Tag Archives: sports

Strong Inside (Young Readers Ed.) by Andrew Maraniss

Strong Inside: The True Story of How Percy Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line (Young Readers Edition) by Andrew Maraniss. December  20, 2016. Philomel Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780399548345.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1170.

The inspirational true story of the first African American to play college basketball in the deeply segregated Southeastern Conference–a powerful moment in Black history.

Perry Wallace was born at an historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation. In his senior year his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee’s first racially-integrated state tournament.

The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on. This insightful biography digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated, profound, and inspiring story of an athlete turned civil rights trailblazer.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts; Discrimination; Violence

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. This is the inspiring true story of Perry Wallace, a member of Vanderbilt’s basketball team and the first black basketball player to play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) during the 1960s civil rights era. The road was far from easy: he received aggressive fouls that went unchallenged, was kicked out of a church, lost his mother to cancer, and his best friend and teammate, also black, was forced to quit. Readers in today’s racially troubled times will recognize Wallace’s plight and the isolation and loneliness he experienced. But Wallace never gave up. After his signature slam dunk was outlawed, he forced himself to become a better player. Author Maraniss doesn’t shy away from the difficulties, not wanting to whitewash history by editing away the ugly epithets that plagued Wallace throughout his career. An author’s note about Wallace’s life after graduation, a bibliography, and black-and-white photos are all included (final source notes and index not seen). This moving biography, a young readers’ edition of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (2014), is thought-provoking, riveting, and heart-wrenching, though it remains hopeful as it takes readers into the midst of the basketball and civil rights action. Readers will celebrate Wallace’s refusal to back down, and cheer as he succeeds in paving the way for future players.

School Library Journal (January 1, 2017)
Gr 7 Up-Vanderbilt University made a strong statement in 1966 when they recruited Perry Wallace, a local teen basketball star who was African American. Students may not be familiar with Wallace, but after reading this poignant biography, they will not forget him. Readers meet him as a child whose loving family provided him with the care and attention he needed to thrive academically, then follow him onto the court, where he yearned-and then learned-to dunk. Maraniss speeds through Wallace’s senior year at Pearl High, in Tennessee, where recruiters from schools across the country were eager to add him to their rosters. His years at Vanderbilt, where he broke the color barrier in the Southeastern Conference, receive the most attention, with great sports writing meeting heartfelt interludes of Wallace’s efforts to bring about change for his fellow black students. Maraniss does not shy away from the ultimate truth: Wallace experienced vicious racism and countless death threats as well as racial slurs, discrimination, and unfair treatment on and off the court. Wallace is quoted abundantly throughout the text, and the bibliography is packed with primary sources, offering ample research opportunities for those compelled to dig deeper into the civil rights struggle of Wallace and other black athletes. VERDICT This portrait of the fortitude of a young athlete will make a huge impact on teens and is guaranteed to spark serious discussion.-Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

About the Author

Andrew Maraniss is a partner at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations in Nashville, Andrew studied history at Vanderbilt University as a recipient of the Fred Russell – Grantland Rice sportswriting scholarship, graduating in 1992. He then worked for five years in Vanderbilt’s athletic department as the associate director of media relations, dealing primarily with the men’s basketball team. In 1998, he served as the media relations manager for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays during the team’s inaugural season, and then returned to Nashville to join MP&F. Andrew was born in Madison, Wis., grew up in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, and now lives in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife, Alison, and their two young children.

His website is www.andrewmaraniss.com.

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Supplement to Strong Inside

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The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring. April  4, 2017. Delacorte Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9780385741835.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 540.

Team Statistics:

Caleb McCleary. QB. Following in his brother’s “baller status” footsteps.

Tessa Dooley. Any position that needs filling. Her motto: “Be afraid.”

The summer before Caleb and Tessa enter high school, friendship has blossomed into a relationship…and their playful sports days are coming to an end. Caleb is getting ready to try out for the football team, and Tessa is training for cross-country.

