Fry, Erin. Losing It.
4 September 2012, Amazon Children's Publishing
E Book Provided by Publisher
Bennett and his father have managed to carve out a peaceful existence after the death of Bennett's mother from cancer when he was five. They watch sports, and both eat too much unhealthy food and are overweight but happy. When Bennett's dad has a massive stroke, Bennett has to go live with his Aunt Laura's family. Laura thought that her sister's cancer was mismanaged, and has not spent much time with Bennett because she is at odds with his father, but hopes to help Bennett and his father through this difficult situation. Once school starts, Bennett begins to worry about his own health, and after several runs with his uncle, decides that he will join the cross country team. His friend P.G., who is also overweight, resents this and feels it is a dig against him. Other factors making life difficult are Luis and his gang, who constantly make fun of Bennett at lunch and in the locker room, and Taylor, a girl whom Bennett likes who starts to take an interest in him. Bennett's father's recuperation is complicated and taking longer than hoped, and the insurance money may run out and the family home may need to be sold. Cross country becomes something that motivates Bennett in many ways, and even though it is difficult, running makes Bennett feel that he is in control of something in his life.
Strengths: Pitch perfect middle grade novel. Bennett's concerns are all realistically portrayed, and well balanced. He loses weight, but there is no magical transformation. His friend is angry at him, but their reconciliation rings true. The bullying, which I normally hate in middle grade novels, is all done underneath the radar of adults, and is predominately emotional. The resolution to this is also understated. The cross country descriptions clearly show that Ms. Fry is not only a coach but a runner as well, and my own cross country runners are desperate for books on their sport. Add to this the main theme of the book, which is dealing with the severe illness of a remaining parent, and this is a great novel for language arts units on challenges. Definitely buying two copies of this!
Weaknesses: Title could have been less generic, and I would have put tennis shoes where the paper heart is. Also, I wish that Taylor would have been a stronger character. I thought that her relationship with Bennett was realistic, but I didn't quite buy that they had a lot in common. Small complaint for an excellent book!
Best thing about this-- it bears NO similarities to my own attempts at a cross country novel!
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts. Both sites have lots of links to reviews about books that are great for the 4th through 8th grader. Even though I don't have a nonfiction review this week, remember that it's also Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week at Abby the Librarian.
Mason, Paul. Improving Speed.
15 January 2011, Power Kids Press.
Don't you love it when your library catalog gives you a one line summary? "Discusses speed in various sports, provides exercises to improve it, and profiles athletes known for their speed."
I think half of my cross country team has read this book. I don't know if it made them any faster, but it showed them that nonfiction can be relevant to their lives. There is also an Improving Strength and Power book that the wrestlers have been checking out.