Category Archives: Sports

Back in the Bigs: How Winnipeg won, lost, and regained its place in the NHL by Randy Turner

back in the bigsBibliographic Information:

Turner, R. (2011). Back in the bigs. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Free Press. (978-0968257562)

Plot Summary:

Hockey in Winnipeg, Manitoba is serious business. When the Jets returned to Winnipeg in 2011, sports writer Randy Turner explores the history of the team before it went south in 1996 and professional hockey in Winnipeg.

Critical Evaluation:

Back in the Bigs’ large format allows readers to enjoy the many pictures sprinkled through the pages. The writing is accessible and tells a great story of failure and the triumph in the saga of NHL hockey in Manitoba.

Reader’s Annotation:

Manitoba was without an NHL team for a long time before the Jets returned for the 2011-2012 season. But, the desire for a return to the Bigs never died.

Information About the Author:

Randy Turner is a native Manitoban and have covered sports for the Winnipeg Free Press, a local paper, for twenty years (Randy Turner, 2013).

After Randy graduated from Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, he attended the Creative Communications program at Red River Community College. In 1987, he began working on the Rural page for the Winnipeg Free Press. In 2011, he became a general sports columnist and in 2011 he became a general features writer for the paper.

Throughout his time with the Free Press, he was covered high school hockey to Grey Cups and World Junior hockey championships. Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing (Randy Turner, Reporter 2013).

Genre:

  • Nonfiction
  • National Hockey League
  • Winnipeg Jets
  • Hockey

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Talk about how the Jets did this year – pull the stats
    • Segue into how they came back to Winnipeg
  • Show clip of the reaction when it was announced that the Jets were coming back to Winnipeg.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 10 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Back in the Bigs tells the story of the Jets in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It should be in all schools in the province .

References:

Randy Turner. (2013). Retrieved May 5, 2013 from http://penguin.ca/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,2000000238,00.html

Randy Turner, Reporter (2013) Retrieved May 5, 2013 from http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/biographies/141970423.html

Hurricane Heat by Steven Barwin

hurricane heat

Barwin, S. (2013). Hurricane heat. Victoria, B.C: Orca Book Publishers.

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Travis Barkley has been separated from his sister, Amanda, since their parents’ death five years earlier. After the siblings were placed in separate foster homes, Amanda’s family moved from Arizona to California. At that point, the siblings lost contact with each other. Now, Travis is sure that Amanda was the one who sent him a blank postcard of Hermosa Beach Pier, and he decides he needs to find her. So, when school ends, with the blessing of his foster parents, Travis moves to Hermosa for the summer to try to track her down.

While searching for Amanda, Travis meets Ethan who encourages him to try out for his baseball team, the Hurricanes. Although Travis hasn’t played baseball since the death of his parents, his natural talent and love for the game become evident to the coach. Soon the possibility of scouts recruiting him and the dream of scholarships begin to conflict with his original focus of finding his sister.

Critical Evaluation:

Orca Books is a Canadian publisher that focuses on materials for the reluctant reader. The Orca Sports series are very popular with this population because the novels are short and full of action. The use of a sports theme can help to draw the reader to the book while the use of action, mystery and adventure keep the reader engaged.

Equally important, in Hurricane Heat, the main character is an older teen who is living on his own. Reluctant teen readers may need a book whose vocabulary is at a lower level but they still want to read about characters who they can relate to; age is an important factor in their willingness to read a book.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Travis receives a blank postcard, he knows that the sister he was separated from five years earlier is trying to contact him. Now he has to decide what is more important; finding her or his shot at the Big Leagues.

Information About the Author:

Steven Barwin is a Canadian who focuses on writing sports themed books because, simply, he loves sports.  Barwin says he always wanted to be a writer and started writing his own stories when he was in eighth grade. He went to Ryerson’s TV program and became a writing intern at CBC’s Royal Canadian Airfarce.

He was a reluctant reader as a child and, as a teacher, Barwin learned the importance of having books for reluctant readers. He indicates that he writes his sport books “like I write my scripts – filled with snappy dialogue and visuals that jump off the page” (“About – Steven Barwin”).