But all their structured plans derail in the final flag game when they lose. Tessa doesn’t want to end her career as a loser. She really enjoys playing, and if she’s being honest, she likes it even more than running. So what if she decided to play football instead? What would happen between her and Caleb? Or between Tessa and her two best friends, who are counting on her to try out for cross-country with them? And will her parents be upset that she’s decided to take her hobby to the next level?

This summer, Caleb and Tessa figure out just what it means to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, teammate, best friend, and someone worth cheering for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 8-11. Tessa loves football, and she’s been honing her skills with cute boy-next-door Caleb. She’s always accepted that she’d have to opt for something other than football, like cross-country, to participate in school sports. But now that she’s getting ready for high school, she wants to make some decisions for herself, so in spite of her demanding parents’ wishes, she insists on going to football camp. Heldring alternates between Caleb’s and Tessa’s perspectives, nicely exploring their struggles with self-determination, family conflict, and the importance of teamwork as well as their efforts to balance their burgeoning relationship with the pressures they each encounter regarding Tessa’s football dreams. Meanwhile, Tessa faces extra scrutiny—her mother is running for mayor, so her football aspirations put her at the center of a local media frenzy. Though Caleb and Tessa’s voices occasionally sound quite similar, there’s enough fast-paced football action, realistic family drama, and sweet romance in this slim novel that readers looking for girl-powered sports stories should find plenty to like.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
If any girl can make Pilchuck High School’s football team, it’s fourteen-year-old wide receiver Tessa Dooley. She’s fast, runs good routes, catches well, and knows how to play head games with defenders. But so far all she has played is summer-league flag football. She doesn’t know if she can handle tackle football—she’s never even worn a helmet. As the summer unfolds, she finds herself having to defend her love of the game (her parents want her to concentrate on more serious things); she also finds herself becoming the girlfriend of quarterback Caleb McCleary. In alternating first-person narratives, Tessa and Caleb give voice to their feelings about each other and about football. Though the back-and-forth, he said/she said of the narrative feels like Ping-Pong at times, it does serve to illuminate the appropriately complicated emotions both of a young romance and of pursuing a dream. Heldring writes with insight and restraint, letting complicated feelings remain complicated. There are no heroics in Tessa’s first official school game, but a satisfying performance and a realization that she has been an inspiration for a younger girl who decides she, too, wants to play football someday. Interviewed in the local paper, Tessa says, “I guess what matters is that I have a choice…Whether I play football in high school or not, I’ll never have to wonder what was possible.” As of now (according to the book), sixteen hundred girls across the country are playing high-school football and, like Tessa, pushing themselves to see what’s possible. dean schneider

About the Author

Thatcher Heldring grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where he taught himself to write and play sports—though not at the same time. Heldring has had several jobs in publishing. He has also worked as a grocery bagger, a ditchdigger, a small forward, a goalie, a scorekeeper, a coach, a rabid fan, a benchwarmer, and a shortstop. He lives with his wife and son in Seattle, a good place for indoor sports.

He is the author of Toby Wheeler: Eighth-Grade Benchwarmer, Roy Morelli Steps Up to the Plate, The League, and The Football Girl.

Her website is www.spitballinc.com.

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Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball by Howard Bryant

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball by Howard Bryant. December 20, 2016. Philomel Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780399169052.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 1130.

From Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan to LeBron James to Steph Curry, ESPN’s Howard Bryant presents the best from the hardwood–a collection of NBA champions and superstars for young sports fans! 

Fast-paced, adrenaline-filled, and brimming with out-of-this-world athleticism, basketball has won the hearts of fans all across America—yet it is particularly popular among kids and teens. Giants of the game like Steph Curry, LeBron, and Michael Jordan have transcended the sport to become cultural icons and role models to young fans. From the cornfields of Indiana and the hills of North Carolina, to the urban sprawl of New York City, Chicago and L.A., love of the game stretches from coast to coast.

