Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Beth Vrabel’s newest: Bringing Me Back

Bringing Me Back, by Beth Vrabel, (Feb. 2018, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781510725270

Recommended for readers 8-12

Seventh-grader Noah is having a bad year. His mother was arrested on a DUI and is serving a six-month sentence in prison; he lashed out on the football field, getting his school’s football program shut down. To say he’s persona non grata at school is putting it likely. Jeff, his mother’s boyfriend, has taken him in while Noah’s mom serves her sentence, and is trying to reach out to Noah, but Noah just sees himself as yet another burden on everyone. He’s taunted and bullied at school; even his former best friend, Landon, has joined the crowd in leaving garbage in his locker and making snide remarks during class, in the halls, wherever they see an opportunity.

And then, the bear shows up. Not much older than a cub, Noah notices the bear wandering around near the school. The school begins a fundraiser to bring back the football team, dumping buckets of Gatorade on themselves and donating money to the cause, and the bear gets her head caught in a bucket. Noah has a cause: he wants to save the bear. He’ll risk even more bullying and ridicule to do it, because now it’s him against the entire school, desperate to bring back that football team. Thankfully, he’s got a friend or two on his side. Noah’s desire to save the bear gives him a reason to keep going; the bear is bringing him back from the brink.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a Beth Vrabel fangirl. She knows how to write for tweens. She tackles bullying, addiction, dysfunctional families, and social justice in Bringing Me Back, and makes it all flow seamlessly. Kids can empathize with all of the kids in this story: kids who live in areas where school sports are just as important as schoolwork; kids living with a single parent or stepparent; kids being bullied; kids who need a reason to keep going. She subtly addresses teacher bullying and the frustration of an education system that appears to be dialing it in to some students – what do you do when you’ve grown beyond your school? Bringing Me Back is a solid addition to realistic fiction shelves.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Ballpark Mysteries goes to Cooperstown!

Ballpark Mysteries: Christmas in Cooperstown (Super Special #2), by David A. Kelly/Illustrated by Mark Meyers, (Sept. 2017, Random House), $5.99, ISBN: 978-0-399-55192-5

Recommended for readers 6-9

Confession time: While I steer a lot of my readers toward the Ballpark Mysteries books, I hadn’t read one until Christmas in Cooperstown. I’m really glad I did read it, though; despite not being much of a sports fan, I do enjoy a fun mystery, and Christmas in Cooperstown was just what I needed.

Best friends Mike and Kate are volunteering to wrap presents for a charity, Cooperstown Cares, at the Baseball Hall of Fame. As a thank you, they and their friends are invited to a sleepover at the Hall of Fame, which is pretty fantastic. It’s a good thing, too – Mike notices that the Honus Wagner card – a rare baseball card that can go for millions of dollars at auction – has been stolen and replaced with a fake! He and Kate have to track down the clues, find the card and the culprit, and deliver the charity’s gifts on time. Pretty big order!

Sports fans will really enjoy the tidbits of sports history here. I was interested in the science behind discovering the fake card, and using his dad’s business as a baseball card dealer opens the door to some fun trivia and facts throughout the book. “Dugout Notes”, a regular feature in the Mysteries, on Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame finish up the book, along with a recipe for All-Star Blue Chip Muffins, which have a little cameo in the story.

Readers can pick up Christmas at Cooperstown without having read other Ballpark Mysteries; there’s enough exposition that you can easily get into the groove of things. Black and white illustrations by Mark Meyers keep things interesting and moving along.

I got to meet David Kelly at KidLitCon this past weekend and he is the nicest guy! It’s always a bonus when you find out that an author is pretty darn cool on top of being a good writer. He was kind enough to pass on a set of his MVP series for my library kids, too!

MVP – Most Valuable Players – is another sports mystery series for intermediate readers; like Ballpark Mysteries, you can dive into each one separately, with no stress. In the first story, The Gold Medal Mess, we meet the MVPs on the opening spread, where we get their “stats” via an illustration and quick character description: Max is a great athlete and detective; Alice is an archery ace and animal lover; Nico can’t wait to practice and play; Luke loves to exercise his funny bone, and Kat, Luke’s twin sister, captures the best game-day moments on camera. The kids are getting ready for their annual school Olympics, but someone is leaving threatening letters, telling the school to cancel the Olympics or else. When things start going wrong on the big day, it’s up to the five friends to figure out who’s causing the trouble and save the day before someone gets hurt.

Each MVP book covers a different sport and features black and white illustration. The cast is a diverse, all-star group of kids with different interests and talents, and who work together to solve mysteries, help others, and take on bullies. Each book includes bonus facts on each featured sports: The Gold Medal Mess has Olympics facts and photos; other books have terms and diagrams. I’m putting these up on the “NEW” shelf tomorrow, and I expect they’ll be gone just as quickly as I get them up there. A good add to sports fiction and mystery collections!

 

 

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Sports Illustrated Kids has the info kids need for back-to-school sports trivia

Sports Illustrated Kids is getting ready for the fall sports with the release of two need-to-have books for backpacks and bookshelves.

The Football Handbook, by Gary Gramling, (Aug. 2017, Time Inc. Books, $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-6330-007-6) is the perfect size for a sports fan’s backpack, and loaded with facts, stats, and football history. It’s essential reading for beginners and dedicated fans alike, with full-color photos, activities (so that’s how the guys in school folded those little paper footballs, all those years ago…), obscure facts, and need-to-know skills like how to draft a fantasy football team: the pizza is essential; my husband concurs. The “He Reminds Me Of…” section is a nice walk down Memory Lane for us folks of a certain age, with juxtaposed pictures, stats, and a bio on a “current guy” whose style matches that of an “old guy” gridiron great.

