Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bowen and McCormick

I am at a decided disadvantage when I read sports books, because I know absolutely nothing about anything but cross country (and I can even score that!). That's one reason Fred Bowen's All Star Sports Stories are enjoyable for me. I learn about the history of the game and about different techniques. In Full Court Fever, the 7th grade boys' basketball team is at a dsiadvantage. They are all on the short side, and while they try really hard, they just can't keep the other team from scoring. After a trip to spend a gift certificate at a sports memorabilia shop, they learn about the UCLA Bruins' full court press tactic in old Sports Illustrated magazines that they purchase. The boys try this out on their own to some success, and their coach helps them perfect it. I loved that there was a new boy from Nigeria who was very tall but not a good basketball player, and the boys introduce him to the game. Bowen also brings girl players into his stories in interesting ways--always strong and capable! There are plenty of basketball specifics and plays for the students, but it really is amazing what is packed into 100 pages. Again, the short length and the unattractive covers didn't encourage me to read these after I suggested their purchase for summer intervention, but that's why I'm trying to read everything. I am looking forward to the rest!

Patricia McCormick's Purple Heart was a wrenching depiction of a boy, Matt, (just 18) fighting in Iraq. He ends up in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury, and while he has some memory of how he got there, the details (as well as many other things) are fuzzy. While he is recuperating, more and more memories come to him, and he tries to sort out all of the horrors that he has seen on his tour. He is sent back to combat, but finds that his experiences make it very hard for him to shoot a gun again, and he second guesses his every move. McCormick excels at writing about difficult situations (My Brother's Keeper, Cut, Sold), and this is an incredibly well researched and written book. There are not a lot of books written about the current conflicts, and the students (many of whom have relatives fighting) ask for them.

This is a difficult read. Matt struggles with the morality of what he is doing, and he does experience the graphic loss of several fellow soldiers. A book that portrays the fighting and makes it very clear that fighting never ends well for anyone is always what I look for, but I almost feel that this book should be handed to middle school students with some preparation.

There is also the problem, for me, that the f word is used a lot. Pamela Redmond Satran summed up my feelings on this word best in her book How Not to Act Old "It wasn’t spoken, it wasn’t written, you didn’t hear it on TV or in the lyrics of songs. It wasn’t used as a curse, not even by adults who had been drinking when they didn’t think the kids were listening." (I'd link to her site, but it does, in fact, use the word.)

I will buy this book because it is an important depiction of a defining event, told in a masterful way. But I will always have reservations about handing it to students because of the language. I know that it is used because it adds to the realism of the story, but it will still bother me.

1 comments:

Carl said...

Thanks for letting me know about these Fred Bowen books! We have copies of Full Court Press, Off the Rim, and On the Line right here. (Unfortunately, they have the old covers!)They'll go on my TBR pile, which sad to say, takes a glacial age to complete.

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