Featuring Top Ten Lists to chew on and debate, and a Top 40-style Timeline of Key Moments in Basektball History, this comprehensive collection includes the greatest dynasties, from the Bill Russell-era Celtics, to the Magic Jonson-led Lakers, to the Jordan-led Bulls, right up to the Tim Duncan-led Spurs. All the greats take flight toward the hoop in this perfect book for young fans who dream about stepping on an NBA court.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 4-7. Bryant continues his series on the history of professional American sports with a decade-by-decade account of the rise of the NBA (and ABA) from the 1950s to the 2016 Finals this past June. Rather than present a rigidly systematic chronicle or an indigestible barrage of names and statistics, he begins chapters with highlight reels of each era’s leading players and teams and then follows with amplified tributes to select stars of the court, breathless tales of hard fought Finals, rosters of colorful nicknames, and tallies of top 10 teams, players, and epic performances—all with fulsome explanatory comments. Aside from brief glances at drugs and racial issues, the author rarely, if ever, looks past the court action to the players’ private lives or pre- and post-professional careers. Complete basketball newbies will flounder, but readers with a basic grasp of the game’s rules, jargon, and history will find this a trove of awesome athletic feats, game-changing stars of the past and present, and rich fodder for heated arguments.

School Library Journal (February 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-This latest from ESPN and former Washington Post journalist Bryant alternates among overviews of each decade since the 1960s, profiles of particular players or accounts of high-profile matchups, and themed “Top 10” lists. It lends itself well to browsing, though the format also leads to frequent repetition as the same facts surface in multiple accounts. Along the way, readers learn about the founding of the American Basketball Association and its merging with the National Basketball Association in 1976, as well as the changes to the game in the face of public image problems in the early 1980s, and many long-running rivalries, especially those between the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers. A huge number of great names are highlighted, including Bill Russell of the Celtics, the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas, and Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson. An entire chapter is dedicated to the storied career of Michael Jordan, including his six national championships, an Olympic gold medal with the 1992 “Dream Team,” and two years playing Minor League Baseball after the shooting death of his father. Bryant’s history continues through LeBron James’s triumphant championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though plenty of historical narrative is provided, much of the text consists of statistics-heavy description of play; this book is definitely aimed at the basketball junkie. VERDICT An easy hook for serious sports fans seeking an exploration of the history of basketball.-Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

About the Author

Howard Bryant is a multi-award-winning author; sports journalist; and radio and television personality with ESPN and NPR. He is the author of the LEGENDS series for young readers; Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in BostonThe Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron; and Juicing the Game. The only two-time winner of the prestigious Casey Award for baseball writing, Howard is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, appears frequently on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and on ESPN Radio, and is a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition.

His website is www.HowardBryant.net.

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Frank by LJ Alonge

Frank by LJ Alonge. February 21, 2017. Grosset & Dunlap, 128 p. ISBN: 9780451533593.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 690.

An action-packed basketball series from author LJ Alonge set on the courts of Oakland, CA.

Frank’s not great at staying out of trouble. He’s also not great at driving cars. After his joyride ends in a crash, he’s stuck with a court-appointed Community Mentor for the summer.

But it’s not too bad. Officer Appleby’s all right. And if anyone can handle a basketball team, a police officer, and a new girl on the horizon, it’s Frank Torres.

Sequel to: Janae

Part of Series: Blacktop

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

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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A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White

A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White. February 14, 2017. Greenwillow Books, 432 p. ISBN: 9780062463210.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Cafferty just made history. Her high school’s star pitcher, she is now the first woman drafted by a major league baseball team. Only days after her high school graduation, she’ll join the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class A Short Season team . . . but not everyone is happy to have her there.

