Sports Anyone?

Tonight marks the end of the 2014 Major League Baseball season as the San Francisco Giants play the Kansas City Royals in the seventh game of the World Series. Although I started out as a Washington Senators fan back in the 1950s, from the 1980s on I’ve been a Baltimore Orioles fan, so I have mixed feelings about who wins the series. I know, I know, a lot of you don’t care about baseball, but let me tell ya you’re missing out on a wonderful sport. My family has spent many a pleasant afternoon or evening listening to the sounds and sensations of being at a game. “Cold beeah! Cold beeah! Get your ice cold beeah!” Or “Hot Dogs! Buy your hot dogs heah!” Or “Crack! It’s a home run! Adam Jones smacks another one out!” And the warm, moist breeze coming from left field that lulls you into a happy easing of life’s tensions is an indescribable pleasantry. Of course, now a days, in an effort to entice younger fans to come to a game, ball park owners insist on making noise all the time. Little do they know that kids would probably come just for the game if they were given a chance.
But professional football is already in mid-season and pro basketball is just starting up, so sports junkies can still get revved up by their favorite team’s chances. I root for the Baltimore Ravens now, but also have a soft spot for the Washington Redskins and I root for the Washington Wizards, though they used to be the Baltimore Bullets.
There are other sports that have little coverage, but take a lot of strength and agility to perform. Have you ever tried surfing? I’m way to chicken to try it, but it does look like fun—scary, yes, but still exhilarating. Plus, to surf this time a year you’d have to be south of the equator where it’s spring and growing warmer. Makes it even more enticing.
As you’ve probably guessed my reviews this week are about sports. Hope you enjoy them.
I am the youngest of four redheaded children and my brother Bill was the true sports fanatic in our family. He taught me a lot about sports, including how to throw and hit “like a boy.” That’s a whole ‘nother topic we won’t go into this time. Anyway, during our youth back in the 1950s he had gone to a Senators’ game at the old Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. with some friends. All of a sudden he feels someone rubbing his head and then he hears a slurred voice saying “Bring me luck! Bring me luck.” Bill turned around to the fellow behind him and said, “What are you doing?” The very inebriated guy replied, “Don’t ya know? Redheads brings ya luck!” Bill moved.

Lisa Wheeler
Illustrated by Barry Gott
What more could a little kid want than a book that includes sports-playing dinosaurs? This time the dinos are playing baseball. And it’s a close game, with fine pitching, good hitting and an angry team manager who gets thrown out of the game. The story is told in rhyme and the illustrations, though cartoonish, give a feel for what the different dinosaurs look like. The vegetarian animals are on the Green Sox team and the meat eaters are on the Rib-Eye Reds team. Fortunately, they don’t try to eat the Green Sox. The game starts out as a pitchers duel, but after the Green Sox’ manager is thrown out of the game; his team begins to hit the ball. They’re up 3 to zip, but Reds come steaming back and take the lead 3 to 4. By the bottom of the ninth, the Sox have tied the game up. It’s up to Apatosaur to win the game for them. Strike one, then two, before old Apty smacks the ball over the wall. I think the readers will enjoy the game. When they are not playing baseball, the dinos play other sports: soccer, hockey and basketball.
BIBLIO: 2010, CarolRhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., Ages 3 to 8, $16.95
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-7613-4429-2
Now that the powers-that-be have rediscovered that exercise is good for children, we have a resurgence of stories about sports. This second book is about basketball. In my humble opinion, basketball players have the most beautiful bodies. They’re lean and muscular and agile and quick on their feet.

Lisa Wheeler
Illustrated by Barry Gott
The plant-eating dinos—Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Pachycephalosaur, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Jobaria and Lesothosaurus—are on the Grassclippers team and the meat-eaters—Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Raptor, Pterodactyls, Gallimimus, Allosaurus, Baryonyx and Compsognathus—are on the Meat team. The description of the game is in lively rhyme and the action is intense, with blocked shots, fouls, plenty of scores and even the half time show is full of excitement. The underdog Meats win just as the buzzer sounds. The illustrations are appropriately cartoonish, but factual enough to give the viewer an idea of what each creature looks like. Ms. Wheeler’s rhymes are very clever with a fast paced rhythm. Grown-ups will have an easy time and enjoy reading this to their young dinos. The basketball terminology also rings true.
BIBLIO: 2011, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Ages 3 to 8
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-7613-63-93-4
I don’t know about now, but back in the 1930s surfers wishing to surf the mile from Diamond Head into the beach had to be licensed. My Uncle Paul, who was always a daredevil, earned his license. And my father, at the age of 5, learned to swim near there. Of course, he almost drowned, as did the family dog, because they were swimming out to join my grandfather. Paco was extremely tired when he finally got back to shore ferrying his son and dog. Daddy never stopped swimming.
I can just imagine the feeling a surfer must have while riding a big wave. Probably the same feeling I had taking a horse over a big fence or when I was taking flying lessons. Like you own the world and you’re free of gravity.

