Tag Archives: sports

Cool Day in the Sun by Sara Biren

Cool Day in the Sun by Sara Biren. March 12, 2019. Amulet Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781419733673.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Holland Delviss wants to be known for her talent as a hockey player, not a hockey player who happens to be a girl. But when her school team is selected to be featured and televised as part of HockeyFest, her status as the only girl on the boys’ team makes her the lead story. Not everyone is thrilled with Holland’s new fame, but there’s one person who fiercely supports her, and it’s the last person she expects (and definitely the last person she should be falling for): her bossy team captain, Wes.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 11))
Grades 8-11. Holland has always had to prove she was talented enough to play with the guys. Now, as a member of her high school’s boy’s hockey team, that means giving 100 percent on the ice, and trying to ignore any disapproving comments. Keeping her head in the game wouldn’t be so tough if the cocaptain Wes wasn’t always on her case. But when they bond over a love of ’80s music, she starts considering breaking her “no dating teammates” rule. Biren​’s (The Last Thing You Said, 2017) latest is a fun read that simultaneously puts the reader into the hockey world as an insider and an outsider. Holland and her teammates are introduced in a swirl of nicknames and maneuvers, while her struggle to feel completely at home is explored poignantly. Though what it means to be the girl on a boys team is a constant theme, it’s a last-act gut punch that really puts a spotlight on what female athletes have to deal with. A must-read for anyone who has had to defy expectations.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2019)
It’s not easy being the only girl on the boys’ varsity hockey team. It’s especially difficult when your arrogant team captain calls you a nickname you hate, townspeople are free with their opinions about how you shouldn’t be allowed to play with the boys, and your journalism teacher is riding you hard about the articles you’re producing. Holland isn’t having a great time of it, and when that same arrogant team captain turns out to be the piece that’s been missing in her life—well, love doesn’t exactly make things any easier. Now, in addition to having to prove herself over and over in terms of her hockey skills, she also has to prove that she isn’t getting special favors because she’s dating the captain. A fun romp of a teen romance via an exciting hockey season, this book has all the right ingredients—a spunky, multifaceted main character, a love interest who turns out to be a decent individual, and plenty of internal and external conflict. Some of the lines feel a little timeworn, but overall the plot whips along with verve, driven by fully embodied characters who chase after love like they’re chasing after a puck. The cast presents as white and includes a gay partnership. A teenage love story steamy enough to melt the ice in the rink. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Sara Biren lives just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and their two children. A true Minnesotan, she is a fan of hockey, hotdish, and hanging out at the lake. She enjoys seeing live bands, watching movies with her family, and drinking coffee. Her love of cheese knows no bounds.

Sara is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior, and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Her website is www.sarabiren.com

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Lu by Jason Reynolds

Lu by Jason Reynolds. October 23, 2018. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9781481450249.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 570.

Lu must learn to leave his ego on the sidelines if he wants to finally connect with others in the climax to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning Track series from Jason Reynolds. 

Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that—not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings—no one’s gonna outshine him.

Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way—literally and not-so-literally—and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means.

Expect the unexpected in this final event in Jason Reynold’s award-winning and bestselling Track series.

Sequel to: Sunny

Part of Series: Track (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Marijuana