On top of the pressure heaped on every pitcher, Jill must deal with defying conventions and living up to impossible expectations, all while living away from home for the first time. She’ll go head-to-head against those who are determined to keep baseball an all-male sport. Despite the reassurance of coaches and managers alike, a few of her teammates are giving her trouble. The media presence following her at each game is inescapable. And to top it all off, Jill is struggling with the responsibilities of being a national hero and a role model for young women everywhere. How can she be a role model when she’s not even sure she made the right choice for herself? Didn’t baseball used to be fun?

This literary and engrossing story of a young woman trying to mark out a place for herself in a male-dominated world will captivate fans of Friday Night Lights, The Art of Fielding, John Corey Whaley, and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Discrimination; Underage drinking; Sexual harrassment

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 8-11. Toward the end of senior year, it’s decision time: accept the scholarship to Stanford or the offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates as their third-round draft pick. It’s a clear choice for Jill, despite the stress of possibly becoming the first woman to play Major League Baseball. After joining the Pirates’ minor league short season team, she deals with resistance from fans, pressure from agents, and the occasional idiocy in the clubhouse. She gradually gains acceptance from her teammates and, after a rocky start, begins to play well again. Don’t look for high drama on or off the field. The pleasure of reading this novel comes from the steady, realistic portrayal of Jill’s experiences as a rookie and as a young woman breaking into a man’s sport. An ensemble cast of well-drawn, interesting characters revolves around Jill, who is kind by nature, levelheaded most of the time, and acutely aware that she’s a role model, constantly observed but no more saintly than most other 18-year-olds. Readers will hope for sequels to this unusual and engaging novel.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
High-school baseball phenom Jill Cafferty had made a verbal commitment to pitch for Stanford, but pro scouts are on her trail. Perfect mechanics, repeatable delivery, and command of three pitches make her a hot commodity, and she makes history as the first female Major League player when she signs with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. She quickly comes to hate “all this fuss about me being a woman, when I really just want to go and…strike all of the sons of bitches out.” But it’s not going to be that easy, as she faces a lot of abuse: fans tossing tampons onto the field, a teammate urinating in her locker, fans holding signs saying “Go Back to Softball!” and “Don’t Destroy America!” Somehow, it can’t be a simple matter of hurling a ball sixty feet and striking out batters. White’s third-person limited narrative, told from Jill’s perspective, pulls the reader into her story. Though the plot could have been tighter, there’s plenty of action, and fans of the game will enjoy following Jill through early missteps toward a surer sense of herself and her skills. dean schneider

About the Author

This talented writer attended Tufts University (and published her first book, Friends for Life, while a senior there) and currently lives in New York City. Ms. White grew up in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Many of her novels feature characters who reside in or around Boston and are fans of the Boston Red Sox (as is Ms. White). In addition to novels, Ms. White has published several biographies. She also writes under the pseudonym Zack Emerson (taking the name Zack from the name of her shepherd dog) and under the pseudonym Nicholas Edwards (Santa Paws series).

Her website is ellenemersonwhite.com.

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Left Out by Tim Green

Left Out by Tim Green. September 27, 2016. HarperCollins, 352 p. ISBN: 9780062293824.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 800.

Perfect for fans of Mike Lupica, New York Times bestselling author and former NFL player Tim Green tells a heartfelt and moving story about a deaf boy’s journey to change how others see him—both on and off the football field.

All Landon Dorch has ever wanted was to be like everyone else. But his deafness and the way he talks have been obstacles all his life. Other kids, and even adults, have never been able to look past his disability and see the real Landon. But now, he finally sees his chance to fit in. Bigger and taller than any other seventh grader in his new school, Landon plans to use his size as his biggest asset.

In Bronxville, football reigns supreme, and what could be better for a hopeful lineman desperate to gain friends beyond his fiery little sister? Still, the same speech problems and the cochlear implants that help him hear continue haunt him. At best, his new teammates keep their distance, and when football proves harder than he thought, the coaches encourage Landon to be their oversized water boy.

