YA – Kneel

Buford, Candace. Kneel. Inkyard Press, 2021. 978-1-335-40251-6. 320 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Kneel follows Russell who is a talented football player from a small town looking for a full ride scholarship to escape. However, Russell’s teammate and best friend, Marion is unfairly arrested and then benched for the rest of the season, Russell decides to take a stand.  In doing so, Russell sets off a chain of events that he never saw coming and refuses to back down from. In the end, will Russell be able to enact the social change that his community desperately needs, or will he have to pick between social justice and football?

THOUGHTS: This was amazingly written, and felt extremely realistic. I enjoyed that each character felt unique to me, in how they dealt with racism as well as how they interacted with each other. This wasn’t too technical with football, which I appreciated as someone who isn’t familiar with football.  I would highly recommend this for a high school collection, and feel this would also make a great book to teach in a high school literature class.

Realistic Fiction          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

When practice runs late, Russell and Marion know that breaking down on the parish line between Monroe (their side of town) and Westmond (the wealthier side of town) is not the best spot to be. A few weeks ago the untimely death of teen Dante Maynard, who was killed by a white police officer for “looking suspicious,” rocked the local black community. The fact that Russell’s car could draw unwanted attention for its condition doesn’t add to his limited options as darkness approaches. Instead of the cops, though, Bradley Simmons, a varsity football player from Westmond, pulls up in a shiny BMW, and he taunts Russell and Marion about last year’s playoff whipping which ended with Marion being seriously injured and jeopardizing his football future. The pent up frustration doesn’t end, and animosity explodes when Monroe meets Westmond at center field for the coin toss. Unfair, one-sided refereeing leaves Russell injured. To make matters even worse, the cop that killed Dante Maynard is on game security, and he takes Marion off the field in cuffs. Though Russell promises Marion he’ll “handle this,” the deck is stacked against the boys, their team, and their community. Due to his pending charges, Marion is benched and barred from the team until his situation is resolved. In an instant, his only way out disappears. Russell realizes the only way to take a stand is to take a knee, and the repercussions of his action are more than he imagined. If the only way out of his situation is through a Division I football scholarship, what lengths will Russell go to in order to earn his spot, and will he have to give up his beliefs to make it happen?

THOUGHTS: Timely and thoughtful, Kneel transports readers right into the racial tensions. Readers will feel for Russell and be angered by the actions and the lack of action from local authorities. A must have for high school collections, this title also would pair well with classics and other contemporary titles dealing with similar topics.

Realistic Fiction         Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

MG -The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy

Heider, Mary Winn. The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy. Little, Brown & Company, 2021. 978-0-759-55542-6. $16.99. Grades 5-8.

For freckled-faced, dark haired Louise and Winston Volpe, the center of the galaxy is the 50-yard line of a football field in honor of their ex-quarterback player and now missing father, Lenny Volpe. Life was tough before their father disappeared, a victim of too many head-crushing plays as a Chicago Horribles team member, Mr. Volpe had trouble with his cognitive skills and executive brain function. After three years gone, the siblings burrow into their respective worlds: Winston taking up the tuba and Louise initiating a Science Club in order to experiment with ways to find her father. Flipping back and forth between eighth-grade Winston’s and seventh-grade Louise’s life, author Mary Winn Heider creates sympathetic characters trying to unravel an incredible mystery. Because their mother is buried in work and debt, the brother and sister are on their own a lot and the story takes place mostly at school. Winston’s friend and fellow tuba player, Frankie—who has a pigment condition—insists that the faculty of Subito School are an organized crime ring, and Winston willingly joins the investigation, spurred on when the teachers throw their tubas off the school’s roof. Louise, on the other hand, rejects the overtures of friendship from the other nerdy club members, even after they volunteer to use club dues for a bake sale to recoup the ruined tubas. She is more determined in perfecting a glowing GLOP cream and freeing the Chicago Horribles Football Team’s mascot, a bear. She does, however, develop an appreciation for pop star Kittentown Dynamo’s music. The two worlds collide at the football stadium’s half-time show: tubas, sinister teachers, Kittentown Dynamo, and the bear. Though the infiltration of the stadium and the bear rescue are far-fetched, they are entertaining. To balance this, the ending of this realistic fiction is not all wrapped up, but the characters do come to a healthy place in their family relationships and acceptance of their father’s demise.

