MG – Hazard

Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Hazard. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-1-481-42466-0. 146 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

Hazard Pay Stokes, or Haz as he is known to his friends and family, has found himself temporarily suspended from football over an incident with a teammate. Haz’s coach believes he needs some help with managing his anger before he is allowed back on the team. At the same time, his father has returned home from Afghanistan, which should be a happy moment for Haz. However, the reason his father came home is a tough one for the entire family, especially for Haz’s dad who has to live with the consequences of what happened in Afghanistan. Even though Haz believes therapy isn’t going to help him work through his feelings, he decides to play along and complete the assignments anyway and does in fact start to work through all of the tough emotions brewing inside of him.

THOUGHTS: Told through a series of emails, texts, reports, and assignments, the reader gets a close look at the events through Haz’s point of view. Haz’s lyrical way with words will keep the reader engaged. The topic and the format of the writing will appeal to more reluctant middle grade readers, especially boys.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – I Color Myself Different

Kaepernick, Colin. I Color Myself Different. Kaepernick Publishing, 2022. 978-1-338-78963-8. 40 p. $18.99. Grades PreK-2.

I Color Myself Different tells a true story from Colin Kaepernick’s childhood where he shared with his classmates that he was adopted. When Colin was in school, he had to draw a picture of his family and he drew his family as they were, and when he shared his picture with his classmates they had questions. Colin remembers what his mother told him when he asked her why he was different, and she explained how he was adopted into their family. Based on Colin recalling this conversation, he answers his classmates with, “I’m brown. I color myself different. I’m me, and I’m magnificent.” This prompts a discussion with his teacher about all the ways that families can share love.

THOUGHTS: This book could be a great introduction to adoption for a family to share or an inside look into Colin Kaepernick that many people might not be familiar with.

Picture book            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem./MG – Spectacular Sports (Series NF)

Doeden, Matt. Spectacular Sports. Millbrook Press, 2021. $25.99 each. $208.32 Set of 9. 64 p. Grades 5-8.

Coming Up Clutch: The Greatest Upsets, Comebacks and Finishes in Sports History. 978-1-512-42756-1.
It’s Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run. 978-1-728-41716-5.
The College Football Championship: The Fight for the Top Spot. 978-1-467-71897-4.
The Final Four: The Pursuit of College Basketball Glory. 978-1-467-78780-2.
The NBA Playoffs: In Pursuit of Basketball Glory. 978-1-541-54153-5.
The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes. 978-1-512-42753-0.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs: The Quest for Hockey’s Biggest Prize. 978-1-541-57838-8.
The Super Bowl: Chasing Football Immortality. 978-1-512-42754-7.
The World Cup: Soccer’s Global Championship. 978-1-512-42755-4.

This reviewer read It’s Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run in the Spectacular Sports series. This series offers meticulously-researched, well-written information, tons of sports statistics, and interesting full-color illustrations about high-interest sports topics that middle-level readers will be excited to learn more about. Each book in the series addresses a different major event in sports or sports history. The books include short chapters with catchy titles, captioned photos and diagrams, a glossary, and an index.

THOUGHTS: This series contains worthwhile additions for any upper elementary or middle level library that needs to add colorfully-illustrated, high-interest books about popular sports topics to its collection. (Title Reviewed: It’s Outta Here! The Might and Majesty of the Home Run.)

796s Sports          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

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