Xtreme Sports: Surfing
S. L. Hamilton
Illustrated by Adam Weathered, Bishop Museum, Corbis, Getty Images, iStockphoto, National Geographic, Photo Researchers
The photos are outstanding and the quotes sprinkled throughout the book are a cautionary tale. What there is in the way of information is useful, including the brief history of Polynesians and Hawaiians inventing the sport, which they called the “Sport of Kings.” But the sport became popular in the States during the 1960s. Turns out the term “Hang Five” means walking to the front end of the board and hanging the toes of one foot over the edge. Surf boards are broken down into categories according to length. Long boards are longer than 9 feet (3 m) and are also heavier, which makes them easier to paddle and catch a wave, allowing the surfer to surf a small wave. Made popular in the 1960s, shortboards are less than 7 feet (2 m) long and weigh approximately 10 pounds (5 kg). They are great for tight turns or cutbacks, but are hard to paddle and control. Killer waves—16 to 50 foot (5-15 m) waves—require longer, heavier, streamlined boards called guns and should be attempted by advanced riders only. Sometimes big wave surfers get “tow-ins” to get out far enough and fast enough to catch the wave. Sort of like water skiing until you catch the wave. Other board sports briefly mentioned are kiteboarding, sailboarding or windsurfing, and skimboarding on “sleds.” Although the length of the book doesn’t give room for a whole tutorial, I would have liked a little information on how to surf.
BIBLIO: 2010, ABDO Publishing Company, Ages 12 +, $25.65
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-1-61613-005-3

Fantasize all you want

How about some fantasy for this week’s blog? There are 80 zillion books on the subject, or so it seems, and most of them are mediocre at best. On the other hand there are some worth noting.

I can’t decide whether I like fantasy or not, though I do like Sci-Fi. Actually, I like most anything that is well written. And that’s the problem I have with a lot of fantasy; it’s not well written. If you want to sample some good fantasy, read John Claude Bemis’ trilogy based on tall tales such as the nine-pound hammer. Along the way, you’re given a good dose of American history.

And we all fantasize about how we’d like our lives to be or how nice it would be to live in a peaceful world, where everyone is treated as an equal. Hope you enjoy my selections.

The first story is quite intriguing with all kinds of plot twists.

Jeanne Ryan
A cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for while discovering who your true friends are, this book does let the reader suspend disbelief for the most part. I’m not fond of prologues, though some of Shakespeare’s are spectacular, but this one isn’t and gives away that game players are never free of the “Watchers.” Plus the girl in the prologue never is mentioned in the story which follows. Seventeen-year-old Vee has watched other people compete for prizes given by an online game producer called Nerve and has laughed along with all her friends as the contestants do silly and embarrassing things. Successful competitors move up the levels to harder and more dangerous dares, but it’s all a fake, right? Vee is suckered in to win a prize that’s seems picked just for her. Since the outcome of her dare is a bit more revealing than she has anticipated, she agrees with her best friend that she will do no more. In the meantime, Vee is serving her six-month’s punishment for falling asleep in her car with the motor running, parked in the garage and everybody thinks she is suicidal. She isn’t and she works hard to prove that to her parents. The prizes entice her to try another dare, which makes her friend super angry with her. The good things about the dares are the hot guy she’s been paired with and the ever more enticing prizes—like a full ride at a top-notch fashion-design school. But is it worth it to be stuck in a locked room with several other contestants all armed with guns? In desperation, Vee smashes a two-way mirror and escapes with her friends, declaring the game to be over, but is it?
BIBLIO: 2012, Dial Books/Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Ages 14 +, $17.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3832-4

The second book could probably be written about real life events, but in my mind it still is fantasy. I don’t think anybody has worked out a program that will tell you whether your current heartthrob feels the same about you or whether you can manipulate him/her into falling for you. This is a fun read.

