Elem. – History of Sports (Series NF)

Abdo, Kenny. History of Sports. ABDO Books, 2020. $20.00 ea. $120.00 set of 6.  24 p. Grades K-3. 

History of Basketball. 978-1-532-12738-0.
History of Baseball. 
978-1-532-12737-3.

History of Football. 978-1-532-12739-7.
History of Golf. 978-1-532-12740-3.
History of Gymnastics.  978-1-532-12741-0.
History of Soccer 978-1-532-12742-7.

History of Baseball gives a brief history of baseball, from the beginning to current times. The game of baseball is briefly explained; however, it is not an in depth explanation. There is a table of contents, glossary, and an index, as well as a page with a QR code that can be scanned for additional information. There are several full color photos found within the book  to demonstrate the different aspects of baseball that are being discussed.

THOUGHTS: This is a great introductory resource to help students learn how to use nonfiction books. This will definitely help any student who is not familiar with baseball to do research; however, it is extremely simple at times. Overall, this is a nice addition to an elementary nonfiction collection but not necessary.

796 Sports          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

MG – Golden Arm

Deuker, Carl. Golden Arm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. $17.99. 978-0-358-01242-9 . Grades 5-8.

Sixteen-year-old Laz Weathers may be slow, but he sees his future baseball prospects pretty clearly. His solid pitching gets no real training and won’t get noticed in his small, poor district. His own weak academics, his stutter, and his ‘tics’ in response to anxiety don’t do him any favors, either. It’s Laz’s younger half-brother, Alberto, who people respond to, and who will speak up when Laz can’t or won’t. But this summer, Alberto’s father has returned and moved in with their mom in their trailer park, causing initial resentment and adjustment by both boys. Laz convinces Alberto to stick with the scrappy baseball team led by Coach L—, who coaxes and cajoles thirteen youths to join the team, then badgers coaches of established teams to compete. Thanks to Laz’s pitching, they often win, which gets him noticed. Laz learns that his family must move (the trailer park will be razed for a high-rise) and that his district will eliminate baseball for his senior year. This allows Laz to join another team, if they’ll have him. A coach who noticed his “golden arm” will give Laz a chance, but can he leave when Alberto is being drawn into drug dealing? Just when Laz has the perfect chance to shine in a championship game, Laz learns his brother is in serious danger from his drug-abusing friends, and it doesn’t matter if Alberto has used, sold, or not–he’s the immediate target. Laz’s choices show his character and alter everything for his future.

THOUGHTS: Deuker shines with baseball scenes and infuses each interaction with tension and a sense of doom. This is hard to put down and will pull in baseball fans and non-fans (the sports writing is that superb). Readers will root for Laz, even as they see everything stacked against him. When the novel ends, I found myself wondering about a sequel showing Laz’s choices in a tough environment over the next 5-10 years, and how his integrity will be tested. This powerful, timeless novel melds baseball with the pressures of class status, mixes dreams with hard reality, and the result is a first-choice novel not to be missed.

Sports Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Talkin’ Sports (Series Nonfiction)

Talkin’ Sports. The Child’s World, 2020. $20.00 ea. $160 set of 8. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

Buckley, James. Talkin’ Baseball. 978-150383-571-9.
—. Talkin’ Basketball. 978-150383-574-0.
—. Talkin’ Lacrosse. 978-150383-576-4.
—. Talkin’ Motor Sports. 978-150383-577-1.
—. Talkin’ Soccer. 978-150383-573-3.
Gigliotti, Jim. Talkin’ Football. 978-150383-572-6.
—. Talkin’ Golf & Tennis. 978-150383-578-8.
—. Talkin’ Hockey. 978-150383-575-7.

“Play sports? Watch sports? Talk sports!” That’s the tagline for this series highlighting special sports terms, insider phrases, comical or descriptive terms, and player nicknames. Fans of these sports will want to check up on their lingo–historical and modern-day–and add some understanding to their use of it as they go. They may even think of plenty more to add to the mix. For example, “The slugger ripped a frozen rope into the gap and pulled up with a two-bagger.” Baseball translation: “A powerful hitter smashed a line drive (further defined) between two outfielders (further defined) & ran to second base.” These books will cause laughter, and comments such as, “that’s right” or “I didn’t know that was why…” as fans feel a bit more at home watching, playing, and talking sports. For the uninitiated, these books can solidify the lingo.

THOUGHTS: A fun series suitable for upper elementary and middle school. ( Titles reviewed: Talkin’ Baseball and Talkin’ Football.)

796 Sports          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Upper Elem/MS FIC – Smarty Marty; Invisible Emmie; The Night Garden; The Losers Club

Gutierrez, Amy. Smarty Marty Steps up Her Game. Cameron Kids, 2017. 978-1944903084. $13.95. Gr. 2-4.