Just when it looks like Landon will be left out for good, Brett Bell—a star player whose family knows about being different—becomes an unlikely friend. And the whole Bell family pitches in to help Landon, even Brett’s uncle, a New York Giants All-Pro tackle who shares some of his trade secrets. But in the end only Landon can fight his way off the bench and through a crowded field of bullies bent on seeing him forever left out.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

About the Author

Tim Green, for many years a star defensive end with the Atlanta Falcons, is a man of many talents. He’s the author of such gripping books for adults as the New York Times bestselling The Dark Side of the Game and a dozen suspense novels, including Exact Revenge and Kingdom Come. Tim graduated covaledictorian from Syracuse University and was a first-round NFL draft pick. He later earned his law degree with honors. Tim has worked as an NFL analyst for FOX Sports and as an NFL commentator for National Public Radio, among other broadcast experience.

He lives with his wife, Illyssa, and their five children in upstate New York.  His website is www.timgreenbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Left Out Curriculum Guide

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All Heart by Carli Lloyd

All Heart: My Dedication and Determination to Become One of Soccer’s Best by Carli Lloyd. December 6, 2016. HMH Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9780544978690.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 940.

In the summer of 2015, the U.S. women’s national soccer team won the World Cup behind an epic performance by Carli Lloyd. Carli, a midfielder, scored three goals in the first sixteen minutes—the greatest goal-scoring effort in the history of World Cup finals.

But there was a time when Carli almost quit soccer. She struggled with doubts and low confidence. In All Heart, adapted from When Nobody Was Watching specifically for younger readers, Carli tells the full inspiring story of her journey to the top of the soccer world—an honest, action-packed account that takes readers inside the mind of a hardworking athlete.

Includes two full-color photo inserts.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 6-10. Despite being named the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, winning two Olympic gold medals in women’s soccer, and being instrumental in clinching the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Lloyd’s successes did not come easy. In this memoir for young readers, adapted from her New York Times best-seller When Nobody Was Watching (2016), Lloyd highlights her constant struggles with self-criticism and her quest for perfection, which often leave her feeling like an underachiever. She begins with being cut in 2003 from the U.S. Under-21 soccer team and how it drove her more to become one the country’s best female soccer athletes. Her conversational narrative then takes readers step-by-step through her ups and downs both on and off the playing field, including her intense personal training, initial trouble fitting in among her teammates and with coaches, and troubled relationship with her parents. While soccer fans will especially enjoy the detailed descriptions of key matches from her career, there’s much to glean about teamwork and determination for any teen. An inspiring story of perseverance.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
Writing with sports journalist Coffey, Lloyd presents a play-by-play recap of her progress from elementary school soccer novice to World Cup player and winner of 2015’s FIFA Golden Ball and Silver Boot.In this young readers’ adaptation of her memoir for adults, When Nobody Was Watching (2016), Lloyd seems to remember with total recall every game she’s ever played, recapping them in a direct, detailed, blow-by-blow manner that is sure to confuse anyone who isn’t as into soccer as she is. Of course, her audience is likely to be a self-selected one. But soccer detail isn’t the only reason to read this book. All too often, it is easy to look at heroes of many stripes and think that success came to them easily. Lloyd makes it clear that her path was never easy, never without commitment, never without sacrifice, and, most of all, never without discipline and a lot of hard work. Her path covered a lot of ups and downs, and there were key people along the way who made her success the eventual inevitable goal…along with those who deserted and disappointed her. Narrating in the first person, Lloyd is frank about such difficulties as her estrangement from her family, telling readers, “I don’t hear from any of them after the [2012] Olympics, though they do send me a card. I can’t believe it has been four years since we’ve had any relationship to speak of.” True to real life, her story does not unfold neatly, with a clear narrative arc, but her character comes through loud and clear.Not for lovers of soccer only: readers after inspiration to keep playing, regardless of the odds, will find plenty here. (photos, index) (Memoir. 10-14)

About the Author

CarliLloyd is a co-captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and has been named the FIFA World Player of the Year for two years in a row (2015 and 2016). The midfielder led the U.S. team to World Cup victory in 2015 and also scored the gold-medal winning goals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She has played in three FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments, helping the U.S. win bronze, silver and then gold. In 2015 she was also awarded the FIFA Golden Ball and the Silver Boot. The New Jersey native currently plays for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Her website is www.carlilloyd.com.

