Published March 1st 2014 by Calkins Creek Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
When it comes to phenomenal athletes who defied the odds, Babe Didrickson is without compare. Driven to excel at anything she tried, and compelled by ambition as well as poverty to try everything, she was the best of the best in running, golf, basketball and even bowling! She was also outspoken and brash, which at the time she lived were considered unattractive and unfeminine qualities, which led to reporters to question her feminity and even her sexuality. The Wallaces set this book up brilliantly, with the chapter headings stating which battle Babe was fighting at the time: Babe vs. the Boys, Babe vs. the Girls, and finally, Babe vs. Cancer. A huge variety of period photos and passionate writing make Babe's struggle seem immediate and relevant to contemporary readers. I'm guessing that Neil Wallace is about my age, and her early career as a sports reporter was filled with the same kind of gender barriers that Babe faced, and this shared experience makes the writing all the more poignant.
There is a Lerner Biography (Wakeman, Nancy. Babe Didrikson Zaharias: Driven to Win (2000)) that is serviceable but pales in comparison to this one. Even if you have an older title, buy this for any middle school or high school library right away. The period photos alone are worth it, but the passion of the writing will make readers care about Babe and about the strides that women have made in sports.
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.
There are two reasons that I am featuring what many will consider a more Young Adult book today: while this is gorier than I would like, it is EXACTLY what so many of my readers ask for, and while preparing this review I discovered that the author, Tim Kehoe, passed away in February. (The SLJ obituary is here.) This was an absolutely terrific book for teen readers, and I am sad for Mr. Kehoe's family and for readers everywhere who will be deprived of books by this promising author.
Kehoe, Tim. Furious Jones.
April 8th 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Furious, who is the son of a famous author of spy novels, has been living with his grandfather ever since the shooting death of his mother. His father is too busy launching a new book, so Furious sneaks into New York City to hopefully catch a glimpse of his father at a book signing. While there, his father is also shot to death. In shock, Furious makes his way home, only to talk to his grandfather and find out that both deaths have to do with a family secret. Shortly after, the two are attacked, and the grandfather is brutally murdered on the front lawn. Furious grabs some money and a bag and microwaves a can of Raid, causing the house to blow up! He takes a bus to Galena, where he thinks he can shed some light on his mother's death. He makes friends with a Chicago college student who wants to be an investigative reporter, Emma, who suggests he stay at a bed and breakfast run by a woman named Betty. Going by the name of Finbar Jennings, he tries to fit in with the local populace, enrolls in a local high school even though he is only a seventh grader (he's also 6'4", so looks much older), and proceeds to find out that his family was involved in issues on a national level, complete with crime syndicates and federal agencies. With Emma's help, he exposes many issues, but how long can he survive on his own?
Strengths: Like Alex Rider, Furious (a name which I could excuse with a generic last name like Jones), is young but talented and his adventures are made quite believable with Kehoe's effortless prose. Readers will love that Furious survives on his own. There are twists early on in the book that I didn't want to ruin because I did not see them coming at all, which is rare!
Weaknesses: High body count, and lots of blood and gore. Brains splatter, throats are cut, and staged farm accidents end with bloody bales of hay strewn with identifiable body parts.
That said, if I bought five copies, not a one would ever be on the shelf.