The Boyfriend App
Katie Sise
Audrey loves working with computers and spending time with like-minded friends, including super-hot Aidan. Even though Blake, ex-bff, and her minions call Audrey’s group troglodytes, Audrey is comfortable with Aidan, Nijit and Mindy. But Blake can’t stop tormenting Audrey. And to make matters worse, when Audrey’s dad was killed in an equipment failure at Blake’s father’s company, the official word was driver error. So Audrey and her mom got no monetary compensation from the company and Blake’s father publicly blamed Audrey’s father. Things get more and more toxic until the two girls have a physical fight because Blake throws away Audrey’s rabbit foot charm given to her by her father. Blake’s uncle, Principal Dawkins, announces a contest for who can build the best app and says the prize is $200,000 of college scholarship money. But her mother has banned Audrey from using her computer for a week. Not to be stopped, Audrey—trained by her father to be a super hacker—starts brainstorming app ideas. After a texting exchange with Aidan about the homecoming dance, she hits on the winning app—how to find the perfect boyfriend. And with the help of her cousin Lindsay, Audrey’s app is a smashing success, even though it does produce some unlikely matches. But when she accidentally discovers the buyPhone, so popular with all teens, has been programmed to make the user want to buy unnecessary things, she decides to show the company and Blake’s dad up. She succeeds; in the end clearing her dad’s reputation, getting her perfect boyfriend—Aidan—and making Blake’s dad own up to all his lies. Although Blake is a bit over the top in her bullying, the story is well told and could be used for classroom discussions of bullying, believing in oneself and building computer applications.
BIBLIO: 2013, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 13 +, $17.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-0-06-219526-5
ISBN: 978-0-06-219528-9
The last book is fantasy in the more classical sense, I suppose, with a Daphne du Maurier darkness to it.

Kate Cann
Rayne has been caught up in the evil power of Morton’s Keep since she came to work at the tea shop two and half months ago. She had left home to get away from family drama and fell into much more evil drama. When the story opens she thinks the evil has been contained and that she’s safe, with even a new boyfriend in the making. The boyfriend part has its ups and downs, but the evil part just keeps getting bigger. Plus many of the townspeople think Rayne has special powers to save the town from the evil. Morton’s Keep is an ancient manor house originally owned by man who could conjure of nasty spirits and other terrifying entities and his true believers have tried to restore his evil through themselves. The Watchers work to protect the Keep and town from such evil by lighting bonfires at the points surrounding the area which would depict a six-sided star. Rayne’s new boyfriend is a watcher and fire dancer, which makes her wonder whether he really is interested in her or is just using her special powers. The Keep’s present owner hires a new, female, manager, who convinces him to embrace the building’s storied dark mysteries. He is smitten by her as things turn darker and scarier. Soon Rayne realizes she’s the key to saving everyone and uses her powers to find the missing link which will let the Watchers capture the evil presence for good. Other than feeling the story took place 14th century England, when people didn’t have cell phones, and is a sequel to an earlier book, the book is enjoyable. I never did figure out how old Rayne is, since sometimes she seems like a teenager, but people give her alcoholic beverages to drink on several occasions.
BIBLIO: 2009, Point/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 14 +, $16.99
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-0-545-26388-7

When a little adds up to a lot

I’ve always loved anthologies because they present snippets of various writers’ styles, especially if the stories have a common theme. There are a number of good anthologies out there, but these three I thought were especially interesting. Hope you enjoy them.


First up is a compelling group of stories that will wrench at your heart. It’s definitely worth a read.

Diverse Energies: The Future is Here. Are You Ready?

Edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti

This anthology speaks to inevitable jumbling of the world’s cultures, frequently using dark dystopian stories. The horror exploded in Nagasaki and Hiroshima during WWII haunts “The Last Day,” Ellen Oh’s not particularly well written story tells of human survival and loyalty to friends. In “Freshee’s Frogurt,” which will appeal to boys, Daniel H. Wilson tells of a police officer questioning a teen who survived an attack by an-out-of-control robot. One of the better stories, “The Uncertainty Principle,” by K. Tempest Bradford, is about a girl caught up in a time warp, where the world constantly changes around her. In “Pattern Recognition,” Ken Liu tells of a boy who discovers the compound he lives in is full of lies. Greg van Eekhout’s “Gods of the Dimming Night,” is a compelling mix of improbability and mythic intrigue about an Indonesian-American boy who ends up fighting and killing a warrior from Odin’s army. “Next Door,” by Rahul Kanakia, pits “squatters” against property owners. Malinda Lo’s “Good Girl,” looking for her brother in the tunnels where non-purebloods live, falls in love with a mutt girl and finally realizes her brother is dead. “A Pocket Full of Dharma” is all the protagonist of Paolo Bacigalupi’s story wants but instead ends up with a data cube containing the conscience of the nineteenth Dali Lama in his pocket. Kidnapping a privileged Taiwanese girl not only nets Cindy Pon’s protagonist lots of money, but also creates a longing in the girl to see “Blue Sky.” “What Arms to Hold Us,” by Rajan Khanna, has the main character driving his robot to freedom. Finding one’s place in the universe is the well-written theme of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Solitude.” The stories do offer love, hope and family obligation, but enough with the dystopia.