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All Heart on Amazon

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All Heart Publisher Page

The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene

The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene. February 7, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 496 p. ISBN: 9781492638537.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

An emotional and heart wrenching novel about grief and striving for perfection.

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

Raesha will to do whatever it takes to win Nationals. For her, competing isn’t just about the speed of her horse or the thrill of the win. It’s about honoring her mother’s memory and holding onto a dream they once shared.

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

For an athlete, every second counts. Raesha knows minus five on the scale will let her sit deeper in her saddle, make her horse lighter on his feet. And lighter, leaner, faster gives her the edge she needs over the new girl on the team, a girl who keeps flirting with Raesha’s boyfriend and making plans with her best friend.

So she focuses on minus five. But if she isn’t careful, she’s going to lose more than just the people she loves, she’s going to lose herself to lighter, leaner, faster…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Barrel-racer Raesha keeps her life and her loves small: she has best friend Asia, boyfriend Cody, her dog, and her horse. Home is just Rae and her dad and the memory of her mother, who died a few years back. But there’s a new girl in town, Kierra, and both Cody and Asia are growing close with her. Rae focuses on the one thing she can control: herself. Nationals are approaching, and if Rae can make herself just a little lighter, a little leaner, she won’t be as heavy in the saddle, and her horse will move faster. “Minus five” becomes her mantra as she strives to succeed at the sport her mother loved. The novel in verse approach isn’t always the most effective here; the spare format works best when the focus is on the worsening of Rae’s anorexia. Though there are many teen books about anorexia, few focus on equestrian sports, despite the fact that eating disorders in the equestrian world are common, and this debut provides an intriguing and valuable perspective.

Publishers Weekly Annex (January 30, 2017)
A competitive barrel racer, Raesha knows that a single pound can translate into seconds lost or gained. Determined to win Nationals, like her mother did before dying from cancer, Rae fixates on her weight, sure that losing five pounds will make all the difference. The arrival of Kierra-a new rider who throws a wrench in Rae’s relationships with her boyfriend, Cody, and best friend, Asia-leaves Rae feeling alone, jealous, and frenzied. As her eating disorder develops, Rae becomes less strong and less focused, yet those elusive five pounds remains just out of reach, no matter what the scale says: “Lighter/ Leaner/ Faster, My goal/ Is always/ There.” Writing in free verse, debut author Alene vividly conveys Rae’s spiral into anorexia; as she weakens, the poems fragment and become less fluid, mirroring Rae’s physical deterioration. Alene’s characterization of secondary characters, particularly Rae’s friends, is less successful; Cody’s shallow comments about Rae’s looks are particularly damaging, but this issue is never acknowledged. Even so, Alene presents an illuminating account of a girl struggling for control of her life and body. Ages 14-up.

About the Author

Catherine Alene wrote this story when she was in recovery for her own eating disorder. She has an MA in teaching and an MFA in writing from Vermont College. She spent the last seven years as a language arts teacher at an alternative high school. She lives in Oregon with her daughter.

Her website is www.catherinealene.com

 

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The Sky Between You and Me on Amazon

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I Got This by Laurie Hernandez

I Got This: To Gold and Beyond by Laurie Hernandez. January 24, 2017. HarperCollins, 240 p. ISBN: 9780062677310.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.2.

Gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast and Dancing with the Stars champion Laurie Hernandez shares her story in her own words in this debut book for fans of all ages—with never-before-seen photos!

