The Summer Olympics are now in progress in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I know, I know, in the U. S. of A, we spell it with Z, but in Portuguese it’s spelled with an S. Anyway, I thought I’d focus on sports that are featured in the games. Swimming and diving are, of course, featured, as are track and field sports, and soccer, a.k.a, futebol. In Brasilian Portuguese it’s pronounced “foot Che bol,” at least in northeastern Brasil.
My favorite sports category is Equestrian, which is actually several disciplines rolled into one group. I love watching the power and grace of a horse take a jump–a five foot high solid looking wall–or gallop pell-mell down a slope or through water. http://useventing.com But my most favorite horse sport is Dressage, the French word for training. The rider must be quiet and relaxed on her horse, but also in control asking the horse to stretch out its stride or collect its body enough to move in place. If you can get that much into harmony with your horse, your soul will soar. And the training you have to do is mind boggling, because you’re not only controlling your body, you’re also controlling another sentient being. For more information on dressage go to http://usdf.org/.
But I digress, so back to our book collection for this week. Enjoy.
Though I’m pretty sure Free Diving is not an Olympic sport, swimming and diving certainly are. And my Scottish ancestry always demands I include any story that has anything to do with Scotland. To clinch my decision to include this book, it’s very well written.
The Art of not Breathing
Elsie and her family live on Black Isle in the North Sea end of Scotland. She and her family are not a happy lot since the death of Elsie’s twin brother five years earlier. Eddie was a bit on the slow side and had always to be in someone’s care. That fateful day at the beach he was wading with Elsie, but he wanted to swim to where their older brother, Dillon, was swimming. Finally Elsie got tired of Eddie’s whining and told him to swim off. That’s the last she ever saw of him. So, of course, she blames herself and is sure her family hates her for it. Now at sixteen, Elsie acts out her problems by shoplifting, lying and not participating in school and Eddie talks to her in her head. She has a very low opinion of herself, exasperated by being overweight. Though the family does still go to the beach, no one is allowed to swim, nor even wade in the surf. Elsie discovers that the long shuttered clubhouse is now being renovated and will open as a hangout and diving school. She has her own private hiding spot in the old boathouse, or at least she thinks it’s her private space until she meets Tay. He says he has hidden there longer than she has, but they agree to share. He entices her to try free diving—that is diving as deep as she can with no equipment, just the air in her lungs. She finds memories of the day Eddie drowned coming back and she begins to piece together what really happened and who was involved. This is a well told story of family dynamics, dealing with grief, and love. There are many teachable moments in it.
BIBLIO: 2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 14 +, $17.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
Competition is sometimes healthy and is natural to our animal natures. Plus this is a sweet story.
Hoppelpopp and the Best Bunny
Illustrated by Angelika Kaufmann
Translated by Cäcilie Kovács
Five little rabbits—Binnie, Benny, Bernie, Bonnie and Buddy—are best of friends who share everything, and cuddle into one furry ball when they sleep. That way they can shoo away Buddy’s bad dreams. They give no thoughts as to who is better than whom while they play their games. The best buddies share everything, whether it is a pile of leaves to jump in or some yummy clover to eat. That is how it always has been and how it always will be. That is until a very big rabbit named Hoppelpopp comes to visit and asks who’s the fastest. He set the friends against each other on different tasks. Soon Binny proves to be the fastest, Benny the strongest, Bernie the smartest and Bonnie the bravest, so the bunnies no longer play or sleep or eat together. Buddy feels left out because he isn’t the best at anything. As he sits feeling sorry for himself, he smells danger. A badger is coming! Buddy thumps his leg until his friends come. Together they chase the badger away and go back to being best friends, which is the most important thing to be best at, anyway. A sweet story about sharing, this book was originally written in German. This is the first American edition.
BIBLIO: 2015 (orig. ?,) Holiday House, Inc., Ages 3 to 6, $16.95.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Picture Book
This is a very encouraging book for kids who don’t like to be forced into niches that are not for them. I remember my English teacher in my senior year of high school pulled me aside to scold me. She had taught my brother Bill the year before, when she was being a student teacher. So she said to me that she expected more of me because of my brother. When you’re the youngest of four kids, you get tired of being compared. I said to her, “If you ever want me to turn in any assignment, you won’t ever compare me to my brother again.” She pretty much left me alone for the rest of the year.
Losers Take All
Jack Logan is the youngest son of a local high school football hero, who was destined for professional football fame until he wiped out his knee in college. But his town still worships him and expects his sons to keep up the family tradition. The older two boys did, but Jack’s not interested. He’d rather hang out with the computer geeks. When the school principal dies of a heart attack during the beginning-of-the-year sports rally, and the school gets a new principal, sports are all that matter. The new principal is the football coach and insists Jack play football. Unfortunately, during the first practice, the biggest jock on the team gets bent out of shape when he can’t stop Jack from running past him and scoring. So the jock does what jocks do best—grabs Jack from behind and smashes him face first into ground. Jack wakes up in the hospital with a broken nose and his jaw wired shut. That’s enough football for him, so he starts a soccer team featuring his non-athletic friends all bent on losing every game. They convince the Latin teacher to be their coach because he’s British, and therefore, should know something about soccer, a.k.a. football. They set about to quietly lose their eight games and go back to their real lives. Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—the media gets wind of what’s going on and the Losers become world-wide celebrities. Things compound from there, but in the end Jack and the rest of his team learn things about themselves and life in general. In particular, even supposed absent-minded Latin teachers have seamy secrets. The book is amusing and, for the most part, well-written. The book will stimulate classroom discussion of what role sports should play in school.
BIBLIO: 2015, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers, Ages 14 +, $17.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
The colors I use to separate the three reviews have some connection–in my mind, at least–to what the story is about. See if you can see the connection. And please let me know. Thanks for reading my blog. Sarah