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 5-8. Lu is the man, the kid, the guy. The one and only. Not only was he a miracle baby but he is albino. He’s special down to his gold chains and diamond earrings, but he feels a little less once-in-a-lifetime when his parents tell him they’re pregnant again. On top of this sobering news, he’s leading the Defenders alongside a cocaptain who isn’t pleased about sharing the title; and he’s training for the 110-meter hurdles, choking at every leap. As the championship approaches, can he prove his uniqueness one final time? As with the prior titles, the final installment in the four-book Track series is uplifting and moving, full of athletic energy and eye-level insight into the inner-city middle-school track-team experience. While it must be said that Lu has the least distinct voice of the four narrators—and given that Reynolds has proven himself to be an absolute master of voice, that is disappointing—this story is not a letdown. Virtually every subplot is a moving moral lesson on integrity, humility, or reconciliation, and Reynolds wraps up his powerful series with a surprising ending, all while scattering rewarding details about Ghost, Patina, and Sunny to let the reader truly revel in this multidimensional world as it comes to a close.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
It is an eventful summer for Lu, the co-captain of the Defenders track team, whose swagger is matched only by his speed. Not only does Lu discover that he is going to be a big brother but he is also preparing for the track championship and competing in a new event—the hurdles. As he soon learns, running hurdles is not just about getting over them, but also about how you perceive them. Lu comes to realize that everyone has hurdles—some are physical (Lu has albinism), some are emotional, some are created by others, and some are self-created. As preparations for the big meet continue, Lu learns a secret about his father that has the potential to upend their close relationship, and he also must face a nemesis from his past. Will Lu clear all his hurdles? In this fourth and final installment of the Track series (Ghost, rev. 11/16; Patina, rev. 11/17; Sunny, rev. 7/18), Reynolds explores redemption and how the people we love and admire the most are not exempt from individual challenges; however, focusing on the bigger picture—family, community, teamwork—helps us to navigate and overcome what gets in our way. Reynolds takes great care in crafting multidimensional characters who face real dilemmas and demonstrate that our shortcomings do not ultimately define who we are. monique harris

About the Author

After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.

His website is www.jasonwritesbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Lu on Common Sense Media

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Quarterback by John Feinstein

Quarterback: Inside the Most Important Position in the NFL by John Feinstein. November 13, 2018. Doubleday Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780385543033.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A major new book from #1 New York Times bestseller and sports-writing legend John Feinstein, QUARTERBACK dives deep into the most coveted and hallowed position in the NFL – exploring the stories of five top quarterbacks and taking readers inside their unique experiences of playing the position and holding the keys to their multi-billion-dollar teams.

In the mighty National Football League, one player becomes the face of a franchise, one player receives all the accolades and all the blame, and one player’s hand will guide the rise or fall of an entire team’s season – and the dreams of millions of fans. There are thirty-two starting quarterbacks in the NFL on any given Sunday, and their lives are built around pressure, stardom, and incredible talent. Legendary bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein, in his most insightful book yet, shows readers what it’s really like to play the glory position and to live that life – mapping out a journey that runs from college stardom to the NFL draft to taking command of the huddle and marching a team down the field with a nation of fans cheering.

Feinstein builds his profile around five NFL starting quarterbacks – Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Doug Williams. With incredible inside access, we get the full quarterback experience…being drafted #1 overall, pushing through grueling injuries, winning Super Bowls, being named a starter on multiple teams, being the first African American QB to lead a franchise to a title. Feinstein shows us exactly what it’s like in the locker room, huddle, heat of battle, and press conferences, through spectacular moments and embarrassing defeats. He explores the controversies of a league embroiled in questions of substance abuse and racism, TV revenue, corporate greed, and the value placed on player health. And in the end, Feinstein addresses the ways in which each quarterback – some just a year out of college — is handed the keys to a franchise worth billions of dollars, and how each team’s fortunes ride directly on the shoulders of its QB. This is Feinstein’s most fascinating behind-the-scenes book.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Being a starting quarterback in the NFL is arguably the most challenging position in all of professional sports; too much credit for wins, too much blame for losses. In this exploration of what it means to be an NFL quarterback today, Feinstein, New York Times best-selling author of A Good Walk Spoiled​ (1995) and numerous other in-depth analyses of various sports, focuses on five current or former quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Doug Williams, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The five have had very different careers, but, taken together in Feinstein’s telling, they reveal much about the game and the position of quarterback. Smith was a number-one overall draft pick and has had a solid career. Fitzpatrick, a Harvard grad, was almost the last pick in the same draft and has been a journeyman, playing for seven teams since 2006. Flacco won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, and Williams overcame a long-held prejudice against African American quarterbacks to become a Super Bowl MVP. Fitzpatrick’s career, thought the least distinguished, may be the most interesting. He’s been a successful starter, but he also went three seasons without ever getting into a game. As Feinstein relates the five careers, he also touches on the larger, league-wide issues of player health, substance abuse, racism, and, of course, team management, both good and bad. Another must-read from a master of long-form sports journalism.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
A QB–centric look at how football works, on and off the field.Quarterbacks are vital to any gridiron contest. You know that, writes sports journalist and commentator Feinstein (The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup, 2017, etc.), “because there are two people the media must listen to after a game: the head coach and the quarterback.” Quarterbacks usually take their time giving the media their piece of the story, but in the author’s opening vignette, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is quick to get to the microphones following a charged division game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in October 2017. Asked to explain the Ravens’ loss, Flacco said, “I sucked. We sucked as an offense, and I’m the quarterback, so I’m responsible. It’s pretty simple.” Well, yes and no: Some of the QBs Feinstein mentions in this leisurely stroll down the field are a little less quick to fall on their swords, while others are exemplary in many ways. One of the author’s chief subjects, for instance, is Doug Williams, a rarity in his day, the first African-American quarterback to bring home the Super Bowl; if racism figured in the 1970s, it certainly hasn’t gone away in the decades since. Neither has the tendency of some clubs to treat players as cogs in the big moneymaking machine, as with Ryan Fitzpatrick, asked to take a pay cut following a career-best throwing season for the Buffalo Bills, then axed for failures not of his own making—save that he was the captain on the field. “When things go well, everyone loves you,” he tells Feinstein. “When they don’t, people fall out of love in a hurry.” The author ably gets to the heart of the game, and if little of what he writes will come as news to discerning fans, there are some fine set pieces featuring battle-weary players and devious front-office types. A worthy offering for fans of the modern, increasingly embattled game.