At sixteen years old, Laurie Hernandez has already made many of her dreams come true—and yet it’s only the beginning for this highly accomplished athlete. A Latina Jersey girl, Laurie saw her life take a dramatic turn last summer when she was chosen to be a part of the 2016 US Olympic gymnastics team. After winning gold in Rio as part of the Final Five, Laurie also earned an individual silver medal for her performance on the balance beam. Nicknamed “the Human Emoji” for her wide-eyed and animated expressions, Laurie continued to dance her way into everyone’s hearts while competing on the hit reality TV show Dancing with the Stars, where she was the youngest-ever winner of the Mirrorball Trophy.

Poignant and funny, Laurie’s story is about growing up with the dream of becoming an Olympian and what it took to win gold. She talks about her loving family, her rigorous training, her intense sacrifices, and her amazing triumphs. Be prepared to fall in love with and be mesmerized by America’s newest sweetheart all over again.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

About the Author

Laurie Hernandez is an American gymnast, an Olympic gold medalist, and the youngest-ever champion on Dancing with the Stars. At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Laurie won silver in the individual balance beam competition and secured gold in the team all-around competition.

Laurie started gymnastics at the age of six because she wanted to experience the feeling of flying. She enrolled at Monmouth Gymnastics in New Jersey, where she met her coach, and they became a winning duo. The turning point in Laurie’s career came in 2014, when her progress was stalled due to multiple injuries. She returned stronger than ever by becoming the 2015 US junior national champion. Laurie’s other career highlights include all-around silver, beam gold, and floor exercise bronze at the 2016 US Olympic Trials, and bronze in all-around, floor exercise, beam, and uneven bars at the 2016 national championships.

Laurie is known for her dazzling floor exercise routines and for her grace and artistry on the balance beam. And she has been nicknamed “the Human Emoji” for her outgoing facial expressions.

 

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I Got This on Amazon

I Got This on Goodreads

I Got This on JLG

I Got This Publisher Page

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Booked by Kwame Alexander. April 5, 2016. HMH Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780544570986.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.9; Lexile: 660.

Like lightning/you strike/fast and free/legs zoom/down field/eyes fixed/on the checkered ball/on the goal/ten yards to go/can’t nobody stop you/
can’t nobody cop you…

In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.

This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match!

Sequel to: The Crossover

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2016)
Eighth grader Nick Hall is quite a wordsmith, thanks largely to his father, a linguistics professor and the author of Weird and Wonderful Words, which Nick is required to read page by page: “You’re the only kid / on your block / at school / in THE. ENTIRE. FREAKIN’. WORLD. / who lives in a prison / of words. He calls it the pursuit of excellence. / You call it Shawshank.” Nick would rather be shining on the soccer field with his best friend Coby Lee, trying to talk to April Farrow, or playing Ping-Pong with his cool mom. Nick is blindsided when his parents suddenly separate and Mom moves away, leaving him to live alone with his stern dad. Then things worsen at school, too, as he and Coby (whose dad is from Singapore and mom is from Ghana) are targeted by the racist Eggleston twins (“pit-bull mean / eighth grade tyrants / with beards”). Like Alexander’s slam-dunk Newbery Medal winner, The Crossover (rev. 5/14), this novel in verse offers sports action combined with spot-on portrayals of middle-school life; warm, believable family and friend dynamics; and hip, down-to-earth adult secondary characters, such as The Mac, an eccentric rap-producer-turned-cool-librarian who supports Nick through his many trials. Alexander understands reluctant readers deeply, and here hands them a protagonist who is himself a smart, reading-averse kid who just wants to enjoy the words that interest him on his own terms. With accessible poetic forms and engaging formatting, Booked’s pages will be turned swiftly and enthusiastically. Katrina Hedeen

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2016)
Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class. Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer–and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable. A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

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.

Teacher Resources

Booked Reading Guide

Around the Web

Booked on Amazon

Booked on Goodreads

Booked on JLG

Booked Publisher Page