Marty, who loves baseball, is the score-keeper for her younger brother’s little-league team. Having taught him all she knows (which is more than most grown-ups) about her favorite sport, Marty is there to cheer him on! At one game the announcer doesn’t show up, and Marty has the chance to make her announcing dream come true. Some people don’t like the fact that a girl is announcing the game.  What will Marty do?  THOUGHTS: This book is written by The San Francisco Giants in-game reporter Amy Gutierrez. The author knows what she’s talking about both in terms of baseball lingo, and what it’s like to be a woman expert in a male-dominated sport.

Sports              Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Libenson, Terri. Invisible Emmie. Harper Collins, 2017. 978-0-06-248494-9. 185 p. $22.99. Gr. 4-8.

Thirteen-year-old Emmie used to be quite the chatterbox, but lately she’s been pretty quiet. The only person Emmie feels she can talk to is her best friend, Brianna. But since middle school started, Emmie and Brianna aren’t in many of the same classes, so Emmie just keeps to herself, spending as much time as she can drawing in her journal. Emmie wishes she could pluck up the courage to talk more, especially to her crush, Tyler Ross. One day Emmie and Brianna are joking around and writing love poems to their crushes, and in a rush to get to next period, Emmie drops hers on the ground. The poem is picked up by the class bully/clown, and soon everyone in school knows that Emmie wrote a love poem about Tyler! To make matters worse, Brianna is frustrated that Emmie would be so careless with their top-secret notes. Emmie begins to feel like a puddle of slime, and finds that the only way to move forward is to speak up for herself. THOUGHTS: Invisible Emmie is a cute and funny story that upper elementary and lower middle school grades will enjoy. Libenson mixes images and text in a unique novel that will appeal to graphic novel fans, but delight parents or teachers who are looking for more text heavy titles.

Realistic Fiction    Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Horvath, Polly. The Night Garden. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-374-30452-2. $16.99. 292 pp. Gr. 3-6.

Franny is a twelve-year-old aspiring writer who lives with her two independent, adopted parents. Life is in balance on their large shorefront property filled with many old gardens, even though WWII is at their doorstep. However, that balance is disturbed when Crying Alice drops off her three kids and leaves to stop Fixing Bob from making a huge mistake. Soon, each character is facing some dilemmas, and the unusual option to have a wish come true through the magical powers of the night garden.  THOUGHTS: Horvath will have young readers laughing and delighted while moved and wondering the true question, “What is a wish worth?”

Historical Fantasy     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

 

Clements, Andrew.  The Losers Club. Random House, 2017. 978-0-399-55755-2. $16.99.  230 p. Gr. 4-7.

Alec loves to read. All the time. Even during class, when he should be paying attention to the teacher. So when the principal threatens Alec with summer school if he doesn’t stop reading during class, he is in a panic. Suddenly, having to attend the after-school program seems like a boon: three hours of uninterrupted reading time. Only, Alec learns he is required to join an established activity, like the programming club or, worse, kickball, dominated by his arch-nemesis, Kent.  Undaunted, Alec petitions to form his own club, the perfect front to sit by himself and read. When he convinces a fellow bookworm to sign on, the Losers Club is formed – the name designed to keep others from joining. However, students slowly migrate to the club, kindred spirits who would rather read than be bullied by Kent. But now Alec finds he spends more time managing the club than reading!  THOUGHTS:  Another delightful Clements offering, an ode to books and reading. Bibliophiles will enjoy finding all the titles mentioned in the book, and many quiet students are sure to identify with Alec.

Realistic Fiction     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Upper Elem. FIC – According to Aggie; Evil Emperor Penguin; Danger Gang…; Smarty Marty…

Beaumont, Mary Richards et al. According to Aggie. American Girl Publishing, 2017.  9781683370109. 115 p. $9.99. Gr. 3-5.

This graphic novel tells the story of Aggie Winters Frye, who deals with friendship issues in an elementary school setting.  The story is relevant to any girl who finds that her relationship with a childhood friend is changing.  Aggie’s friend Fiona begins avoiding Aggie and no longer wishes to join her on Friday Fun Day after school or go to the Ice-stravaganza.  At first, Aggie believes that she will be “unfriendable”, but she eventually becomes friends with a new student.  This is not a new story, but one that is meaningful to the intended audience who will easily relate to Aggie’s story. The graphic novel format is very appealing and the characters are from diverse backgrounds.  A short holiday story is included as well and readers can read more about Aggie in the American Girl magazine.  THOUGHTS: While this book is slight, the storyline and format will appeal to elementary students.

Graphic Novel; Realistic Fiction       Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

 

Anderson, Laura Ellen. Evil Emperor Penguin. David Fickling Books, 2017. 978-1-338-13274-8. 64 pp. $8.99. Gr. 2-5.