About the Author

John Feinstein is the author of more than thirty books, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled. He is also the author of numerous kids mysteries. His first young adult mystery, Last Shot, won the Edgar Allen Poe Award. John also works for The Washington Post, The Golf Channel, Sirius XM Radio, and Comcast Sportsnet.

Her website is jfeinsteinbooks.com.

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The United States of Sports by Bill Syken

The United States of Sports: An Atlas of Teams, Stats, Stars, and Facts for Every State in America by Bill Syken. December 4, 2018. Sports Illustrated Kids, 240 p. ISBN: 9781547800001.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.4.

The United States of Sports takes kids on a first-of-its-kind journey across the U.S. with stops in every state in the union. Super cool maps with unique hand-illustrated icons show where all the great sites can be found, including arenas, stadiums, halls of fame, championship golf clubs, the greatest ski mountains, Olympic cities, and more. Each state’s Greatest Moments and homegrown heroes are pro led, and we wouldn’t forget to run down all the numbers! Championships, pro teams, famous events, and more— spread by spread—it’s the book to pore over this season.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

 

About the Author

After reporting for several newspapers, Bill Syken spent eight years as a staff reporter and editor at Sports Illustrated, where he continues to work as a writer and editor for its books division. He earned a B.A. in English from Columbia University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri. He lives in Philadelphia.

His website is www.billsyken.com

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Attucks!: Oscar Robinson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose

Attucks!: Oscar Robinson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose. October 23, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Girou, 212 p. ISBN: 9780374306120.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1110.

The true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indiana, masterfully told by National Book Award winner Phil Hoose.

By winning the state high school basketball championship in 1955, ten teens from an Indianapolis school meant to be the centerpiece of racially segregated education in the state shattered the myth of their inferiority. Their brilliant coach had fashioned an unbeatable team from a group of boys born in the South and raised in poverty. Anchored by the astonishing Oscar Robertson, a future college and NBA star, the Crispus Attucks Tigers went down in history as the first state champions from Indianapolis and the first all-black team in U.S. history to win a racially open championship tournament—an integration they had forced with their on-court prowess.
From native Hoosier and award-winning author Phillip Hoose comes this true story of a team up against impossible odds, making a difference when it mattered most.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Strong language

 

