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February 24, 2010 > Footnotes


With the Olympics upon us, I thought I'd give some thought to books about sports. I have to admit to not being very sports-oriented usually (I'm too busy reading!), but these books were great for sports lovers and non-sports lovers alike!

For 3rd and 4th grade readers:
The Dog that Called the Pitch, by Matt Christopher, illustrated by Daniel Vasconellos.

Matt Christopher is an author well known for his books for older sports fans, involving all sorts of games. This book is about a very peculiar baseball game.

Mike is a pitcher for the Giants. He is out practicing his throws one day, and having some trouble. Harry keeps telling him that he is throwing balls! When umpire Mr. Grimley comes by and confirms what Harry is saying, Mike gets even more worried. Suppose Harry comes to his game in the afternoon? Suppose he says things while Mike is pitching?

See, there's something different about Harry....he's a dog! And he can 'talk' to Mike inside his head! Not only that, but Mr. Grimley can hear Harry, too! What Mike doesn't know is that Harry IS coming to the game. Not only that, but Harry is going to save the day when something awful happens! (Norwood House Press hardback, $22.60)

For 2nd through 4th grades:
Sports Picture Puzzles, by Matt Bruning

This book is full of pictures to compare and in which to find the changes. What I really like is that it includes sports you don't see much in children's books, such as downhill skiing, windsurfing, dirt biking and jumping horses, as well as the usual. Great links in the back of the book as well, for kids who want more! (Capstone Press hardback, $19.24)

For 2nd through 5th grades:
My Daddy is a Pretzel: Yoga for Parents and Kids, by Baron Baptiste, illustrated by Sophie Fatus.

OK, some may argue that Yoga is not a sport (not competitive), but it sure is fun to do! This book shows nine basic poses with explicit instructions about how to achieve them. Nothing too complicated for children or parents, which is wonderful. In between the poses are little vignettes of parents and their various jobs: gardener, veterinarian, architect, etc.

At the end of the book are "Tips for Young Yogis" and suggestions for ways to develop the "Right Attitude". A great way to introduce calmer ways to relax into your child's repertoire. (Barefoot Books hardback, $16.99)

For 5th grade and up:
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, with words and Paintings by Kadir Nelson.

I've seen other books about the history of the Negro League before, but none as thoroughly or as beautifully put together as this one. With a forward by Hank Aaron, the reader is propelled back in time. There are stories of the managers and owners, the players, the great ones, and the not-so-great. Those players could be rough! They would do whatever it took to win, sharpen their cleats, cut up the balls, you name it! One great story revolves around why the batting helmet was developed:

"You never knew what the ball was going to do once it left the pitcher's hand. And throwing at a batter was common. The pitcher would knock you down just to mess with your head....Apparently when Willie Wells was just a rookie, he found the ball was making its way toward his head a little more often than he liked, so he decided to wear an old miner's helmet when he stepped up to the plate. Boy did they laugh at him! But today, you won't find a ballgame played without batting helmets."

There's all sorts of behind-the-scenes stories - because baseball games didn't make much money, some owners used the league to conceal illegal betting - as well as stories about the greatest games ever played. The paintings are gorgeous, looking almost like photographs and quotes from "greats" such as Satchel Paige, arguably the most famous Negro League pitcher of all time, James "Cool Papa" Bell (the fastest man in baseball) and, of course, the incomparable Jackie Robinson. (Hyperion hardback, $18.99)

And finally, for young adult and adult readers:
Born to Run : a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen, by Christopher McDougall.

As said before, I'm NOT an athlete, but I read this book in hopes of understanding why my husband and children enjoy running so much. With this fabulous book I was plunged into running, running for fun, running for marathons and running incredibly long distances. This book is a non-fiction look at the art of running barefooted!

Christopher McDougall had run for fun, and had run races, but found himself hampered by the usual injuries. In his search to cure his aching feet, he hears of a tribe of Indians in Mexico, the hidden Tarahumara, living in the Copper Canyons. For hundreds of years these Indians have run barefoot, daily traveling 50 or even 100 miles, and enjoying every minute of it! How could this be possible?

Christopher is determined to meet the tribe for himself. Clearly skeptical at first, the author takes us along as he meets these athletes and tries to learn why everything we learned about running is erroneous. A fascinating book - don't be surprised if you start looking at your feet and the world around you very differently! (Knopf hardback, $24.95).

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