Evil Emperor Penguin, or EEP for short, is determined to rule the world.  With his sidekick, Number 8, and his minion, Eugene, he quests for world domination, but nothing ever seems to go quite right.  From “freezing” world leaders (but instead knitting them sweaters) to fear gas (that brings EEP images of his mother), nothing goes quite as planned, and everything goes awry when Evil Cat, EEP’s archnemesis arrives.  THOUGHTS:  This first book in a new graphic novel series is an elementary crowd pleaser.  Reminiscent of Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb, EEP is hilarious in his desire for world domination.  This is a fabulous addition to elementary graphic novel collections.

Graphic Novel     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Bramucci, Stephen. The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo. Bloomsbury, 2017. 978-1-61963-692-7.  375p. $16.99.  Gr. 4 and up.

Ronald Zupan is a master adventurer, the son of the famous Helen and Francisco Zupan. The only problem is that his parents have not let him come on any of their adventures. On the morning of his 12th birthday, his parents do not appear, and Ronald knows they are in trouble. He teams up with the family butler, the girl who beat him in a fencing tournament, and a pet boa constrictor, to go find them in Borneo. Much adventure ensues.  THOUGHTS: Written mostly in Ronald’s bold and exaggerated voice, interspersed with more realistic details from the butler, this tale is quite funny. It seems like it could be an annoying children’s book, but all three main characters grow and learn from their experiences. This would be a good book for 4th graders on up who like action, adventure, or funny stories

Action/Adventure; Humor     Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Gutierrez, Amy. Smarty Marty Steps up Her Game. Cameron Kids, 2017. 978-1944903084. $13.95. Gr. 2-4.

Marty, who loves baseball, is the score-keeper for her younger brother’s little-league team. Having taught him all she knows (which is more than most grown-ups) about her favorite sport, Marty is there to cheer him on! At one game the announcer doesn’t show up, and Marty has the chance to make her announcing dream come true. Some people don’t like the fact that a girl is announcing the game.  What will Marty do? THOUGHTS: This book is written by The San Francisco Giants in-game reporter Amy Gutierrez. The author knows what she’s talking about both in terms of baseball lingo, and what it’s like to be a woman expert in a male-dominated sport.

Sports              Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

New MS Realistic Fiction – Chloe in India; Friends for Life; The Closer; Cassidy’s Guide…

chloeinindia

Darnton, Kate. Chloe in India. New York: Delacorte, 2016. 978-0-553-53504-4. 224p. $19.99. Gr. 6-8.

Hoping to show their daughters, 15 year old Anna, 11 year old Chloe and baby Lucy, a different way of life, the Jones family moves from Boston , Massachusetts, to New Delhi, India. Change is difficult for Chloe who is one of the few students with blonde hair.  School is different too, as students sit on the floor more often in classes and report cards are hand delivered once a month with at least 70 different grades. Chloe hopes to be friends with Anvi and be invited to do activities together. A new student, Lakshmi, is called “stinky” by Anvi. Anna, now a uniform monitor, informs the family that Lakshmi is from the EWS, emotional weaker section. While Chloe misses and Skypes her best friend from Boston, it feels like their friendship is weakening to Chloe. Outside of school, Chloe spends time with Lakshmi. Chloe is shocked to learns that families in India would never have three children due to overpopulation. At first her mother is excited to see a revolution as poorer citizens have a chance for first rate education, but her mother is repulsed by the excess wealth that many families have in the area and especially at Aniv’s over the top birthday party. As Annual Day draws closer, Chloe and Lakshmi practice frequently outside of school. Their practice leads to great dancing, and Anvi does not get the lead dance role. In the restroom Chloe tells Anvi that she is not friends with Lakshmi. Shortly later, a bathroom door opens, and Lakshmi walks out having heard the entire conversation. It is her older sister who helps make things right in her friendship with Lakshmi. The sisters learn more about housing and corruption of wealth in the process.  THOUGHTS: Many students experience the uncertainties of moving around the state or throughout the United States. Not as many students are uprooted to another country and this book allows students to see what it might be like to be an outsider experiencing a new culture.  The mother at times is worked up about her writing deadline or concerned about social justice and has a curse word-reaction, once her dad does this as well. Chloe doesn’t like when she hears either parent swear. This book offer a realistic story of a moving, friendship and standing up for social justice.

Realistic Fiction    Beth McGuire, Wendover MS

 

friendsforlife

Norriss, Andrew. Friends for Life. New York: Scholastic, 2015. 978-0-545-85186-2. 234p. $17.99. Gr. 6-8.

