Sunday, February 17, 2013

Middle Grade Monday-- Athletics

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. It's also Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week at Wrapped in Foil.

 Athlete vs. Mathlete Mack, W.C. Athlete Vs. Mathlete
19 February 2013, Bloomsbury USA
ARC From

Owen and his friends are really annoyed because the new basketball coach is requiring them to try out for the team even though they were on it last year. Not only that, but when the coach sees Owen's twin brother, mathlete Russell, he asks Russell to try out for the team because he's tall. Unfortunately, Russell is uncoordinated and prefers to spend his time working on a Masters of the Mind team. When the twins' father finds out that Russell might finally be interested in a sport, he gets so excited that he takes Russell to buy athletic gear. Russell enjoys his father's enthusiasm, and feels uncharacteristically cool in the gear. He puts in some effort to train for tryouts, and actually makes the team. Owen isn't thrilled, but Russell has even more problems. Basketball practice conflicts with his Masters of the Mind ones, and gives him very little time to do homework. When Russell finds that he has more basketball abilities than he thought, Owen feels threatened. His performance on the team is clouded by his anger at his brother, and the boys no longer get along. Russell backs off from the team a bit, but is that really the answer?
Strengths: It's official-- I'm turning into a 12-year-old boy, reading-wise. I had to chose between this book and one about Emily Dickinson and read this! I really liked it because I think my students will. Russell and Owen are both successful in their own circles, but not as successful in other areas. The tension between the boys is realistic, and neither are overly stereotypical. Not enough middle grade books touch on time management and exploring other activities. What I liked best was Russell's struggle with personal identity. He was perfectly happy with who he was, but would he be even happier including basketball? This is going to be a series, and I hope some romance is on the way!
Weaknesses: A little cliche. I didn't like the new rich kid who tries to buy his way on to the Masters of the Mind team. Supporting characters lacked a bit of depth. Still, very excited about this one! Adore the cover.

A Girl's Guide to Fitting in Fitness Whitehead, Erin and Walters, Jennipher. A Girl's Guide to Fitting in Fitness.
26 March 2013, Zest Books
E ARC from

It's amazing how life much the world has changed since I was a preteen. I can't imagine Seventeen magazine telling me in 1977 that I should eat well and exercise not because it would make me thin and able to attract boys, but by telling me that exercise would make me feel more confident, so I could even ask out that cute senior. This book is very practical and gives lots of good advice about nutrition and various forms of exercise, all leading to the fact that taking care of one's body is about feeling good and strong, not looking good in a bikini. This book is fairly short, with the good book design I have come to expect from Zest, although I could have done with a little more color than just the lavender (but hey, it wasn't pink). The drawings will age well, but there were a few colloquial phrases that would have been better dropped-- a reference to Justin Bieber will be obsolete in ten years. There are some web sites mentioned; hopefully those will stay around for a while.  Still, this is a very good and practical book for girls who want to take care of themselves better. Since I grew up thinking (with parental permission) that two chocolate chip cookies for breakfast was fine as long as I didn't gain weight, perhaps I need to read this again more closely!


  1. I always think I'm still a sixteen year girl (reading-wise) so it made me laugh to read that you're turning into a 12 yr old boy. We are what we read, I guess. :).

  2. This basketball book sounds like one boys would really enjoy! I hadn't heard of this author before, but now I'm going to look for some of her books.

  3. Athlete vs Mathlete looks very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  4. You are correct about the importance of time management in kid's books. They are stressed and overbooked quite often, and I am sure they will relate to that. The book I did today (STAT) also has quite a bit about how hard it is to chose what to do with one's free time, from a kid's perspective. A key question!

  5. Very interesting books you have here. The second one sounds quite timely with a lot of preteens going through a lot of body-image issues. Sigh. Those concerns seem to be predominant to a much younger age group each year.

  6. Don't be embarrassed by turning into a 12-year-old boy--you ARE an Honorary Guy, after all!