Monday, August 14, 2017

MMGM- All the running books!

Asher, Diana Harmon. Sidetracked
August 22nd 2017 by Amulet Books
E ARC from

Joseph is having a tough time in middle school. He's small for his age and suffers from ADHD enough that he spends time each day in the resource room. When his teacher there, Mrs. T., suggests that he run cross country, he is skeptical, but when he sees Heather doing well at running, he thinks it might be okay. This is the first year for the team, so it's very small, but Mrs. T. is the coach. Joseph isn't fast, but he keeps running, and keeps thinking about his personal best. He becomes friends with Heather, whose mother is off in Hawaii studying flowers and doesn't want to come home. The two make an unlikely pair but look out for each other. When Heather is elbowed in the woods, Joseph makes sure that the boy who did it is eventually found out. Joseph also makes peace with another runner who has given him a hard time, Charlie, which is a good thing, since they will be together for indoor winter track and track in the spring. There is an interesting side story involving Joseph's grandfather, who lives with the family, and the quirky, older librarian.
Strengths: This was a good debut effort and showed a decent knowledge of cross country. There were lots of good details (Yep, the boys pee in the woods! We call it "I dropped my watch.") and it was nice to see a strong female character. Good length, no major flaws.
Weaknesses: The editor's note at the beginning was extremely offputting. It's 2017. "A boy cannot be small weak and terrible at track... A girl cannot be big, tough, and lightning fast like Heather." Since when? While I am glad that Heather is the fastest runner, her description as a very tall, larger girl doesn't make much sense. The fastest girls in middle and high school are usually very small. Our girls' team is hugely better than the boys, and it's not an issue. It 1982, maybe, it would be an issue. Joseph is identified as having ADHD, but many of his behaviors make me wonder if his issues arise more from being on the autism spectrum.There was also a weird scene in the book where Joseph sees a teammate being stared at by the other runners, and the teammate says that it's because he's black and the others think he will be fast. That just seemed odd. These are small quibbles with a good story. I suspect that Asher watched her children run rather than coaching a team.
What I Really think: Will definitely purchase.

34007206Odhiambo Eucabeth A. Auma's Long Run 
September 1st 2017 by Carolrhoda Books

E ARC from

Auma has a very fortunate life in her Kenyan village. Her father works in Nairobi, but comes home from time to time, bringing presents and encouraging Auma in her dream to be a doctor. Because he earns a good income, she is able to afford to go to school. When he comes home this time, however, he stays for longer, and is suffering from an undisclosed illness. Is it malaria? Many people have been dying in Auma's village, which makes her want to pursue medical studies even more, especially when Mama Karen tells her about a new disease that seems to be striking many people, especially those who work in large cities, like Auma's father. It is the "slim disease" or AIDS, and weakens people so much that they die from a number of unrealated causes. When her mother also becomes ill, Auma tries to locate a treatment for her, but ends up with her grandmother after her mother's death. Her grandmother wants her to marry, but Auma is not willing to give up her dream of being educated. Thanks to her athletic ability, she is granted a scholarship to high school. She is sad to leave her younger sister and grandmother, but knows that getting an education is the only way to make her life better.
Strengths: Excellent #ownvoices look at Kenya at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. This is something that students today hear very little about. I also think it is important for my students to understand that in other places in the world, people have to pay to go to school. The details of every day life are also exquisite; we need more books set in other parts of the world that talk about how other tweens live. Great cover. Pair this with Jan Michael's City Boy (2009), about AIDS in Malawi and how it affects families there.
Weaknesses: The running isn't talked about as much as the cover and title would indicate.
What I really think: Well written, engaging, a great length. I hope to see more books by this author!

Knight, Phil. Shoe Dog: Young Readers' Edition
Paula Wiseman Books, September 26, 2017.
(Actually, read the adult version from the public library.)

I am going to assume that the Young Readers' Edition is somewhat shorter and takes out the one or two cuss words. Probably a little kinder in the descriptions of Knight's coworkers as well. As it is, the adult version was not too bad-- I would probably buy it for a high school library.

Why do we care about Knight? Mainly because of his connections to big names in distance running. When Bill Bowerman coowns your company and designs your shoes and Steve Prefontaine is the first athlete associated with them, you know you're in the big leagues. Not surprisingly for someone who has found so much success in life, Knight does a good job explaining why he was interested in bringing Japanese running shoes to the US in the early 1960s, and how he slowly and painfully built his company to be what it is today. It took a good 20 years for the company to get on solid ground, and another ten before it became the major player that it is. I found the descriptions of Knight's dealings with the Japanese in the days when telephoning and mail were the only methods of contact to be very interesting, his associations with others in the running business engaging, and his stick-to-it-tiveness to be a good lesson for many young people. The history of running as a sport that we get along the way is also good.