BIBLIO: 2012, Tu Books/Lee & Low Books, Inc., Ages 12 +, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-60060-887-2


Though not strictly an anthology, all of the stories could be told separately and still hold their integrity. The characters all have sympathetic qualities to keep the reader engaged and rooting for them.

Tales from My Closet

Jennifer Anne Moses

Five girls are entering 10th grade at the West Falls High School, each with her own emotional baggage and an interest in the clothes she wears. Short Justine, the new girl at the school, wears a paper dress she bought just before her family moved from San Francisco—super cool there, not so much in New Jersey. Tall and drop-dead gorgeous, raven-haired Becka is missing Paris and twenty-six-year-old Arnaud, the stereotypically debonair French heartthrob she met there. She wears the scarf he gave her and the raincoat he’d lent her as part of her first-day-of-10th-grade ensemble. Becka’s best friend, Robin, a “shopaholic,” lands a summer internship in Manhattan with Becka’s aunt, super famous fashion designer Libby Pine. Banned from spending money, Robin gets creative with pajama tops or bottoms paired with classy looking belts and tank tops—all bought on sale with babysitting money. She loves her internship and is complemented on her style. Becka and Robin’s friend Polly is a swimmer, who obsesses over the size of her butt and any money her mother spends on her, since her father split from them many years ago. She and Mommy visit her paternal grandfather in his nursing home at least once a week. Ann’s parents want her to focus on academics so she gets into Princeton as her sister has, but Ann wants to be a fashion blogger and do all the drawing. She is super petite and feels she looks like a ten-year-old. Plus she has a tendency to be a blabbermouth. When her maternal grandmother gives her some vintage clothes, Ann feels transformed. The girls of course change during the school year and come to terms with themselves and their problems. This is a nicely told story, with real characters and real dreams.

BIBLIO: 2014, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-545-51608-2


I really enjoyed this one. It’s full of life and intrigue. All the stories have common elements to them.

Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands

Edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner

It is amazing the number of subcultures existing within our overarching culture. The culture of this anthology is probably well loved by “goth” kids. It’s the magical region between the human World and the Realm of the faeries (Elves) who prefer to be called the Truebloods. When the Way to Bordertown is open, runaways and kids looking for affirmation of hope flock there. But be careful, the elfin magic is quirky in this region and the Truebloods can be arrogant or cruel. Also know that time slows down here—two weeks in Bordertown equate to thirteen years in the World. A number of the stories are very matter of fact about sexual encounters amongst the teen protagonists or their use of drugs. No consequences discussed for these choices. But, for the most part, the characters are well drawn and the stories are compelling, though Cory Doctorow’s “Shannon’s Law” was confusing and “Fair Trade” (written by Sara Ryan and drawn by Dylan Meconis) took a second reading. And perhaps the best was saved to last: “A Tangle of Green Men,” by Charles de Lint, about a young Native American who goes to Bordertown to find the way across the Realm to the land where his dead wife waits for him. Instead, he finds a reason to live. Fantasy always opens a way to discuss life forces with kids and this collection of stories reaches out nicely to those looking for hope. The other authors are Terri Windling, considered the font of fantasy stories; Patricia A. McKillip; Catherynne M. Valente; Amal El-Mohtar; Emma Bull; Steven Brust; Alaya Dawn Johnson; Will Shetterly; Jane Yolen; Janni Lee Simner; Tim Pratt; Annette Curtis Klause; Nalo Hopkinson; Delia Sherman; Christopher Barzak, Cassandra Clare and Neil Gaiman.

BIBLIO: 2011, Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Inc., Ages 14 +, $19.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-375-86705-7

ISBN: 978-0-375-96705-4

ISBN: 978-0-375-89745-0

Siblings. Do You Love Them? Or Not?

I was looking at a photo of my brother Bill and me on his tricycle which made me smile. He died last year and I miss him, though he frequently did big-brother mean things to me, he always took care me when I needed it. When the picture was taken, I was three or four and he was a year and half older, with flame red hair and freckles. My hair hadn’t turned that red yet—more strawberry blonde at that point. I was standing behind Bill on the back step of his trike as he pedaled us around our backyard in Hollywood, California, when Mother snapped the picture.

