Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A 40-year old whodunnit! Soccer Trophy Mystery

Soccer Trophy Mystery, by Fred Bowen (Sports Story #24), (Sept. 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $6.99, ISBN: 9781682630792

Ages 7-12

Sports mystery author Fred Bowen’s latest Sports Story looks at a decades-old mystery and examines the impact of Title IX on generations of female athletes. Soccer playing twin siblings Aiden and Ava and their friend Daniel are working hard to get their teams into the championships and get their teams’ names inscribed on the league’s soccer trophy when they learn that this isn’t the first and only soccer trophy for their league: the original one went missing 40 years ago and the mystery has never been solved. While practicing for championships and keeping up with their schoolwork, Aiden and Ava are intrigued by the history of the trophy and start investigating what could have happened to it. Fast-paced action sequences and an intriguing mystery and how it ties into sports history will appeal to readers who love sports, especially soccer. Back matter tells “The Real Story” about the mystery of the original FIFA Word Cup trophy and women’s sports. Give this to your Baseball Mysteries readers, your Ron Roy mystery fans, and your Mike Lupica and Tim Green readers.

Fred Bowen is an award-winning author and Washington Post KidsPost sports columnist. Visit his author website for more information about his books.

 

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

March graphic novels look at the power of relationships

The Breakaways, by Cathy G. Johnson, (March 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626723573

Ages 8-12

This Bad News Bears of Soccer story stars Faith, a child of color who joins her school team at the urging of Amanda, one of the school’s popular girls. Thinking it’s a great way to make new friends, Faith signs up, only to discover that there are different soccer teams, and she’s been put on the Bloodhounds, which is made of up the lousiest players in the school. They may be horrible at soccer, but the group gradually comes together to form a tight friendship unit, and that’s the heart of the story.

There’s a fantastic diversity among the group. There are queer characters, including one who’s transitioning, and characters of color. The storyline is moved forward by each character’s quest for identity and acceptance within their families and the group, making for some deeply heartfelt moments. It’s a book about friendship, self-awareness, and acceptance, set in a middle school – often a battleground for kids who want to stand out without being “different”.

This one’s a must-add to your shelves. Talk this one up to your Lumberjanes fans.

The Mary Sue has a great write-up and preview of The Breakaways, and you can visit author/illustrator Cathy G. Johnson’s website for more info.

Kiss Number 8, by Colleen AF Venable/Illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw, (March 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596437098

Ages 12+

Mads is a Catholic school teen who whose dad is her best friend. They go to minor league baseball games together, watch TV shows together, and generally just hang out together. It rocks her world when she discovers that her dad is hiding a secret, and it couldn’t have come at a harder time: Mads is also discovering that she may be attracted to her friend, Cat.

Kiss Number 8 looks at a sexual awakening within a close Catholic family. Mads tries out different kisses with different guys, trying to feel something, because her wilder friend, Cat – the archetypal Catholic school bad girl – encourages it, and it’s because what Mads feels like she’s supposed to do. While she torments herself over what she thinks her father’s hiding, she and Cat fall out, and the rumor mill goes wild, leading Mads to admit to her feelings and attractions to herself, and to Cat. Once Mads accepts herself, she has to deal with her father’s secret, his reaction to her emerging identity, and his overall mindset; luckily, she has support from a place she never dreamed of.

I really enjoyed Kiss Number 8. The characters are real, and Mads’ struggle with her own identity and sexuality works seamlessly with the family secret, revealed in all of its emotional pain. Mads has to come to realizations about herself, her relationships, and her own father, in order to move forward, but she’s a smart heroine that navigates these challenges to come out on top. Kiss Number is an exploration of teen sexuality, families, and relationships. A necessary book for your collections.

Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw‘s websites both offer some sneak peeks at Kiss Number 8 and their additional work.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Be an Absolute Expert with NatGeo Kids

NatGeo Kids rolled out a new series of books. The Absolute Expert series helps kids become experts on a favorite, high-interest topic: current topics are Dolphins, Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Soccer. Experts in the field act as guides, leading readers through the info-packed books. Stunning photos, facts, and activities make each volume a great reference for science and STEM collections, and great desk references for kids who just can’t get enough of their favorite topics.

