After watching the Olympics for sixteen glorious yet exhausting days I have learned more about losing than winning. There were amazing accomplishments, but while I cheered for the winners, it was those who handled their defeat with an admirable and touching dignity and grace, that truly resonated. Anyone who has played a game with a young child or a sore loser of any age knows that losing gracefully and good sportsmanship are invaluable lessons. These books capture the spirit of that childhood love for winning even when they don’t.
Over the next few weeks I expect to be sleep deprived and living in a daily news bubble. Every bleary eyed daily interaction that follows will be worth staying up past my bedtime to cheer athletes from around the world. My own obsession began with Nadia Comaneci and I’m convinced Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Gabrielle Douglas will excite a whole new generation of fans. After all, the Olympics don’t come around every year and the spectacle, willpower and determination of the competitors is riveting.
In “How to Train with a T-Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals” by Michael Phelps and Alan Abrahamson, Phelps provides insight into his success, translating the hard work it required into stunning numbers and easy to understand terms. He trained for six whole years--a kindergartner’s entire life--swimming a total of 12,480 miles during that time. “That’s 183,040 trips around the bases” and it’s “like swimming the full length of the Great Wall of China three times!” His legs became so strong he could press “300 pounds 60 times” which is the equivalent of pressing a tyrannosaurus rex and ten velociraptors. Children will enjoy the comparisons and will have a deeper understanding of the preparation it takes to be an Olympic athlete. An added bonus is that they will be able to follow Phelps’ pursuit of a new record for the most Olympic medals.
Some recent R&R with too many cold and rainy days left me plenty of time for pleasure reading. No, unlike most of America, I wasn’t reading Fifty Shades of Grey, but much tamer pursuits and with young adult appeal.
Author Melina Marchetta is a master of making even the most unlikeable characters endearing and “Froi of the Exiles” is no exception. Before he attacked the woman who is his Queen, Froi only knew the horrors and abuse of the streets. Now, as her most trusted and loyal servant, and most lethal weapon, Froi is the obvious choice when she needs an assassin. His disguise puts him in close proximity to a seemingly mad princess burdened with the hope of her kingdom, who sometimes calls herself Quintana and at others, Reginita. Froi admires her ability to provide much needed emotional self-preservation and decides to teach her the skills she needs for physical protection as well. When she puts her new talents to use, she, Froi and the ragtag group of misfits he’s collected, including an embattled architect and a drunken monk, flee the palace seeking refuge. I recommend this for older teens because of the frequently dark subject matter, but there is a dry humor and banter that made me laugh out loud despite its seriousness. Deliciously complex, its biggest fault is that at over 600 pages it’s heavy!
A good friend headed off to a new life last week. I am thrilled with the happy events that led her to these new adventures, but miss her terribly. I hadn’t expected it to be so hard considering I’m, well, let’s just say of an age when I have experienced my share of changes. It’s renewed my sympathy for any younger person facing a move, either his own or a friend’s. Luckily there are some wonderful children’s books that can serve as a discussion starter or maybe just as a way to validate their feelings. I know I appreciated living vicariously through the petulance of the characters in the first two books!
The title says it all in “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move” by Judith Viorst. Alexander is age appropriately melodramatic about his impending move. According to him, he’ll never again have a best friend like Paul or a great sitter like Rachel. The new cleaners won’t save anything they find in his pockets even if it’s gum wrappers or an old tooth. Anything is preferable to moving, even living in the weeds next to his friend’s house and getting poison ivy. His understanding parents reassure him that he will find boys his age and a new sitter. His brother tells Alexander that he can sleep in his room if he gets lonesome. Slightly persuaded, Alexander decides that although he still doesn’t like it, he’ll pack He does have one caveat: this is the last time (Do you hear me? I mean it) he’s going to move!