Book Trailer

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Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Anyone who’s seen Hoosiers has an idea how crazy Indianans are about basketball. What it doesn’t hint at, though, is the story Newbery Honor Book author Hoose tells—that not only was Indiana, and its capital, Indianapolis, nuts about b-ball, but that the success of a black high school, built in the 1920s at the instigation of the Ku Klux Klan, would through its hardwood success drive integration in the 1950s in a place known as “the South of the North.” Crispus Attucks High School didn’t even have an adequate gym, nor were they initially allowed to play other public schools, but in the early 1950s, things slowly began to change. The 1954–55 team won the state championship, finally overcoming bad officiating and gaining the respect of the still largely segregated city. As Hoose puts it, “Attucks varsity were becoming activists for racial justice by excelling at something that was dearly prized by whites.” The story of triumph covers personalities as well as history: Oscar Robertson, the NBA basketball great, was the centerpiece of a team led by Ray Crowe, a remarkable coach. Their backgrounds and what drove them are woven into the exciting descriptions of games. Excessively readable, this should appeal to sports fans and those looking for a good book about the civil rights era. Exemplary notes and sources will push readers—adults included—to learn even more.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2018)
Acclaimed author Hoose (The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, 2015, etc.) returns to his home state with the true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indianapolis, anchored by one of the greatest players of all time. Recently honored with the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Oscar Robertson is known for his accomplishments both as an athlete and advocate for NBA players. However, few know the story of how the Naptown basketball savant was able to lead his segregated high school to back-to-back state championships. Hoose does a brilliant job of portraying the surrounding historical context, exploring the migration of black families from the South to Indiana, showing how Jim Crow practices were just as present in the North as in the South, and describing the deep groundswell of support for basketball in Indiana. The inspiration for the book was the Big O himself, who told Hoose that the Ku Klux Klan “did something they couldn’t foresee by making Attucks an all-black school. The city of Indianapolis integrated because we were winning.” Could basketball have served as a pathway to racial progress within the Hoosier state? Attucks! doesn’t pretend that we’ve outlived the racism of the American past, all the while showing readers how being grounded in one’s self-worth and committed to the pursuit of excellence can have a lasting impact on a community. A powerful, awe-inspiring basketball-driven history. (biographies, sources, notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Phillip Hoose is the widely-acclaimed author of books, essays, stories, songs, and articles, including the National Book Award winning book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice.

A graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Hoose has been a staff member of The Nature Conservancy since 1977, dedicated to finding and protecting habitats of endangered species.

A songwriter and performing musician, Phillip Hoose is a founding member of the Children’s Music Network and a member of the band Chipped Enamel. He lives in Portland, Maine.

His website is philliphoose.wordpress.com/

Teacher Resources

Attucks! Educator’s Guide

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Swing by Kwame Alexander

Swing by Kwame Alexander. October 2, 2018. Blink, 448 p. ISBN: 9780310761914.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 610.

Things usually do not go as planned for seventeen-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since third grade, Sam, will never take it past the “best friend” zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool.