Absolute Expert: Volcanoes, by Lela Nargi and Arianna Soldati, (Aug. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426331428

Ages 8-12

Volcanologist Arianna Soldati guides readers through a solid volume on volcanoes. Kids learn about ocean volcanoes, volcanoes in space, and deadliest eruptions (psst… Vesuvius isn’t #1!) The book explains plate tectonics and features a world map noting explosive volcanoes, and gives readers a heads-up on staying safe during a volcanic eruption, including an evacuation plan strategy exercise. Four “Get in the Flow!” sections provide activities that will take kids deeper; from building and cataloging a rock collection to creating a volcanic (soda) eruption of one’s own. Resources for further reading and an index finish up this book.

I buy all the volcano/natural disaster books I can get my hands on, because the schools here do a science unit on natural disasters, and the kids raid our libraries, usually heading for the volcano books first. I remember my first year as a librarian, hosting a class trip, and having the teacher ask me where those books were. I pointed out the shelf, and the kids swarmed me. TWO SHELVES. EMPTY. Since then, I don’t play games with my natural disaster books, and neither should you.

The writing is geared for middle grade to early middle school, with scientific terms that may send kids to the dictionaries (and good for that!) for new terms, while photos and illustrations provide a look at volcanoes in various stages of being, from quiet to very, very active. If seeing lightning hit a volcano spewing lava doesn’t inspire an awesome respect for nature, I don’t know what will.

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day in 2013, similar to the one found in Absolute Expert: Volcanoes

 

Absolute Expert: Dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte and Lela Nargi, (Aug. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426331404

Ages 8-12

Paleontologist Steve Brusatte combines forces with author Lela Nargi to make dino EXPERTS out of readers. My favorite section? The little callout box that tries to unravel the mystery of T-Rex’s itty bitty arms. Turns out, they were incredibly strong, and have to have served some purpose, but what? We still don’t know, but there will be countless memes to entertain us until we do. There are details on some of the biggest and smallest dinosaurs; a dinosaur family tree that shows how dinosaurs evolved as history marched on, and a nice section dedicated to feathered dinosaurs, including the evolution of dinosaur feathers, with a picture of a fossilized archaeopteryx feather! Photos of fossils and dino digs make this a perfect volume for budding archaeologists, and beautiful illustrations help readers put faces to those bones they see in the museums. (Jurassic Park does a pretty good job of that, too, but the dinos are usually trying to eat people; this is much less threatening.) A world map spread points out where dino evidence has been found, worldwide, and four “Dig In” sections teach kids about dino tracking, offer quizzes, and invite kids to make their own dinosaur teeth and paleontologist field kits.

Do I even need to say this book is a given in your collections? It’s NatGeo, and it’s dinosaurs. Put this NatGeo dino page on your reference resources list of links: there are videos, activities, and games, and there’s a YouTube video playlist of nothing but dinosaurs! That is a program all by itself!

 

Absolute Expert: Dolphins, by Jennifer Swanson and Justine Jackson-Ricketts, (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426330100

Ages 8-12

Marine biologist Justine Jackson-Ricketts serves as the guide in this volume, taking readers deeper into the world of dolphins. A world map spread shows kids the waters where dolphins tend to spend their time. There are tips on becoming a dolphin trainer, what to do if one encounters a stranded animal, and important life lessons dolphins have to impart (“Thanks for the all the fish” is not one of them). As Justine Jackson-Ricketts’ research involves ecology, there’s substantial information on preservation and conservation of our waters and of our dolphins; the authors also shed some light onto the captivity debate. Four “Dolphin Deep Dive” sections help kids design a dolphin study, offers suggestions on how to move and like a dolphin, tests kids’ ability to find dolphin figures in everyday objects, and organize a beach clean-up. Resources for further reading and an index are included.

There are wonderful pictures of dolphins and orcas in here, sure to please animal fans and make some new ones. There are great call-out facts here – perfect for adding to projects and classroom/library displays, too! There’s good scientific writing that challenges readers, and some information on the National Geographic Pristine Seas Initiative; National Geographic’s commitment to explore and help save the last wild places in the ocean. This is a good site to keep in your reference links: there are videos taken on the Initiative’s expeditions, mission descriptions, and updated news events as they unfold. Conservation projects and ocean research projects can get a nice boost from this site.