Francis is fine eating lunch alone but would prefer that others not talk about his passion of fashion and creation of doll clothes. After a year of being a ghost and having no communication with anyone, Jessica is shocked that Francis can see, hear, and communicate with her.  Then shortly after, new neighbor Andi, “Thug, Thugette,” can see Jessica. The parents of Andi and Francis are shocked that their kids get along.  Andi doesn’t find Francis’ hobby odd as a relative makes a living designing clothes, but she has a hard time being teased regarding her appearance. Previously, Andi got in a lot of fights at school and at the new school she puts a stop to Quintin teasing. Both Francis and Andi wonder how Jessica passed and when they try to learn, Jessica is gone for several days. Any time they bring it up Jessica fades away. Francis is called to motivate a boy to go to school, and he is large in stature. This boy, Roland, can also see and hear Jessica.  Roland discovers the truth that Jessica committed suicide. All of those that can see Jessica seriously contemplate(d) suicide.  At the hospital, Jessica is able to stop a suicide, and she completes her journey. THOUGHTS:  This book reminds readers not to be afraid to talk or listen to one another. Your actions can help or hurt others greatly without your knowledge.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

closer

Ripken, Carl, Jr. and Kevin Cowherd. The Closer. Los Angeles: Disney, 2016. 978-142317868-2. 200p. $16.99. Gr. 6-8.

Danny, going into eighth grade, is having a difficult time finding the correct pitches and stamina to be a consistent pitcher. Mickey, the catcher, is his best friend. His other teammate, Katelyn, confuses him as she invites the entire baseball team to her bowling birthday party. As Danny struggles to find his niche with baseball, his older brother, Joey, is a phenomenal high school senior pitcher with talent, bringing scouts from all over to watch his playing. At home, Danny accidentally breaks the window of his new and octogenarian neighbor, Mr. Spinelli. To his surprise, Mr. Spinelli offers Danny advice and teaches him a eephus pitch. Danny seems to have a handle on the pitch and posts his pitching which goes viral and gets him interviewed by local news outlets. When his special pitch, nicknamed “terminator”, stops working, Mickey asks Elmo for scientific help. Eventually Danny asks Mr. Spinelli for help about baseball and then about art. Relationships highlight the jealousy between siblings that can exist and the friendship that can be developed with others if you just try. THOUGHTS: This book is like The Pigman meets Finding Buck McHenry! Students that enjoy realistic or sport fiction will be sure to like The Closer.

Realistic Fiction; Sports     Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

cassidysguide

Stauffacher, Sue. Cassidy’s Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation). New York: Knopf, 2015. 978-0-375-83097-6. 294p. $16.99. Gr. 6-8.

Eleven-year old Cassidy looks forward to summer. She enjoys spending time in nature, making pranks with Jack, and wandering like a hobo. It is just her rotten luck that when her great-grandmother passes her dying wish is for Cassidy to attend etiquette school while her older sister attends a forensic science class. Each chapter has a title and lively place settings, adding to the mood of the story. Cassidy is surprised that Delton, a smart and quiet classmate, is also enrolled in the etiquette course. They both struggle with the lessons providing humor to the readers. As the story progresses, Cassidy misses Jack and wonders why he is working so hard with lawn care and saving money. Etiquette lessons are the last place Cassidy wants to be during her summer, but it a rewarding experience for her. THOUGHTS:  This book is a fun summer read. It demonstrates that sometimes what one thinks will be terrible, such as etiquette lessons during summer, may not turn out that way.

Realistic Fiction   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

New Kid

newkid

Green, Tim. New Kid. New York: Harper, 2014. 978-0-06-220872-9. 307 p. $16.99. Gr. 5-8.

Brock Nickerson is the new kid. Last week his name wasn’t even Brock Nickerson. He only has his father left; his mother was killed. His father is very secretive about what he does for a living, but it keeps him moving to a new place and gaining a new identity every few years. The last time, his father pulled him out of his last at bat during a championship baseball game. Brock doesn’t ask much of his father. He wonders what his father does for a living, and he is often left alone, but his father is very unapproachable. Brock has a gift when it comes to pitching. He can throw some serious heat. Coach Hudgens notices this and invites Brock to come to his house and throw a few pitches. He then asks Brock to play on his travel team. Brock has a hard time convincing his father to allow him to play, but he finally gives in after meeting Coach Hudgens and his wife. Brock has some issues pitching, but Barrett Malone, a big league player gives him some pointers. Brock’s father shows up at his game during his last at-bat and wants to pull him out. Brock finally stands up to his father and asks to finish the game. What Brock doesn’t realize is that the game may cost him more than he is willing to give.

This is a book about baseball; I could feel myself in the stands, cheering for the team. I could see myself as a coach, realizing that something was missing from Brock’s life and wanting to help fill the void. It is about relationships, family and tough choices. It could easily be used to help students develop setting in their stories. Tim Green’s descriptions are vivid and lifelike. I felt like I was there with Brock.

Realistic; Sports    Kathy Gilbride North Pocono MS and HS