Book review: Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports, Phil Bildner, illustrated by Brett Helquist

Bildner, Phil. Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports. Illus. by Brett Helquist. Candlewick, 2017. $16.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-7636-7308-6. Ages 7-10. P8Q8

This enthusiastic view of the careers and friendship of tennis greats, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, exhibits the action of their playing and the closeness that they experienced off the court during the 1970s and 1980s. Bildner also describes the differences between the two, one growing up behind the Iron Curtain in a Communist Country and the other a daughter of a professional tennis coach, and how their backgrounds were reflected in their approach toward the game. The acrylic and oil illustrations display the same energy as the text, with a play-by-play view of the competition between the two women.

Verdict: The message of how competition doesn’t need to destroy friendship is important for young people. The drama and excitement of the book will draw in readers and make them want to learn more about these two amazing women.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: Out of Bounds, by Fred Bowen

Bowen, Fred. Out of Bounds. Peachtree, 2015. (Uncorrected Proof) $5.95. ISBN 978-1-56145-845-5. 128 pages. Ages 7-12. P7Q8

bowen-out-of-boundsNate Osborne plays striker on a competitive soccer team.  Nate and his soccer team, the Strikers, hope to be able to defeat the Monarchs, a talented team who beat them the year before. When Nate watches his aunt, a former college player who is in a women’s league, kick the ball out of bounds forfeiting the opportunity to  score when a player on the opposing team is down, Nate is surprised. Isn’t winning everything? Why wouldn’t you take advantage of this opportunity? His aunt teaches him that benefiting from the injury of another player is not the approach to take. Playing fair is part of becoming the best that you can be. Bowen is a retired lawyer and relentless sports enthusiast. He wrote this story in an interesting and realistic manner. His soccer terminology made the story believable and informative. I appreciated the emphasis on good sportsmanship and working towards your goals by playing your best. This book is well done!

Summer 2016 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Missing in Action, by Dean Hughes

Hughes, Dean. Missing in Action. Atheneum, 2015 (2010). $9.99. ISBN 9781481426992. 222 pgs. Ages 12+. P7Q6

Hughes Missing in Action            This story involves an unlikely friendship between two boys.  Each boy has father issues that they are dealing with and it brings them to want to fight, but also allows them to learn about themselves. The feelings expressed by the main characters are similar to many of the feelings that adolescent boys face, so connections can be easily made even if it isn’t specifically about war.  The writing isn’t particularly graphic in nature, but is descriptive in telling the effects of war on people of all ages, but especially younger generations.

November 2015 review by Cody Rosenthal.

[Editor’s note: Jay Thacker’s half-Navajo father is missing in action during World War II.  Jay and his mother move to a small town in Utah where Jay becomes friends with Ken who lives in a nearby Japanese internment camp. While the move gives Jay the chance to avoid the bullying he has received as an Indian, his experiences also require that he examine his own prejudices against Japanese Americans.]

Book review: The Sixth Man, by John Feinstein

Feinstein, John. The Sixth Man. (The Triple Threat series, Book 2) Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. $16.99. ISBN 9780385753500. 298 pgs. Ages 10-16. P7Q7

Feinstein Sixth ManAlthough this is book two in the series, I was able to follow what was happening as the characters were mostly different, set in the same area, but this time focused on basketball instead of football.  One of the main stars on the basketball team, a new kid in town, comes out as gay and the team has to decide if playing the game or personal issues will be the focus.  The author does a good job of portraying a potentially difficult subject with dignity and is able to tie the importance of sportsmanship, the drama of a high school, and romance into a compelling story.  John Feinstein is also the well-known author of A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled which will interest readers who have enjoyed his other books.

January 2016 review by Cody Rosenthal.

Book review: Stick, by Michael Harmon

Harmon, Michael. Stick. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. $17.99. ISBN 9780385754361. 229 pgs. Ages 14+. P8Q7.

Harmon StickTwo unlikely friends, a football star, and an outcast form a friendship that helps each boy see the better in themselves.  Stick, the football star, is feeling pressured to perform on the field and is not having fun playing anymore and Preston, the outcast, has his own demons to battle after watching his father get killed in a robbery gone wrong.  Both characters face the challenges in their lives and although the depth of the novel is slightly lacking the characters are relatable and strong.  The language at times is geared towards an older audience, although the novel itself is written for a slightly younger audience, which makes the story somewhat difficult to follow.  It occasionally seems as if bigger vocabulary is added to make the story sound better, but it doesn’t necessarily fit.

January 2016 review by Cody Rosenthal.

Book review: Lost boy, by Tim Green

Green, Tim. Lost Boy. Harper Collins, 2015. $16.99 ISBN 9780062317087   299pgs. Grades 5 and up, P7Q7

Green Lost BoyRyder’s mom is struck by a truck and ends up in the hospital with little chance of living. Ryder must figure out who his dad is and hope that his dad can help save his mom’s life.   This was a heart wrenching story and believable.   Ryder does find his dad, who happens to be a pitcher for the Braves, but instead of a happy reunion between father and son, we find that Ryder’s father is shocked over even having a son and initially doesn’t want to help.   This plot makes the story believable.   Ryder’s dad does provide the money that helps save his mother’s life, but also tells him that he can’t be his father.   There is no happy ending with Ryder’s biological dad, but other characters in the book step up to the plate to be Ryder’s father figure.   This book doesn’t have a fairy tale ending, but a believable ending.  May 2015 review by Jo Train.

Book review: Curveball, by Jordan Sonnenblick

Sonnenblick, Jordan. Curveball: The year I lost my grip. NY: Scholastic Press, 2012. $17.99 285 pp. ages 12 up ISBN 978-0-545-32069-6 P 8/Q 8

Peter is a freshman who blew his chance to continue his baseball career by using his pitching arm too hard and damaging it so badly he was permanently out of sports. Instead, he follows his grandfather’s interests, a man he’s very close to, and picks up sports photography. One day his grandfather gives him all of his camera gear, out of the blue. The story centers on the denial that people have when they come up against a physical illness: Peter and his pitching arm, and Grandpa and his dementia. The characters are well-drawn and you come to care about them. It includes believable school situations, and a love interest. Should appeal to middle to high school students. November 2014 review by Ann Goddard.