What’s Your Favorite Olympic Sport?

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.

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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

Sarah Alexander

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

ISBN: 978-0-544-63388-9

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Competition is sometimes healthy and is natural to our animal natures. Plus this is a sweet story.

Hoppelpopp and the Best Bunny

Mira Lobe

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

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3287-5

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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

David Klass

      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

ISBN: 978-0-374-30136-1

ISBN: 978-0-374-30137-8

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

Happy Summer

This may show up twice because I’m having trouble getting this blog to load on my site.  So just read it once, unless it thrills you so much you just have to read it again.

Anyway, I do hope everyone is having a happy summer and not getting flooded out, dried out, blown away, or burned out.  Time on the beach or in the pool or in the garden or on the golf course or paddling up the river is a good thing, so do try to get some of that in. Ride a horse in the woods and cool off your soul with the beauty of the woods and the serenity of being with a special companion.  Take the dog for a long walk and a swim in the river.  Wherever you are, be sure to have at least on book along for company. 

For this post I included books that take place in the summer or include summer time activities.   Hope you enjoy them.

I do not recommend this first book except as a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t let your daughters spend time in ritzy resort towns without supervision.

Beach Lane: Summer Fun in the Hamptons!

Melissa de la Cruz

      If you like books about “Barbie Doll” spoiled brat, teenage girls, this is the book for you. Originally published as The Au Pairs, it is told from the points of view of three girls who take jobs as Au Pairs to a family of wealthy children whose parents really can’t be bothered with them. Eliza Thompson is used to summer in the Hamptons, but only as a member of the elite. Now, thanks to her father’s bank fraud disgrace, she has to take the bus from her new home in Buffalo to be the hired help. Her parents wouldn’t even buy her a plane ticket. Mara Waters is used to scrimping and thrilled to be out of Sturbridge for the summer, even if her boyfriend, Jim, was scalding mad that she was going. Jacarei (Jacqui) Velasco is from São Paolo and is quite used to picking up older men to help her on her journey. The girls get to the Hamptons and meet at their employers’ house. Although the girls do adjust their views of the world a bit during the summer, Eliza and Jacqui stay pretty much the same throughout the book—obsessed with pretty clothes and pretty boys. Mara learns to salivate over the same things. She and Eliza do try to take care of their four charges, but Jacqui conveniently comes up missing when any real work is to be done. This book will do nicely if you want to encourage your teen daughters to drink, smoke and have sex.

BIBLIO: 2013 (orig. 2004,) Simon & Schuster BFYR/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Inc., Ages 14 +, $9/99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7409-3

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0765-2

 

The second book has to do with scuba diving and treasure hunting, which many people do on vacation.

In Too Deep

Coert Voorhees

      Annie Fleet loves scuba diving, history and searching for treasure, which makes her feel even more out of place at the fancy private school she attends in Los Angeles, California. She’s surrounded by very wealthy kids, who, if not actors themselves, are the children of actors. Annie goes there because her father teaches there. She is going on a community service/treasure hunt to Mexico and the hottest guy in school, Josh Rebstock, is also going. The community service bit is hardly worth mentioning as far as Annie’s concerned and since she’s not much of a party girl, she’s bored with the after-work-hours drinking. Finally, they’re done with the community service part of their trip and on to the treasure hunt. Unfortunately, Annie is left for dead by her diving partner after she recovers a clue to the famed Golden Dragon, but makes it to the surface in tact. The rest of the story follows Annie and Josh trying to find the treasure and out wit the bad guys. It’s a rollicking good story with well drawn characters and lots of excitement. Teachers can use it as a jumping off point for history, social values or science.

BIBLIO: 2013, Hyperion/Disney Book Group, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4035-1

     

The last book is a good tale of learning to stand up for yourself and why it’s good not to lie.

The League

Thatcher Heldring

      Eighth-grader, Wyatt Parker, wishes he was macho enough to not be picked on. Plus, he wishes the girl next door, Evan Robinson, would get romantic feelings towards him instead of the hulky quarterback, who seems to be all muscles and self-assurance. Still Wyatt’s at the movies with Evan and the quarterback isn’t. But Wyatt decides he’ll go out for summer football, so he can toughen up. Only problem, his dad has signed him up for golf camp, so they can play golf more often. Wyatt doesn’t even really like golf, but he’s not used to going behind his parents’ backs. And his best friend, Francis, is psyched about going to the golf camp also and hanging out with Wyatt. Wyatt’s younger sister, Katie, is also very excited about going to the camp. Older brother Aaron, introduces Wyatt to the “League of Pain,” a no holds barred, tackle football league that plays in a secluded part of the community’s sports park. His father won’t let him out of the golf camp, so he lies about it, telling the camp he’s going to a space camp instead. Then he hurts Francis’ feelings by not even calling to say he won’t be going to the professional golf tournament they have tickets for. Wyatt does get more muscular and more respected by the end of the two-week long league. Along the way, he discovers that telling lies and being deceptive really aren’t cool. He also learns that he can stand up for himself without giving in or being a bully. This is an engaging story, with good characters and could be useful in classroom discussions about bullying and self-esteem. There could have been a bit more effort to explain why the parents don’t seem to want much to do with their older son.

BIBLIO: 2013. Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Inc., Ages 13 to 17, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-385-74181-1

ISBN: 978-0-375-99025-0

ISBN: 978-0-375-98713-7

Whatever you do this summer have a good time and wear sunblock.  Talk to you soon.  Sarah