THOUGHTS: When I started this book, I saw thin traces of other books in The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy: a less cerebral Wrinkle in Time where the daughter uses science to try to find her father;  James Ponti’s  City Spies where the kids are free-roaming, figuring their own solutions to problems and the adults are “other” and on the fringe; Jacqueline Woodson’s  Before the Ever After where the father has brain injuries from sports. Heider, though makes this book her own and uses unusual plot twists to lead these grieving siblings who are focused on their own sadness back to each other. Perhaps fourth graders would like this book, too; I extended the grade to 8 because Winston and Frankie are eighth graders and seem like they are headed for more than friends status by the book’s conclusion (he lets Frankie comfort him with a hug and he is thrilled to take Frankie to the Aquarium Dance).

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

YA – Game Changer

Shusterman, Neal. Game Changer. Quill Tree Books, 2021. 978-0-061-99867-6. 386 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Ash lives a pretty normal life as far as teenagers go. He has a younger brother, a crush on a girl, and a starting spot on the school’s football team. Unlike his best friend Leo, he really doesn’t think too hard about things like race or equality because he doesn’t have to – the world is laid out in front of him and he just has to live it. Unfortunately, that world is altered when Ash takes a hard hit during a football game. A rush of ice through his veins accompanies a universe shift as Ash jumps into another dimension; while many aspects of Ash’s life are the same, many things have changed! Stop signs are blue, his parents are rich, and… segregation in schools is the norm. Leo is Black, which means in this universe, Ash and Leo never became friends. In this universe, Ash’s life is significantly better yet also significantly worse, so Ash wants to get back to his original dimension…or perhaps, an even better one. As Ash tries to figure out how to put his world back together, he questions what he has always known and realizes he needs to shift his thinking.

THOUGHTS: Neal Shusterman has always been a young adult favorite, and this book is no exception. With an engaging plot line, relatable characters, and funny quips in dialogue, students will enjoy this book immensely. This is a fantastic purchase for high school libraries.

Science Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

MG – Science Gets Physical (Series NF)

George, Enzo. Science Gets Physical. Crabtree Publishing Company, 2020. $10.95 ea. $65.70 set of 6. 48p. Grades 5-9.

Physical Science in Basketball. 978-0-778-77557-7.
Physical Science in Cycling Sports. 978-0-778-77634-5.
Physical Science in Football. 978-0-778-77635-2.
Physical Science in Snow and Ice Sports. 978-0-778-77650-5.
Physical Science in Street Sports. 978-0-778-77651-2.
Physical Science in Water Sports. 978-0-778-77652-9.

Science meets sports in this series aiming to educate readers about the science behind popular sports. Organized into six chapters, each book explains how physics plays a part in the technique and function of each sport. Each book includes a science experiment readers can complete at home to gain a real understanding of the physics explained in the previous chapters. Glossary terms, Learning More, and Index sections help readers understand and navigate through the nonfiction text as well as encourages readers to learn more about the physics of sports. There are plenty of sidebars and photographs that highlight how the scientific theories explained in the text are demonstrated in the real world through contemporary sports.

THOUGHTS: A useful text for athletes seeking an advantage on their competition and for students eager to learn the science behind popular sports. It is a good addition to a collection of sports books and a good offering for teachers of physical science to share with students who may be reluctant to learn about science. The text and captions are easy to read and informative while the colorful, modern photographs make the information feel relatable.

796 Sports     Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

MG – Before the Ever After

Woodson, Jacqueline. Before the Ever After. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020. 978-0-399-54543-6. 176 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Known for her powerful verse, Jacqueline Woodson takes on a topic that many fiction pieces haven’t touched: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Admittedly, as a recent discovery in neuroscience, the condition may not be prevalent in large numbers of readers, but the awareness is beginning to spread. Middle readers who pick up this book, especially young athletes, will likely recognize some of ZJ’s dad’s symptoms throughout his story as having to do with his professional football career. Although awareness of CTE is important, the story ZJ tells in this book can be applied to any adolescent dealing with change and identity. It begs the question: What is the value of family traditions and memories?