A group of teens and school librarians are devoting part of their summer to reading young adult books and discussing them at regular meetings. Why? They’re passionate about the library’s Cafe Book program--book discussion for seventh and eighth graders in area schools. These summer meetings result in a carefully balanced list of 20 titles for next year’s participants to read, then choose their favorites. Each school just finished with last year’s titles, and selected their 2012 Teen Picks creating the ultimate suggested reading list for your middle school student.
There’s no doubt about it, the library’s summer reading club can help your child succeed in school! A recent study proved that children who joined public library summer reading clubs did better on fall standardized tests than their classmates who didn’t! Our Headquarters Library and Fredericksburg’s Lafayette Upper Elementary school participated in the research sponsored by The Dominican University.
The best news, is that joining our children’s program, Dream Big, or our teen one, Own the Night, is free and easy to do either in a branch or online at LibraryPoint.org/src. Participants can read whatever they like or what is required by their schools. Incentives and free programs are offered throughout making the library’s summer reading club perfect for fun.
The Café Book program is a thriving partnership between the Central Rappahannock Regional Library and area schools. As we close our fourteenth year of encouraging middle school students to enjoy reading, the Library is pleased and honored that support for Cafe Book has recently been expressed through a generous donation from the Carver family in memory of their mother Ruth---middle school librarian, literacy advocate, and lover of reading. One of our staff members, Sheryl Sinche, shares these reminiscences.
I had never heard of “the Talk” until a recent radio interview shared the agonizing conversation that many African-American parents have with their sons. The mother had a son who ran track, but, as a precaution, wasn’t allowed to run in his own neighborhood. I was instantly reminded of Jacqueline Woodson’s book “If You Come Softly” and my own skepticism at a plot development I naively mistook as contrived.
“If You Come Softly” is a love story, effectively told in alternating viewpoints that provide insight into what it’s like to be a teen, interracial couple. The boy, Jeremiah, “was black. HE could feel it. The way the sun pressed down hard and hot on his skin...He felt warm inside his skin, protected.” Inside his neighborhood, he felt good, “but one step outside. Just one step and somehow the weight of his skin seemed to change. It got heavier.” He had just started attending a fancy Manhattan prep school and collided with Ellie the first day. Corny as it sounds, it was love at first sight. Despite the challenges their race differences brought, they persevered, but there’s one thing neither Ellie nor I could completely comprehend: what it’s like to be a young African-American man. Jeremiah’s parents weren’t against the relationship, but they were concerned. In their discussions they said one thing that surprised me--never run in a white neighborhood. In a moment of sheer joy, that advice is tragically forgotten. As simply an ill-starred love story, the reader will weep, but knowing about “the Talk,” readers will be heartbroken at circumstances necessitating such a conversation in the first place.
These days it’s not uncommon for history to be brought vividly to life in a novelized comic book format called graphic novels. Recently Sid Jacobson, the author of one such title with teen appeal, spoke as part of the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series at the University of Mary Washington.
His book, “Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography,” co-written with Ernie Colon, provides insight into Anne’s life before and after her famous diary. When Hitler came to power, her father moved his family from Germany to the Netherlands hoping for safety. After the Nazi’s invade and begin restricting Jewish activity, Anne and Margot wonder how they will stay cool with the local swimming pool now forbidden. At the same time, their father desperately attempts to get his family out of the country and when that fails, finds a hiding place in the now famous secret annex. The most difficult and compelling parts of this tale occur after their betrayal. We follow the family to the concentration camp, where they are first separated by gender and then the mother from her daughters. Thanks to information from camp survivors, we learn that Margot perished first, shortly followed by Anne. Fans of Anne Frank’s diary will enjoy these new details in this heroic young woman’s life.
My husband recently returned from a successful summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro! He’d trained hard and I knew he was ready, but I’ve read too many mountain climbing books to sit back and relax. While it’s not that I don’t love a good adventure from the comfort of my couch, when it comes to my husband climbing a mountain thousands of miles away, somehow it’s only the dangerous parts I remember. Of course, now that he’s safely home I’m just plain proud and happy to recommend books for the future mountain climbers of the world.