The National Hockey League (NHL) turns 100 this year, and Hockey: From Then to WOW! (Sept. 2017, Time Inc. Books, $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-68330-011-3) by the writers at Sports Illustrated Kids is part love letter, part time capsule, to the sport. The hockey rink endpapers set the vibe for you from the second you crack open the book, and an illustrated timeline of how hockey rules have evolved over the last century. (Can you believe that helmets weren’t mandatory until 1979?) Stunning photos of equipment and arenas show the progression of the sport and of sports technology. Legendary players, infamous fighters, and colorful characters all have a spotlight here, as do the best coaches. There are stats, sure – and then there are stats: the fan stuff. From the best playoff beards, fan fashion, and trading cards, to stuff thrown onto the rink and hockey games for fans, from air hockey tables to the latest in gaming, it’s all here.

Put these on your shelves where sports fans gather, and watch the circs fly. Great for middle graders and middle schoolers alike.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

You want football stats? SI Kids has them! 1st and 10 is loaded with lists, stats, and photos!

sikidsfootballSports Illustrated Kids 1st and 10: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Football (Revised & Updated), by the Editors of Sports Illustrated for Kids, (July 2016, Sports Illustrated, $19.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-173-3

Recommended for ages 8+

Do you love lists? Do you love stats? Do you love football? There’s something for everyone in this updated edition of Sports Illustrated for Kids’ book, 1st and 10: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Football. There are loads of Top 10 lists, sure: Top 10 Rivalries, Nicknames, Fantasy Performers, Stadiums, and more, but each of these lists is loaded with stats: dates, scores, major games, players, you name it. There are 36 lists in all, with some great career highlights for longtime football fans and new ones who want to learn some of the history behind the sport.

Since I’m not well-read or conversant in sports, I’ve been trying to beef up some of that knowledge so I can guide the kids at my library to books that will interest them; 1st and 10 is a great book for me to lead them to. I can easily booktalk it, because it’s quick bites of information. There are things I can focus on, like the Top 10 Artifacts (the first Super Bowl ring! A football from 1895! My inner archivist and history nerd is rejoicing!), Movies (The Replacements is a long guilty pleasure of mine), and Hairstyles (My hair on the most humid of days has nothing on Troy Polamalu).  Add in the stunning photography that you’d expect from Sports Illustrated, and you have a book that collectors of any age will enjoy.

1st and 10 is part of a series of Top 10 lists for each sport: you can also add Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything Baseball, Slam Dunk! Top 10 Lists of Everything Basketball, Face-Off! Top 10 Lists of Everything Hockey, and The Top 10 of Everything Sports. I’ll be putting these books on my shelves, now that I know about them. They’re great go-to resources for any library that has sports fans coming through the doors.

Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Crack Coach looks at the cult of personality and addiction

crack coachCrack Coach, by Steven Sandor (Sept. 2015, Lorimer), $14.95, ISBN: 9781459409804

Recommended for ages 12+

Bob Jones is a beloved high school football coach who just won the election for Toronto mayor. He seems to be one of those guys that can do no wrong – but some people would say otherwise. He’s always got an excuse for his bad behavior. When he refuses to meet with the GLBT alliance or address crucial issues facing the city, he claims it’s because his priority is to coach the high school football team. And the kids on his team, particularly Maurice and Vijay, see that the coach not plays favorites and makes some uncomfortably racist remarks while trying to be the “cool old white guy”. He punishes his team by putting them through abusive practices and says it’s for their own good. But when word starts to leak out about the mayor’s public drunkenness, added to suspicious video and pictures surfacing that highlight a possible drug abuse problem, Maurice and Vijay know that they have to mobilize the team and take control back from the coach.

Crack Coach is another hi-lo reader from Lorimer. I’ve become a big fan of this line; the authors are knowledgeable about their subjects (Crack Coach author Steven Sandor is a soccer broadcaster and sportswriter for an online Canadian soccer magazine) and the topics are timely and interesting. They never talk down to their audiences, relying on smart, direct writing and captivating subject matter to draw their readers in.

Crack Coach is a dramatic title, I’ll be the first to agree, but it pulls you in, doesn’t it? I loved the book and enjoyed the characters. They’re teens that other teens can relate to, with real-life issues that affect kids’ lives today. If you think the coach’s story sounds familiar, you’re not wrong – the book was influenced by a true story. Talking to teens about the story behind the story will bring a current events aspect to lessons; bring in some newspaper clippings or access them online to teach teens about primary sources and how writers use them as a tool.

Crack Coach is another great Lorimer book, perfect for reluctant and struggling readers and tweens who are ready for some grittier novels. A good add to libraries and classrooms with a struggling reader population.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Guest Post from WhatchaReading: Preview! NFL RUSH ZONE: GUARDIANS OF THE CORE SUPER BOWL™ EDITION TPB

 

 

 

From Chuck at WhatchaReading:

 

I haven’t read NFL Rush Zone yet, the series on Nicktoons looks great and I’ve come to expect nothing less than excellence from our pals over at Action Lab. Maybe it’s time to give this one a try?

NFL rush zone

 

Read more and get order details at WhatchaReading!