THOUGHTS: Buy this book immediately, and hand it out to all seventh grade football players. In all seriousness, this short verse-novel can be the hook a lot of reluctant readers need into using literature to help explain trauma in their own lives.

Realistic/Verse Novel          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

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

Elem. – Sports Zone Series NF

Sports Zone. Capstone Press. 2020. $20.99 ea. $167.92 set of 8. Grades 3-6.

Chandler, Matt. Boys’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57425-8.
—. Football: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57357-2.
—. Gymnastics: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57358-9.
—. Tae Kwan Do: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57431-9.
Williams, Heather. Basketball: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57356-5.
—. Girls’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57427-2.
—. Hockey: A Guide for Players and Fans 978-1-543-57359-6.
—. Soccer: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57429-6.

Girls’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans is an immersive resource filled with a wide variety of lacrosse information, specifically for girls who would want to play this sport. This book contains the history, rules, gear required, strategies, and even additional information on this subject. While there is crossover between boys and girls in this sport in terms of rules and regulations, this book specifically discusses rules and information meant for females who would play this sport. This book is a great resource for those who are interested in learning more about lacrosse!

THOUGHTS: I appreciate the great detail, photographs, captions, and glossary items found within this book. It is very visual and appealing, all the while providing information. This book was well written in discussing how the rules vary between male and female lacrosse, informing the reader that there are many similarities, but there are some differences. A great read for anyone, male or female, who may be interested in this sport.

796.36 WIL          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Upper Elem/MS NF – Malala; SportsZone; 1st in Fashion

Frier, Raphaële.  Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education.  Charlesbridge, 2017.  9781632895912. 45pp. $17.99.  Gr. 3-6.

This French import is the biography of Malala Yousafzai and recounts the story of the young education advocate beginning with her life as a child through young adulthood.  Frier tells the story in a factual way and includes the history of the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan in the text. The author’s voice is clear as she discusses how the Taliban used violence to silence the critics of its policies in Pakistan.   Frier focuses on the Taliban’s impact on women’s civil rights, such as access to education, early marriage, and clothing. Aurélia Fronty’s full-bleed illustrations are done in a colorful folk art style, but appear to be flat and static. The illustration of the assassination attempt shows two shadowy figures with guns, while Malala is the focal point circled with yellow rays of light.  The next drawing shows Malala rising above another gun carrying shadow as she is transported via plane to England for medical care. The final page of the story shows Malala holding a bouquet of flowers and books, as the author discusses her honors and accomplishments, including the Nobel Peace Prize. The back matter is quite extensive and includes photographs and a timeline of Malala’s life.  There is also information on the country, a map, and languages as well as more on the accomplishments of Malala, including actual inspiring quotes. As an activist for the education of girls, Malala is an inspiration to middle-grade readers and shows that one person can make a difference. Frier’s text is designed for older readers, unlike Malala’s Magic Pencil, a more literary narrative for younger readers. THOUGHTS:  This biography nicely details the life of this remarkable young women and is a useful resource to begin research for a report. This book is a long read aloud but is a great choice to highlight during Women’s History Month.  Elementary and middle school libraries will want to add this inspiring story to their collections.

92, Biography            Denise Medwick, West Allegheny SD

 

NFL’s Top 10. ABDO SportsZone, 2018. 978-1-5321-1137-2. 32 pp. $151.60 set of 8. Gr. 4-8.

NFL’s Top 10 Coaches begins with an introduction and countdowns from the 10th best coach to the first rated coach. Coaches ranked 10-2 have a one-page spread containing paragraphs of facts and at least one photograph. The top-ranked coach, Bill Belichick, has a two-page spread taking a closer look at his development and successes in the NFL. Next is a section for 6 honorable mention coaches. Additional information includes a glossary and further resources. Abdo manages a website that updates web pages to visit related to football. The book concludes with a concise index and an about the author paragraph. THOUGHTS: The book has the potential to spark a lot of conversation with readers. The fact that Chuck Noll, a beloved coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is listed as the fifth best coach will generate a lot of discussion in western PA and readers that identify with the Steeler fan base. The book is sure to find lots of readers!