To go from lovelorn to ladies’ men, Walt introduces Noah to a relationship guru—his Dairy Queen-employed cousin, Floyd—and the always informative Woohoo Woman Podcast. Noah is reluctant, but decides fate may be intervening when he discovers more than just his mom’s birthday gift at the thrift shop. Inside the vintage Keepall is a gold mine of love letters from the 1960s. Walt is sure these letters and the podcasts are just what Noah needs to communicate his true feelings to Sam. To Noah, the letters are more: an initiation to the curious rhythms of love and jazz, as well as a way for him and Walt to embrace their own kind of cool. While Walt is hitting balls out of the park and catching the eye of the baseball coach, Noah composes anonymous love letters to Sam in an attempt to write his way into her heart. But as things are looking up for Noah and Walt, a chain of events alters everything Noah knows to be true about love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. Alexander (Rebound​, 2018) and Hess (Animal Ark​, 2017) struck gold with their collaboration on Solo ​(2017), and this spiritual successor follows the same free-verse format. While quieter overall than Solo, the quality of the poems and distinct characterization is still there. High-school junior Noah explains, “My best friend / Walt Disney Jones / is obsessed with jazz, / baseball, / dead famous people, / and finding cool, / if it’s the last thing we ever do.” Walt (aka Swing) is Noah’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to winning over his lifelong crush, Sam. Unfortunately, she has Noah firmly in the friend zone. On a serendipitous trip to the thrift store, Noah finds inspirational love letters written by an enigmatic author named Corinthian. With some meddling from Walt, Noah crafts artistic found poems from the love letters and leaves them for Sam to find. Ultimately a nuanced examination of changing friendship dynamics and first loves, this novel packs a punch into its shocking and extremely powerful ending torn straight from today’s headlines.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2018)
Seventeen-year-old Noah struggles with the feelings he has for Sam, a childhood friend, and is encouraged to express himself by an ebullient buddy. Noah and his friend Walt Disney Jones, aka Swing, are linked by a love of baseball. Swing is also obsessed with jazz and tries to make Noah a devotee as well. Along with their various personal dramas—Swing’s new stepfather, the romantic advice Noah is receiving—someone has been planting American flags around town, leaving folks to speculate who and why. At a thrift store, Noah purchases a travel bag as a birthday gift for his mother and inside he finds long-hidden love letters. They encourage him to put his feelings on paper, but Swing forces his hand by anonymously giving his writing to Sam, causing a rift between them. Then, out of nowhere, everything changes, and the innocence of their lives is shattered as their friendship troubles are put into perspective by something far more serious. The free verse tells a story as complex as the classic jazz music woven throughout. Noah is the narrator, but it is Swing, with his humor, irresistible charm, and optimism, who steals the spotlight. All the secondary characters are distinctive and add texture to the narrative. Swing is African-American, while Noah is white. Despite the easy flow of verse, there is a density to this story with its multiple elements. Lively, moving, and heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-18)

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.

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Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton

Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton. July 17, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 288 p. ISBN: 9781250102324.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

A funny, feminist teen story about knowing when to train . . . and when to fight.

Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously – until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She’s the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting . . . but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction. So she goes back the next week, determined to improve.

Fleur’s overprotective mum can’t abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring, why won’t she join her pilates class instead? Her friends don’t get it either and even her boyfriend, ‘Prince’ George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite – but it’s Fleur’s body, Fleur’s life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training. When she finally makes it into the ring, her friends and family show their support and Fleur realises that sometimes in life it’s better to drop your guard and take a wild swing!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Fleur’s pretty sure she’s a bad feminist. She doesn’t stand up to people the way her best friend, Blossom, does. She even muted Emma Watson on Twitter. So when one of Blossom’s crusades takes them to a local boxing gym, Fleur surprises everyone, including herself, by signing up for a class. She’s even more surprised when she goes back the next week. She’s the only girl there, it’s the hardest workout she’s ever done in her life, and no one, from her Pilates-preferring mom to her orderly boyfriend, is thrilled that she’s courting concussions and packing on muscle. But for the first time in her life, Fleur feels strong and willing to fight for something. Here Easton offers up a cheeky, girl-centric counterpoint to his acclaimed Boys Don’t Knit (2015). Lighthearted and irreverent, this British import is a feminist sports story rooted in humor. Readers will enjoy watching smart-mouthed Fleur gain confidence as a boxer and as a young woman, and the always-popular underdog sports narrative will attract many readers.

Publishers Weekly Annex (July 16, 2018)
A teen boxer’s dry sense of humor, as well as her quirky friends and small English town, charm in this empowering coming-of-age story. Sixteen-year-old Fleur lacks true passion about most things in her life, but when her best friend, Blossom, a fired-up feminist, enlists her to help with a protest over gender restrictions at a local boxing club, Fleur signs up for a class on a whim and slowly comes to love it. Her stodgy boyfriend, her anxious and protective mother, and even Blossom don’t understand Fleur’s commitment to her new interest, and at times-such as when she’s sweating profusely and nearly puking-Fleur’s not sure about it herself. But as the weeks pass, what started as a lark becomes the most serious thing in Fleur’s life, rippling out across all her relationships, as she trains hard and sets the goal of stepping into the ring for a match. Fleur’s newfound strength, both physical and emotional, and her changing attitude toward herself build to a satisfying final round. Ages 13-up.