Bill and I were forever getting into mischief, like the time we coated our entire bodies—except for our hair–in charcoal dust awaiting mixing into white paint so our house would be light grey. This was back in the early 1940s. We looked very funny until Mother had to scrub our skin with a brush and harsh soap.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to tell you about books that deal with sibling relationships. Hope you enjoy them.


Even sci-fi stories can have sibling rivalry in them and this book is a fun read.


Mark Haddon

Jim has a typical younger brother relationship with his 16 year old sister, Becky; he drops a cheese and jelly sandwich on her boyfriend, Craterface, and she smacks Jim upside the head. Then she tells him she overheard teachers at their school talking about what a poor student he is and whether they should transfer him to a school for kids with problems where there are bars on the windows and people howling. Something else for him to worry about along with watching his father play with model planes and sink into depression because he can’t find a job. Jim’s mother has a good job and expects her husband to do the household stuff, but he keeps forgetting and he’s an awful cook. Jim gets his best friend, Charlie, to help him figure out if he really is going to be expelled. Charlie’s way eager to help and sneaks a walkie-talkie into the teacher’s lounge just before the weekly staff meeting. Although they don’t hear any mention of Jim’s name, they do overhear two of the teachers speaking a strange language after the meeting. Things go downhill from there, leading Jim and Becky to run for their lives on Craterface’s motorcycle. Turns out the teachers are only two of many aliens bent on kidnapping humans to repopulate their planet. Jim and friends not only save the day, he becomes friends with his sister, gives his dad an attitude-changing cookbook which lands him a job and our hero is not expelled from school. Very funny book with lots of tension and a great alien language.

BIBLIO: 2009 (orig. 1992), David Fickling Book/Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Ages 12 +, $15.99

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-385-75187-2

ISBN: 978-0-385-75188-9

ISBN: 978-0-375-89364-3


I was happy to get this second book to review since I love reading about horses, but this one left a lot to be desired, plus the girl’s relationship with her sisters in mostly unbelievable.


Jessica Burkhart

Lauren has it all, or so it seems, in this introduction of her starring role within the “Canterwood Crest” series. But she does have to get over her fear of jumping caused by a nasty spill on a cross-country course and she does worry about being accepted into the elite Canterwood Crest boarding school where she hopes to further her riding skills. And then the older of her two sisters, Charlotte, is coming home from college for the summer, making Lauren anxious about their on-going sibling rivalry fight. But she does have her faithful boyfriend, Taylor, and her two BFFs who give her encouragement. It is amazing that her parents seem to have no problem with their twelve-year-old daughter going on real dates and wearing make-up, or that the younger of her two older sisters, Becca, has no resentment in being yanked away from school and neighborhood so Lauren can go to a prep school that will be a stepping-stone to her admittance to Canterwood Crest. The all too brief description of riding will disappoint horse-lovers and the obsession with make-up and clothes should make parents roll their eyes and sigh in disgust.

BIBLIO: 2011, Aladdin Mix/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster Publishing, Ages 8 to 12, $6.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1946-9


Have you ever lived through a tornado? If not, the description is this book will make you feel as if you had. The main character loses a lot, but in the end she gains much. You might even be able to find a copy in a book store.

Torn Away

Jennifer Brown

Just as she ‘s about to finish her junior year in high school, Jersey Cameron’s whole life is blown away when a massive tornado wipes out a large swath of her Missouri town. Her mother and younger sister, Marin, die and then her stepfather, Ronnie, ships her off to her biological father and her paternal grandparents whom she has never met. Her remarried birth father has twin daughters who are cruel to Jersey. She sleeps on the screen porch of her grandparents’ seriously overcrowded house. With the exception of her aunt, who lives in the house with her two out-of-control sons, everyone is mean to her and very un-accepting. Then she learns her parents didn’t separate in the way she had always been told; that her mother wasn’t as truthful as she could have been. Eventually she is foisted off on to her also unknown maternal grandparents, but by now is so hurt and angry and guilt-ridden for ignoring Marin, she is rude. Since her mother told her lies about them, she is surprised to discover they are good people who just want to help her heal. The description of Jersey’s surviving the storm all alone in the basement of her house is electrifying and her struggle to survive the pain and suffering she endures is emotionally powerful. The book is a good read and the characters are well defined.

BIBLIO: 2014, Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group, Ages 13 +, $18.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-316-24553-1

ISBN: 978-0-316-24551-7


Next week I’m going to tell you about some anthologies I’ve reviewed. Sarah