He’s referring to the tennis court, where he worked his way to excellence after disappointing tries at basketball and football. Still, whatever the game—athletic or otherwise—he offers advice from his experience. Many of these rules are similar in principle: learn from failures, accept and appreciate coaching, always be prepared to take the shot when it comes, and know the rules of play—but “say yes to the possibility of sometimes making up your own.” With its black-and-orange color scheme, the page design intersperses digestible passages of narrative with basketball-themed black-and-white photos and graphics, and pithy advice from high-profile icons of achievement. General life advice, however sound, will never be a slam dunk with teens (ask any parent), but the b-ball motif adds at least some palatability, and the lessons embedded in the author’s own story may prove persuasive.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Alexander (The Crossover, rev. 5/14; Booked, rev. 3/16) turns motivational speaker in this volume of short poems, uplifting quotes, and memoir. Though several sports are represented, the collection is organized like a basketball game: four quarters (“1st Quarter: Grit,” “2nd Quarter: Motivation”), each with thirteen rules inspired by James Naismith’s rules for the sport he invented in 1891. Alexander’s personal narrative of his early life in sports weaves its way through the lively display of colorful graphics, black-and-white photographs, poems, and inspirational quotations by famous people (mostly athletes, but also Sonia Sotomayor, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and others). The volume reads like a series of locker-room pep talks by a coach with stories to tell and advice to give (“It takes skill / to make / the last shot. / But it takes confidence / to take it.” “It might look / like a / long shot / but you’ll never /make it / if you don’t / keep shooting”). Definitions of words such as focus, tenacity, and resilience add to the overall uplifting tone. dean schneider

About the Author

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book; Booked, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

His website is www.kwamealexander.com.

Around the Web

The Playbook on Amazon

The Playbook on Goodreads

The Playbook on JLG

The Playbook Publisher Page

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders. April 1, 2017. University of Nebraska Press, 224 p. ISBN: 9780803285309.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 920.

Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men’s collegiate game. After Mike Veeck signed Borders in May 1997 to pitch for his St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, she accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men’s professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game.

Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren’t the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university.

Making My Pitch shows what it’s like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field. Raw, open, and funny at times, her story encompasses the loneliness of a groundbreaking pioneer who experienced grave personal loss. Borders ultimately relates how she achieved self-acceptance and created a life as a firefighter and paramedic and as a coach and goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Sexist verbal abuse, Sexual harassment

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Beginning in middle school, Ila Borders played on all-male teams and was the first woman to receive a baseball scholarship to college, where she continued shattering gender barriers as a left-handed pitcher. In 1988, she became the first female pitcher to win a professional men’s baseball game. Her résumé included playing for the St. Paul Saints, Duluth-Superior Dukes, Madison Black Wolf, and Zion Pioneerzz. Besides being a fascinating sports story, this is also a moving biography of a closeted gay athlete pursuing her dreams while struggling with her own identity. Her faith as a Christian helped her navigate the insurmountable challenges. Borders endures taunts from the stands (“Go home, you don’t belong here”) that switched to requests for autographed baseballs when her prowess became obvious. Cowritten with noted baseball writer Ardell (Breaking into Baseball, 2005), this is a welcome contribution to women’s sports biographies. Baseball fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes details of life in the minors and numerous game highlights; gay athletes will connect to her struggles. A worthy companion to Jennifer Ring’s A Game of Their Own (2015) and an important addition to baseball-history and LGBTQ collections.

Library Journal (April 1, 2017)
The story of Ila Jane Borders (b. 1975), the first woman to win a men’s college baseball game and a pioneer for women in professional baseball, has faded into history. Twenty years ago, she signed a minor league contract with an independent men’s baseball team, proving herself in the clubhouse as well as on the pitcher’s mound. While we are still waiting for the first woman to appear on a major league roster, Borders made meaningful progress, maintaining her poise and sense of humor, despite teammates and fans who wanted to test her resolve, even enduring stalkers and death threats. A difficult childhood and struggles with her sexual orientation gave her the inner fortitude to endure the isolation of being far from home in an often hostile environment, and her personal history, as chronicled here with the help of Ardell (Breaking into Baseball), is related with painful honesty. Borders’s conversational style and intriguing life story make this title a winner for both public and academic libraries. VERDICT An inspiring and important account, told with grace and self-awareness that will appeal to baseball and sports fans along with readers interested in LGBTQ memoirs.-Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT

About the Author

Ila Jane Borders is the first woman to win a men’s professional baseball game. She has been honored twice at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and was inducted in 2003 into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals.

Her website is www.ilajaneborders.com.

 

Around the Web

Making My Pitch on Amazon

Making My Pitch on Goodreads

Making My Pitch on JLG

Making My Pitch Publisher Page

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber. March 28, 2017. Scholastic Press, 281 p. ISBN: 9780545902144.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8.

The first contemporary novel about a disorder that bends the lives of ten percent of all teenagers: scoliosis.

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 4-7. Rachel’s life is going really well. She’s 12 and totally crushing it on the soccer field (which means more time with her best-friend teammates), and everyone agrees that the ridiculously cute Tate is within days of asking her to be official BF/GF. All of that comes to a crashing halt when her Boston specialist reveals she has scoliosis. In fact, the curvature of her spine is so extreme that she’ll have to wear a back brace—a heavy hulk of white padded plastic stretching from armpits to tail bone—for 23 hours a day. She tries to keep her spirits up but feels like a freak. Her soccer game plummets, and it seems like everyone—even her friends and Tate—are whispering in the halls. How can everything turn upside down so quickly? And where can she possibly find the strength to power through? Rachel’s first-person narration relays her story in a surprisingly intimate, beautifully earnest voice, likely attributable to Gerber herself suffering from scoliosis and wearing a fitted brace in her formative years. Here she captures the preteen mindset so authentically that it’s simultaneously delightful and painful. Every hallway whisper and direct insult will cut to the reader’s heart, and the details about the process of wearing a brace in all its agonies—and, yes, benefits—are a natural and enlightening thread through the story. A masterfully constructed and highly empathetic debut about a different kind of acceptance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Both the literal and figurative senses of the word “spine” form the backbone of Gerber’s debut. The same day white seventh-grader Rachel Brooks starts in an important soccer game, she learns that her scoliosis has worsened, and she now needs to wear a brace for 23 hours a day. The author, who wore a brace herself, vividly conveys its constricting bulk. But her spine isn’t the only curve Rachel has to brace herself for. Her mother, whose own scoliosis required a spinal fusion, is rigid and unsympathetic as the brace affects Rachel’s soccer technique and jeopardizes her place on the team. Her classmates gossip, and though her friends and crush are generally supportive, the author nails their realistic discomfort at being bullied by association. Ultimately, her friends help her to adjust, and Rachel learns to assert herself. As Rachel grows a spine, her mother learns to bend, sympathetically revealing the fears she never addressed during her own treatment. Their disparate experiences give scoliosis—and their relationship—nuance as well as tension. The author doesn’t diminish Rachel’s difficulties, but at heart her story is uplifting; a brace can be a “built-in drum” to dance to. An author’s note provides a short list of scoliosis resources. Comparisons to Judy Blume’s Deenie (1973) might be inevitable, but Rachel stands admirably on her own. (Fiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Alyson Gerber wore a back brace for scoliosis from the age of eleven to thirteen, an experience that led directly to Braced. She received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and before that she taught elementary and middle school students in a supplementary education program. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn.

Her website is www.alysongerber.com

Around the Web

Braced on Amazon

Braced  on Goodreads

Braced  on JLG

Braced  Publisher Page