About the Author

T. S. Easton is an experienced author of fiction for all ages and has had more than a dozen books published. He has written under a number of different pseudonyms in a variety of genres. Subjects include vampires, pirates, pandemics and teenage agony aunts (not all in the same book). He lives in Surrey with his wife and three children and in his spare time works as a Production Manager for a UK publisher.

His website is www.tomeaston.co.uk

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Coming Up Clutch by Matt Doeden

Coming Up Clutch: The Greatest Upsets, Comebacks, and Finishes in Sports History by Matt Doeden. January 1, 2016. Millbrook Press, 64 p. ISBN: 9781512427561.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.4; Lexile: 980.

The sports world is full of epic comebacks, upsets, chokes, and clutch performances. The most memorable buzzer-beating baskets, double-digit comebacks, and unexpected meltdowns are all here alongside vivid photos and lively writing from award-winning sports author Matt Doeden. From racing legend Man o’ War’s only career loss in 1919 to the 2017 Super Bowl’s incredible finish, sports fans will have plenty to digest. Doeden also writes about the science behind clutch performances and asks if some athletes are more clutch than others, or if being clutch is just one of the stories fans tell themselves about their favorite sports.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 5-7. It’s no simple thing to explain being clutch. The term itself falls short of fully capturing the intangible quality of the moment—or sequence of moments—that it describes. The best way to explain is to show, which is what author Doeden does in this compendium of sporting highlights. He reviews upsets, comebacks, epic chokes, and memorable last-minute heroics, before examining the science and psychology of being clutch, such as it is. The book is heavily skewed to American sports, with a couple of European mentions. Player profiles and anecdotes that don’t quite fall into those categories are listed in side boxes, such as a 1982 college football game that ended with a receiver plowing into the opposing team’s band, which had entered the end zone for a premature celebration. There is a nice balance of recent glories and legendary triumphs, so even casual sports fans might be familiar with some of the events mentioned. While there is no consensus on clutch, there is plenty for fans to consider and debate.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
A collection of clutch performances—and a few epic flubs. This rich gathering of thrilling finishes in sports history are mostly of recent vintage and cover the range of sports, including professional, collegiate, and Olympian. There is horse racing (Man o’ War, by far the oldest entry here, way back a century ago), the famous victory of the United States over the Soviet hockey team, Doug Flutie’s “hail Mary” pass, Brandi Chastain’s World Cup soccer goal, the New England Patriots comebacks during Super Bowl performances. Then there are famous individual performances from such stunners as Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles. Lest they be forgotten—as if they ever will—there are the world-class chokes such as Bill Buckner letting the ball go between his legs, Jean Van de Velde losing a three-point lead at the 1999 British Open on the last hole, Lindsey Jacobellis “showboating” to a loss in the Olympic snowboarding race in the final seconds. In the end, Doeden asks the question that nags at readers throughout the book. Are there just plain old clutch performers, or are they just the best players on the team doing what they do best—score? The answer, Doeden sensibly suggests, is in preparation and the handling of nerves. A fine collection of archival photographs accompanies Doeden’s fast-paced, colorful storytelling. As breezy a collection of sports stories as anyone could want on a lazy afternoon. (Nonfiction. 10-16)

About the Author

Matt Doeden was born in southern Minnesota and lived parts of his childhood in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and Madison, Minnesota. He studied journalism at Mankato State University, where he worked at the college newspaper for three years. In his senior year, he served as the paper’s Sports Editor, which put him in charge of the entire sports section, the sports writers, and the photographers. He covered mostly college sports, but also the Minnesota Vikings, who held training camp at MSU.

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Upon Further Review by Mike Pesca

Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History by Mike Pesca. May 15, 2018. Twelve, 308 p. ISBN: 9781455540365.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 1200.

From Mike Pesca, host of the popular Slate podcast The Gist, comes the greatest sports minds imagining how the world would change if a play, trade, injury, or referee’s call had just gone the other way.


