Wednesday, March 13, 2013

World Wednesday-- Cross Country 101

What I want most in multicultural books set in the US is a character who has a different ethnic origin that plays into his development even though the entire book has a different focus. This adds a lot of appeal-- students who want to read about characters who "look like them" will pick up the book, and students who are interested in the particular focus might be introduced to someone who has a different cultural background. Dan Martinez' Cross Country 101 does this beautifully.

Cross Country 101Martinez, Dan. Cross Country 101
25 July 2012, Running Entertainment
Copy won from Guiltless Reading

Eric Hunt's father desperately wants him to be on the high school football team, but two things work against him-- he's extremely small, and Beef and Crush, two JV players, are out to get him. When he saves Paul after they attack him, Paul suggests that Eric try cross country. When Eric turns out to be exceptionally fast, Coach Morris is definitely interested in him. Others on the team are not as supportive-- star runner Vance is disinterested, which is better than the mistreatment he receives from the older runners. Eric is still not sure about running, but when he finds out his mother was a state champion, he puts his heart into his training. It doesn't hurt that the girls on the team, especially Ellie, are encouraging. He ends up doing well at races, but struggles with grades, his father's approval, and the continuing negative attention from the older boys. Despite all of these challenges, can Eric find the inner strength to keep running and improve his life?
Strengths: Tons of good details about cross country training, meets, and the weather-- so important when describing running! Martinez, a runner himself, clearly knows his stuff. Eric's mother is Mexican, and he does experience some troubles because of this, but his mother gives him good insights into dealing with the situation. Supporting characters are realistic, and there are enough issues to make this more than a book about running.
Weaknesses: The illustrations seem out of place for a book that would be read by middle school and high school students. The bullying is somewhat stereotypical-- I'd be behind Ellie bullying Eric, just for a twist! And my complaint about so many books holds true here as well-- tighter editing would make this an even more compelling read and smooth out a few of the inelegant lines.

Need some help. Well, more than Loyal Readers can give me, but specifically, a book recommendation. Character education for 7th grade, but not Wonder. Even though it is set in a middle school, those dastardly elementary school teachers have jumped on the bandwagon.  Any suggestions welcome. I'm just drawing a blank.

I also don't have a World Wednesday round up again, because this involves spending time on the computer. I find it vaguely amusing when people put themselves on "tech diets" because the last thing I want to do when I get home is to look at a screen of any kind. Even reading from a Nook is getting to me. We have spring break coming up, so I'll try to be better!


  1. What about Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper of Rules by Cynthia Lord?

  2. What about Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper or Rules by Cynthia Lord?

  3. The Wednesday Wars or The Schwa was Here