Monday, June 27, 2011

Good sport

I don’t ‘do’ sports books – in general. Just not my thing. But, never say never.

I just read two of the books in the RecordBooks series published by Lorimer & Company. This is a series developed to appeal to kids 11 years and up, with reading levels between grades 3-5. All the books focus on Canadian athletes who have had to overcome some kind of barrier (gender, race, economic hardships, etc.) to succeed in their sport. Athletes from many sports include boxers, rowers, skiers, lacrosse, basketball, football, and baseball players.

The first book I read was a biography, Jordin Tootoo by Melanie Florence, the first Inuit to play in the NHL. I learned what it was like growing up in Rankin Inlet in the high Arctic, leaving home as a teen to pursue a dream to play hockey, dealing with racism, the death of Jordin’s brother and about his hockey career with the Nashville Predators. Includes some photos, an index and a glossary of hockey terms.

Though the intent of the book is high interest-low vocabulary, I didn’t find the book talked down to the reader; it was easy to get caught up in the narrative, and overall, enjoyable.

I decided to try another from the series and stuck to hockey. Tough Guys by Eric Zweig (796.962 ZwT 2009) is a look at hockey in the early days, introducing some of the players, in addition to providing the social/political context of the early 1900s. I found this one fascinating.

The impact of World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic on the sport of hockey was immense. Players joined, or were conscripted into, the army, leaving teams shorthanded. This resulted in some teams being disbanded, so players could be reallocated amongst the remaining teams to increase their size and enable the hockey association to keep playing. This created interesting situations such as when Joe Hall and Newsy Lalonde, two bitter rivals, end up playing on the same team. Many crucial Stanley Cup games during this time are described in enough detail to build a bit of suspense, but not with too much minutiae to lose a reader, namely me. This was good. Great way to tie history into a topic like sports.

Each book in the series is written by a different author so the quality may vary between books. But based on the strength of the two books I read, I feel comfortable enough to recommend the series. Struggling readers (kids to adults) and ESL students with an interest in sports would do well with this series.

Today is Nonfiction Monday, a roundup of blogs focused on nonfiction children's literature.  Stop by Wendie's Wanderings to see today's offerings.


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