No announcer ever proclaimed: “Up Rises Frazier!” “Havlicek commits the foul, trying to steal the ball!” or “The Giants Lose the Pennant, The Giants Lose The Pennant!” Such moments are indelibly etched upon the mind of every sports fan. Or rather, they would be, had they happened. Sports are notoriously games of inches, and when we conjure the thought of certain athletes – like Bill Buckner or Scott Norwood – we can’t help but apply a mental tape measure to the highlight reels of our minds. Players, coaches, and of course fans, obsess on the play when they ask, “What if?” Upon Further Review is the first book to answer that question.

 

Upon Further Review is a book of counterfactual sporting scenarios. In its pages the reader will find expertly reported histories, where one small event is flipped on its head, and the resulting ripples are carefully documented, the likes of…

What if the U.S. Boycotted Hitler’s Olympics?

What if Bobby Riggs beat Billie Jean King?

What if Bucky Dent popped out at the foot of the Green Monster?

What if Drew Bledsoe never got hurt?

Upon Further Review takes classic arguments conducted over pints in a pub and places them in the hands of dozens of writers, athletes, and historians. From turning points that every sports fan rues or celebrates, to the forgotten would-be inflection points that defined sports, Upon Further Review answers age old questions, and settles the score, even if the score bounced off the crossbar.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
What if Broadway Joe had failed to deliver on his audacious prediction of a Jets victory in Super Bowl III? What if the Dodgers had remained in Brooklyn? What if Bill Walton’s knees had not given out early in his NBA career? Though difficulty in accessing portals to alternate universes may prevent readers from checking the veracity of these 30 speculative essays, the imaginative authors Pesca has enlisted (mostly from among sports journalists) help readers understand current realities in the world of sports by showing how quite different realities could easily have developed under different but quite conceivable circumstances. Even when the essays focus largely on a single sports star (such as Tom Brady or Wayne Gretzky), their what-if conjectures open onto fundamental questions about the character of entire teams, leagues, sports, and fan bases. The essay contemplating the hypothetical effects of an American boycott of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin even compels readers to consider the potent influence of sports on geopolitics. A thought-provoking venture into sports’ road-not-taken possibilities.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2018)
More than 30 what-if stories that reinvent sports history, and perhaps the greater national history.Former NPR sports reporter Pesca, host of the Slate podcast The Gist, asked his contributors to give the full trajectory of the what-if, not just how one game may have played out had Bill Buckner not booted a routine ground ball or Drew Bledsoe not gotten hurt and given way to Tom Brady. The author wants the bigger picture: how it might have changed the sport, a life, the politics of a nation, or paved over major cultural roadblocks, like racism. That is a tall order for rather short fantasies—roughly five to 10 pages—but a surprising number pull it off. “What If Nixon Had Been Good at Football?” by Julian Zelizer, is a wonderful little psycho-sporting profile that presents Nixon as a confident, honest, comfortable-in-his-own-skin man. “What If Roger Bannister Trained Today?” asks Liam Boylan-Pett. Instead of squeezing in a few hours per week between medical school classes, what if he had followed today’s rigorous training regimens? Probably a new world record. What if Muhammad Ali had gotten his draft deferment? What if professional football were invented today? With what we know about head trauma, we might have very different play and players. For those readers who are intimate with a particular event—e.g., what if Billie-Jean King had lost to the huckster Bobby Riggs? What if Brady hadn’t stepped in for the injured Bledsoe?—these counterfactual stories may feel thin on the bone. There are, for instance, lots of reasons besides Brady that the New England Patriots are the dynasty they have become, and it does feel like coaches, other players, and the general state of the sport at the time get short shrift. Other notable contributors include Leigh Montville, Jeremy Schaap, Will Leitch, and Mary Pilon. Some quibbles aside, this is sports escapism brought to new and entertaining heights.