 

Absolute Expert: Soccer, by Eric Zweig and Mark Geiger, (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426330087

Ages 8-12

Professional soccer referee Mark Geiger is here to talk soccer with author Eric Zweig. Conversation goes into supporting one’s team and the different ways fans around the world show their love, including the now-famous vuvuzela; soccer jargon and the 17 Laws of the Game. There are maps of the field and the positions’ places on the field, an explanation of the penalty cards, and a history of “the beautiful game”. A Soccer Around the World section celebrates the diversity of the game and its fans, and since this is a book on sports, there are World Cup numbers, results by nation, and a US map of MLS teams, for us Americans just getting on the soccer bandwagon. Facts and stats throughout give readers some extra street cred knowledge, and four “Get in the Game” activities encourage kids to make up their own game and offer quizzes. There are great photos and illustrations of soccer players and equipment through history, and there are callout biographies on major players throughout. The text is easily readable by middle grade and middle schoolers; this is a volume that soccer fans are going to love.

Check out the National Geographic World Cup 2018 website for vintage photos, World Cup facts, and articles on the science of sport. This 2014 National Geographic blog post, Why the World Cup is About More Than Soccer, puts into words how the sport brings people together, worldwide.

NatGeo, keeping it real for my nonfiction section.

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 Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

The King of Soccer: Pelè

Pelè: The King of Soccer, by Eddy Simon/Illustrated by Vincent Brascaglia, (Oct. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $15.99, ISBN: 9781626727557

Recommended for ages 10+

The latest graphic novel biography from FirstSecond is Eddy Simon and Vincent Brascaglia’s Pelè: The King of Soccer. From his beginnings as a child growing up in poverty in Sao Paulo, Brazil, readers see Pelè – born Edison Arantes do Nascimento, son of a football player whose career ended with an injury – rise from a child using a ball made from rags, to his dominance in youth leagues, and to his first professional soccer contract at the age of 15. He became a sensation at 17, when he led Brazil to victory at the World Cup, and went on to become “O Rei” – The King – a household name, a worldwide sensation. More than just a soccer player, Pelè traveled the world as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. An athlete worth more than face value, the Brazilian government and the military tried to force him to continue playing when he wanted to play for the U.S., and the United States thought that acquiring Pelè would make soccer the next great American sport. He partied with the likes of Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, and had a turbulent personal life that includes multiple affairs and illegitimate children. Full-color photos of Pelè complete this solid graphic biography of a sports icon.

Great for middle school and up, display and booktalk with other graphic novel biographies, including Box Brown’s biography on Andre the Giant, and 21: The Story of Robert Clemente, by Wilfred Santiago.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

My First Book of Soccer explains the game to rookies!

My First Book of Soccer: Mostly Everything Explained About the Game (A Rookie Book), by the Editors of Sports Illustrated for Kids (May 2017, Sports Illustrated), $11.99, ISBN: 978-1-68330-002-1

Recommended for readers 4-8

Sports Illustrated’s newest book in their Rookie series introduces readers to Soccer – football, if you’re from anywhere other than the U.S. As with previous Rookie books, there are two Rookies on hand to show readers the ins and outs of the sports. I’m particularly excited about the Soccer Rookies, because we have a girl and a boy, and the girl – also the more knowledgeable of the two – is a lovely, brown-skinned young lady who’s too happy to teach her friend about the sport!

My First Book of Soccer is a light-hearted, informative introduction to the sport, featuring photos of current soccer stars (with silly word bubbles providing funny commentary) and the Rookies alike, interacting from the sidelines. The fonts are big and bold, with key words and ideas in capital, larger size. Scoreboards in the upper left- and right-hand corners keep track of the quarter and game time, giving kids a breakdown of what goes on during each part of a game.

Kudos to Sports Illustrated Kids for adding female players AND a female child of color Rookie! A must-add to sports bookshelves and collections for early readers, My First Book of Soccer joins previous Rookie books on football, baseball, and hockey. Put these out for a great sports-themed display and add them to a sports-themed storytime. I’d pair these with the Dino-sports series by Lisa Wheeler for a fun fiction/non-fiction pairing. Add some printables, courtesy of Sports Illustrated, for even more fun – check out My First Book of Soccer activity sheets.

Check out this giveaway! Get a copy of My First Book of Soccer plus two Rookie buttons! Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js