For more information, please visit Barwin’s site at http://www.stevenbarwin.com/

Genre:

  • Realistic
  • Sports
  • Hi/Lo – Reluctant Readers

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Use the postcard to initiate the mystery.
  • Include in a baseball-themed booklist.
  • Include in a mystery booklist.

Hurricane Heat book trailer

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Interest level 12-18
  • Fry Reading level 3.3

Challenge Issues:

N/A

Why did you include this book?:

  • I reviewed this title originally for CM Magazine. I decided to include it because I felt that it is important to have hi/lo books represented.
  • Barwin is a well-known Canadian author.
  • Orca is an excellent source of resources for reluctant readers.

Review:

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

leverageBibliographic Information:

Cohen, J. (2011). Leverage. New York: Dutton Books.(0525423060)

Plot Summary:

Danny has a plan to get to college and away from the life he hates. To succeed, he has to focus on his gymnastics; despite the fact that gymnastics falls far down the totem pole of school funding. Football is the program that garners all the community support and, therefore, all the money. It’s tough enough being the underdog. Being a target for the football team’s bullying just comes with the territory.

In fact, that football money is what has brought newcomer, Kurt, to the school. Kurt has a history that he wants to hide and he, too, hopes to gain a future for himself through a sport – football. Kurt soon realizes that getting his dream may mean stepping on some other students who are weaker and more vulnerable.

When a series of escalating pranks end in a suicide, Danny and Kurt have to decide what happens now.

Critical Evaluation:

Cohen has done a credible job in creating two distinct voices in his characters of Danny and Kurt. Kurt’s history of abuse provides a strong foundation for explaining his grim focus on football as well as his admiration for the smaller and equally talented gymnasts. Danny’s backstory underscores his determination to get as far away from his hometown that he can.

Cohen has provided an interesting juxtaposition of strong and weak within both of his main and secondary characters. Indeed, Danny and Kurt are excellent examples of the flawed hero. For example, although physically strong with an impressive football build, Kurt has been emotionally and psychologically scarred because of the abuse he suffered in his past. Although intelligent, he appears to be slow because of his stutter and lack of social skills. Despite of growing up in poverty and abuse, Kurt has a strong moral code that he must struggle to reconcile with the realities of his situation.

The reader is led to compare Kurt and his flaws to the other football stars who have been made into heroes by a community steeped in a winning football tradition. These secondary characters by all appearances are strong, successful and popular. But, as the story progresses, the reader is introduced to the ugly world of bullying, steroids, and ego.

Although similar in their focus on escaping their respective situations, these two main characters have very distinct voices and through their respective lenses, the underbelly of competitive sports is revealed. Ultimately, this is a story of personal responsibility, choice, and accountability.

Reader’s Annotation:

When an escalating series of pranks and bullying causes the death of a student, two students have to decide whether the truth is more important than their future dreams.

Leverage is a gritty and violent tale full of the glory of football and the fear of being the underdog; where the good guy does not always win and right is relative.

Information About the Author:

Joshua C. Cohen played many sports while he was growing up in Minnesota. His favorite sport was gymnastics but he did not have the right body type to perform at an elite level. Instead, he was able to take his training in a different direction and became a dancer.

Cohen stared writing Leverage when he read about an attack on a group of underclassmen by their senior teammates. He says that when the victims came forward, they were verbally attacked by the community for “sullying the reputation of the school and causing a cancellation of the football season” (Cohen)

For more information about Joshua Cohen, visit his website http://www.leveragethebook.com/

Genre:

  • Realistic
  • Sports

Curriculum Ties:

  • Identity
  • Character development, voice
  • Choice

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Rape
  • Bullying
  • Suicide

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    1. Ask if he/she has read the book
    2. Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    1. Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion       documents
    2. Provide school’s selection policy
    3. Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this book?:

In all honestly, I do not like this book. I appreciate the different voices of Kurt and Danny. I also believe that Cohen has told a story that needs to be told. His focus on football and the hype and pressures young men are under to succeed – even to the detriment of their health – should be told.

Awards:

  • Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2011),
  • YALSA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults (2012)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults

Reviews:

  • Kraus, D. (2010). Leverage. Booklist, 107(8), 45.
  • Leverage. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(24), 1265.
  • Wilson, B. (2011). Leverage. Booklist, 107(18), 5