About the Author

Mike Pesca is the host of the daily podcast The Gist. For ten years he was a reporter for NPR, where he primarily covered sports. He has covered Super Bowls, Final Fours, the World Series, the NBA Finals, the Olympics, the World Cup, the World Series of Poker, and the Westminster Dog Show. In addition to hosting the NPR News Quiz Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, his work has been featured on This American LifeRadiolabInside the NFL, as well as in Baseball Prospectus and Basketball Prospectus. He is the winner of two Edward R. Murrow awards, one for his coverage of high school football, another for his analysis of the monetary value of Crackerjacks being mentioned in the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” He was a two-time winner of the Emory University Intramural Softball Official of the Year.

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Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtijah Muhammad

Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtijah Muhammad. July 24, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9780316477000.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 960.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ibtihaj Muhammad smashed barriers as the first American to compete wearing hijab, and made history as the first Muslim-American woman to medal. But it wasn’t an easy road–in a sport most popular among wealthy white people, Ibtihaj often felt out of place. Ibtihaj was fast, hardworking, and devoted to her faith, but rivals and teammates (as well as coaches and officials) pointed out her differences, insisting she would never succeed. Yet Ibtihaj powered on. Her inspiring journey from a young outsider to an Olympic hero is a relatable, memorable, and uniquely American tale of hard work, determination, and self-reliance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

Author Video

Short Biography via ESPN

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 21))
Grades 6-12. “Black but Muslim. Muslim but American. A hijab-wearing athlete.” Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic medalist in fencing and the first Muslim woman to represent the U.S. in international competition, explores identity, her path to the 2016 Olympics, and their intersection in this eye-opening memoir adapted for young readers. Muhammad was always competitive, especially when it came to sports. Wearing a hijab and coming from a large family, she realized that fencing allowed her an easier way to maintain her faith than in other sports and work toward a scholarship for college. And it turned out she was excellent! More difficult than the rigorous physical and mental training, however, was trying to fit into a predominantly white, male sport. Muhammad describes her struggles with classmates, teammates, referees, and even the public at large, who only saw her as an outsider. She also relates how finding a community of fencers of color, supportive family and trainers, perseverance, and, above all, her faith helped her overcome adversity. As she succeeded and gained media attention, she recognized that she could be a role model for other young women, young Muslims, and young people of color. Indeed, Muhammad’s story is an inspiring one that will encourage readers to question what it means to be American.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
Muhammad, Olympic medalist for the U.S. fencing team, presents a memoir emphasizing the role of sports in her life. Muhammad, a black, Muslim American who grew up in New Jersey, was raised by loving, supportive parents in a stable home. Her parents had many expectations of her and her siblings, one of which was that they would always participate in a sport. Some readers know the general story of how Muhammad finally picked and stayed with fencing—a sport in which she could wear the team uniform without compromising the modest attire required of her faith—but there are surprises in the details. Muhammad’s experiences in schools, in sports, in social situations, and in national and international competitions include moments of joy and exhilaration as well as many periods of isolation and self-doubt. The honesty in her writing makes it easy to connect with her journey, so that even readers who are not interested in the details of fencing will want to keep going to see how she made it all the way. Her dedication is impressive, and the many other people populating the pages of her memoir create a portrait of what it takes to make a champion. Readers who are already fans of Muhammad will love her even more, and all readers will gain much inspiration from this heartfelt memoir of a true American hero. Like Muhammad herself, this book is a timely gift to us all. (glossary, interview) (Memoir. 10-18)

About the Author

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American sabre fencer, is a 2016 Olympic medalist, 5-time Senior World medalist and World Champion in the sport of fencing. In August 2016, she became the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in hijab and is also the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal for the United States. Ibtihaj is a 3-time All American from Duke University, with a dual degree in International Relations and African Studies. In 2014, Ibtihaj launched her own clothing company, Louella, which aims to bring affordable modest fashion to the United States market.

Ibtihaj is a sports ambassador with the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative, and works closely with organizations like Athletes for Impact and the Special Olympics. Named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential list, Ibtihaj is an important figure in a larger global discussion on equality and the importance of sport. Her voice continues to unite both the sports and non-sports world

Her website is www.ibtihajmuhammad.com/

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