Friday, April 12, 2019

Running on Empty/Nike

Durrant, S.E. Running on Empty
September 18th 2018 by Holiday House
Library copy

AJ's parents have developmental disabilities. His mother works stocking shelves at a grocery store, but his father finds it hard to leave the house and spends most of the time in the garden. His grandfather had lived down the street, and cared for the family, but recently died of a heart attack after running with AJ. AJ's aunt, Josephine, also lives nearby with his cousin Aisha, but she is expecting a baby and AJ doesn't want to bother her. Things are not going as smoothly as AJ would like since his grandfather's death-- there isn't as much food, bills are not paid, and there aren't coins for the electric meter. Wen AJ goes to try out for the track team, he finds that his running shoes are too small, and he doesn't want to ask for new ones. Luckily, the coach figures out his plight and lets him have a pair from the lost and found, but when money becomes even tighter, AJ pawns these. His mother will occasionally go to school programs, but AJ is embarrassed by her, and is afraid that if the school finds out his grandfather is not around, he might have to go into foster care. AJ does his best to keep his family together, but eventually must ask for help.
Strengths: Like this author's Little Bits of Sky, this is a sympathetic but unsparingly portrait of a child in crisis. AJ doesn't want to ask for help, and tries to do everything himself, but eventually does seek help from his aunt. His relationship with his young cousin is very sweet. The coach and teachers are all sympathetic, but don't have the information they need to really help until the end of the book, and then they step up, as does the aunt. A good choice for readers who want books about children trying to survive more or less on their own.
Weaknesses: This has some British phrases and topics (trainers, biscuits, the coin operated electric system) that my students might not understand, but I thought it was great that AJ found a teapot in the neighbor's trash and brought it home, complete with cups that the homeowner brought out for him. Is it sad that I frequently talk to people about their trash and take some of it home with me?
What I really think: I wish this had a LOT more running in it, because that would entice readers to pick it up. Titles like Currinder's Full Tilt or Fry's Losing It do a good job of combining sports with a problem. Fans of stories about children in crisis will like this one, but I'm afraid sports fans may not finish.

Sichol, Lowey Bundy. From an Idea to Nike
Illustrations by C.S. Jennings
February 12th 2019 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity

While the Nike story is one that has been told many times (once by Phil Knight himself, in Shoe Dog), this new book delves more deeply into the business aspects or an entrepreneurial enterprise and is a great middle ground between a memoir like Shoe Dog and the very short "business biographies" that are around.

The From an Idea series (which includes From an Idea to Disney) really focuses on what makes a business happen; there has to be a need, a solution, a business plan, and people who are truly dedicated to pulling all of those things together. The Nike story is a particularly good example of all of these things coming together, and Sichol is good about showing how things went right or wrong at every important juncture. While everyone knows the story of Bill Bowerman's ruined waffle iron, I wasn't aware of Reebok's momentary trouncing of Nike in the field of aerobics shoes!

There is more information about sponsorships, covering athletes like Steve Prefontaine, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, and of course, Michael Jordan. There's a great timeline at the back of the book, as well as a great bibliography and notes on sources.

The only thing this doesn't have that would make it even better is actual photographs of the people, products and ads involved. I'm sure that would be a huge headache, and Jennings' illustrations are fantastic, but students today are used to seeing photographs.

Readers interested in businesses, sports, or just tennis shoes will find From Idea to Nike to be an amusing, fast-paced read that will also teach them some business practices, even if they aren't paying attention!

No comments:

Post a Comment