Football      Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

 

1st in Fashion (series).  ABDO, 2018.  32 p.  $18.95 ea.  Gr. 3-6.

Felix, Rebecca.  Eddie Bauer:  Down Jacket Developer.  9781532110733

Felix, Rebecca.  Louis Reard:  Bikini Designer.  9781532110764

Felix, Rebecca.  Mary Quant:  Miniskirt Maker. 9781532110757

Felix, Rebecca. Sam Foster:  Sunglasses Success.  9781532110740

Felix, Rebecca.  Chuck Taylor:  Sneaker Sensation.  9781532110788

Olson, Elsie.  Levi Strauss:  Blue Jean Genius. 9781532110771

Eddie Bauer: Down Jacket Developer provides straightforward information about outdoor enthusiast and entrepreneur Bauer. The highlight is the story of the near-fatal experience Bauer had with hypothermia that led him to invent a warmer winter jacket. While the text is merely serviceable, the book’s design is engaging, with appealing graphics and abundant photographs throughout.  A timeline, glossary, and index add to the book’s usefulness. THOUGHTS:  Recommended for elementary and middle school libraries where biographies are in demand.  

Biography          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

YA NF – Undefeated; Fetch

Sheinkin, Steve. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-59643-954-2. 280 p. $19.99. Gr. 7-12.

Known for his fast-paced and fascinating nonfiction narratives, Sheinkin delivers another well-researched, action-packed story in his newest title. In it, he ties together not only the story of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team, but also the stories of American football, Pop Warner, and Native American relations throughout U.S. history.  Sheinkin begins by providing biographical information about the early lives of Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner, as well as background information about the attitudes of white Americans towards Native Americans at that time and the founding of the Carlisle Indian School.  The lives of Thorpe and Warner ultimately intersect when Warner becomes Thorpe’s football coach at Carlisle, at which point the action really picks up.  Sheinkin moves season-by-season through Carlisle’s football history, explaining how its innovative coaches and players helped to modernize the game of football as we know it today, all while passively ignoring acts of discrimination like one-sided officiating and racist headlines.  Reading like a Hollywood underdog story, but sprinkled with factual information about the history of football and Native American relations, this title is a must-have for any school library.  THOUGHTS: Having read and enjoyed some of Sheinkin’s past award-winning titles, I was looking forward to reading this one, and he did not disappoint.  Sports fans, history buffs, and readers of biographies alike will find this book absolutely riveting.  It could be used in a classroom setting to spark discussion about racism and discrimination or paired with a fiction title like Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talker for a unit on Native American history.

796.332 Football; Native Americans      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Georges, Nicole J. Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, a Graphic Memoir. Mariner Books, 2017. 978-0-544-57783-1. 314 pp. $17.95. Gr. 10+.

At sixteen, Nicole Georges adopted a shar pei/dachshund mix puppy as a surprise for her boyfriend, Tom. Beija was meant to cement their bond and heal Tom’s childhood wounds, but the real bond formed between Nicole and her dog. A move to Portland and a break-up later, Nicole knows full well that Beija is no ordinary, well-behaved pet. She’s almost comically bent on misbehaving: baying, marking, and growling at all the wrong times and with all the wrong people. Nonetheless, she is Nicole’s beloved co-pilot through the generally painful process of growing up (and coming out), with the inevitable heartbreaking goodbye at the book’s end. Nicole’s journey through her teens and twenties is depicted in the author’s sharp, wonderfully expressive black-and-white illustrations. Beija in particular is lovingly drawn and charismatic. THOUGHTS: Equal parts soul searching and soul baring, Fetch is every bit as good as David Small’s Stitches and Ellen Forney’s Marbles, with the bonus presence of an unforgettable canine companion.

Graphic Memoir     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District