A must purchase for any school with a healthy running program. Distance runners are usually also devoted readers!

34460612Leonard, Dion. Finding Gobi: Young Reader's Edition: The True Story of One Little Dog's Big Journey
Published August 29th 2017 by Thomas Nelson

While running a 155 mile, multistage ultramarathon in the Gobi desert, Dion Leonard was repeatedly accompanied by a small dog who would run right along with him despite temperatures of over 120 degrees! At first, Leonard mainly ignored the dog, concentrating instead on being able to finish the race and place well, since he was back after recovering from an injury. After a while, however, the dog's devotion wins him over, and he finds himself curled up with the dog at night, feeding her his precious food, and carrying her over streams. When the conditions are particularly brutal, he does leave her with race organizers. His friends suggest he name her, and she ends up with the handle Gobi. Gobi's enthusiasm at seeing him motivates Leonard to run even when he suffers greatly from the heat, and he finishes second in the race.  Gobi becomes an international phenomenon. Not wanting to leave the dog behind, he starts investigating how he could bring the dog to his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. With the help of his wife, and international animal rescue operation, and a network of Chinese citizens, Leonard spends quite a bit of time and money to clear the path for Gobi to come home with him. Delightful pictures of the two can be found on Twitter @findinggobi, and a movie of the book is in the works.
Strengths: The first part of the book has a lot of fantastic details about running, and the second half is concerned with finding Gobi after she has run away from her caretakers. I appreciated that Leonard discusses how most Chinese do not want to keep dogs as pets, but very clearly shows how this is a cultural difference that we should respect. The book moves quickly, and even though we know there will be a happy ending, the process of getting Gobi "home" is very interesting.
Weaknesses: Sometimes the prose seems a bit overly simplistic. I'm curious to see the adult version. There is even a picture book!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Dogs AND running. What a fantastic combination!

34218224Reynolds, Jason. Patina (Track #2)
August 29th 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Patty loves to run, but even more than that, she loves winning races. This is understandable, since there is a lot in her life that hasn't worked out. Her father passed away before her younger sister Maddy was born, and a few years after that, her mother lost her legs to diabetes. The girls are fortunate in that their father's brother and his wife (whom they call Momly) are caring for the girls, but they do get to see their mother once a week when they take her to church. The girls attend a fancy charter school, where Patty doesn't feel she quite fits in. She misses her best friend, Cotton, from her old neighborhood. Patty takes very good care of her sister, but is difficult on the track team and at school. When she is assigned a group project in history, she is not excited to work with the other girls, even though they do pick her topic, Frida Kahlo. Patty's event is the 800, so she's not excited to run a relay, either, especially when one of the other girls in the group upsets her with a comment about Momly. When a car accident injures members of her family, Patty learns that she occasionally has to rely on the help of others, and it makes her appreciate the help she has been getting more.
Strengths: Ghost has been wildly popular in my school, so I'm hoping that readers will pick up this second book. The character development really shines in this story, and is very well layered and nuanced-- the whole concept of learning to work in a group is huge, yet rarely discussed in middle grade literature. The details about how Patty and Maddy ended up with their aunt and uncle, as well as their aunt's back story, were realistic and compelling. There is a lot of good track information as well; if I worked with runners doing relays, I'd definitely make them waltz together! The inclusion of the health consequences of diabetes is handled deftly as well.
Weaknesses: I really disliked Patty at the beginning of the book, so I was glad to see her character develop. I wish the coaches were nicer and more helpful. And this is personal-- I was VERY confused by Momly serving turkey legs for dinner every night. I can't say that in 30 years of grocery shopping, I've ever even seen a turkey leg in the store!
What I really think: This is a title that is growing on me. I do love the covers, and can't wait to read the next one!


  1. I've been curious about Auma's Long Run and Patina. I have both on a hold at the library so I was glad to see that you liked them. Turkey legs? I seen them here in the supermarket. They are usually very inexpensive, but meaty. I've never bought them since they don't look appetizing and I don't like turkey that much.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up on all of these running books. After GHOST last year, I've been ready for more.

  3. Looks like some interesting picks here. Thank-you, Karen.

  4. I am a runner so I appreciated your theme this week. Finding Gobi is one I am definitely going to check out. If it's about a dog my students are likely to love it.

  5. I'm excited to see some cool running books are coming soon. I am a runner and have wished for more for kids. Also, I used to buy turkey legs at the store fairly regularly. I haven't looked for them lately here in WI, but they were pretty common in Texas when I lived there.

  6. I've got an arc of Patina here that I need to read and review pretty soon. The one thing you can always count on with Jason Reynolds is character development!

  7. We have a healthy running program at our school as well and I am thinking everyone of these books woul be a great fit! Thanks for the round-up.