Every Reason We Shouldn’t

Sixteen-year-old figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s competitive dreams have ended. She’s bitter but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of trying to live up to the expectations of having Olympians Midori Nakashima and Michael Kennedy as parents. . .until Jonah Choi starts training at her family’s struggling rink.

Jonah’s driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying. . . and totally gorgeous.

Amid teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby, figuring out life as a normal teen, and keeping the family business running, Olivia’s got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?

Olivia’s life is a mess. Her father is on the road working, her mother is so doped up on pain pills that she’s mostly absent from Olivia’s life, and Olivia’s best friend is dealing with her own set of troubles, including raising her daughter. Then, Jonah enters the picture. The “Ice Prince” may set Olivia on fire, but his cocky attitude puts a damper on the romance. Instead of being a sweet and sexy love interest, Olivia and Jonah sneak into storage rooms, behind counters, and even behind a dumpster to make out. The abundance of kissing makes their romance seem shallow and cheap. Instead of rooting for the two teens, readers will have a hard time believing the two are really in love.

Olivia’s parents are another negative aspect of the story. Olivia has no parental support. While Olivia’s mother’s excuse is her constant pain, her injury is never explained, which leaves the reader wondering if the pain meds are necessary or just a way for her mother to escape. To make matters worse, the book’s conclusion is unrealistic because it portrays Olivia and her parents as a cohesive group that supports each other when there is absolutely no evidence that supports this.

Unfortunately, Every Reason We Shouldn’t isn’t a fun, flirty romance that readers will enjoy. Instead, it’s full of forgettable characters that are hard to relate to. While both Jonah and Olivia hope to go to the Olympics, they spend more time kissing than they do on the ice. The story combines skating with romance and parental pressures; however, the book’s flaws will quickly damper reader’s interest. Instead of reading Every Reason We Shouldn’t, readers looking for an entertaining story that mixes sports and romance should check out the Hundred Oaks Series by Miranda Kenneally.

Sexual Content

  • The father of Mack’s baby asks her if she wants to go to his house. He says, “Derek will get us a six-pack or two. We’ll hang and stuff . . . My mom doesn’t’ care if you sleep over. Long as we’re quiet.”
  • Olivia watches Jonah skate. “Every time he stops, Jonah looks over at me and smiles. I’m melting. I fantasize about stepping up onto his bladed feet, wrapping my arms around his neck, and kissing him until we’re standing in a puddle of water in the middle of the rink.”
  • When Olivia asks a friend for boy advice, the friend texts, “and use protection. . . And he better not be sending you pictures of his junk.”
  • Olivia and Jonah lay on a couch. Olivia brings “my other hand up underneath his T-shirt until my palm rests over his heart. . . Jonah pushes me gently down on the couch until his whole body presses into mine. . . When Jonah’s lips find mine, the blanket becomes completely unnecessary.”
  • Olivia and Jonah go into a supply closet at the skating rink. “As soon as the door is closed, I launch myself at him, our lips connecting like I’ve wanted them to do all morning. . . Cold fingertips glide underneath the back of my T-shirt and up my spine. . . I pull the zipper of Jonah’s skinsuit down to mid-chest. . . Jonah’s breath hitches when I slide my cold hand underneath the fabric.” They part when Jonah’s father calls him.
  • At the skate rink, Olivia and Jonah kiss. Jonah makes a “trail of kisses from my ear to my throat.” Then Olivia pulls “Jonah down until we are both kneeling on the well-worn carpet behind the skate counter. . .” They are interrupted by Jonah’s father.
  • After being apart for several days, Jonah goes to the ice rink. Olivia goes to take out the trash and, “As soon as I walk out the front door, Jonah grabs the trash with one hand and my hand with the other and pulls me behind the building to the dumpster. His lips meet mine before the bag of trash even hits the bottom of the dumpster.”
  • Olivia and Egg (her old skate partner) go to Los Angeles for a skate audition. While driving, Egg says, “Do you know what this looks like? Human trafficking.”

Violence

  • Olivia’s school has a lock down because of an angry parent’s “disorderly conduct” and a “confrontation” with the school’s security officer.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Olivia’s mom has an injury so she takes muscle relaxants and pain medication. Olivia says the medication makes her mom “spaced out.”
  • Olivia thinks that some of the high achieving kids at her school “snuck into their parents’ medicine cabinet to take a Xanax or two because their anxiety was way off the charts.”
  • Olivia’s classmate has a panic attack. She says, “The new medication helps. I still spent the rest of the day in bed surrounded by all my dogs and watching sea otter videos though.”

Language

  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes ass, crap, damn, freaking, hell and pissed.
  • OMG, God, and Lord are used as exclamations occasionally.
  • Mack calls two boys “boneheads.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Babe & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure

On October 1, 1932, during Game Three of the Chicago Cubs–New York Yankees World Series, Babe Ruth belted a long home run to straightaway centerfield. According to legend, just before he hit, Babe pointed to the bleachers and boldly predicted he would slam the next pitch there.

Did he call the shot or didn’t he? Witnesses never agreed. Like other baseball fans, twelve-year-old Joe Stoshack wants to know the truth. But unlike other fans, Joe has the astonishing ability to travel through time using baseball cards—and now he’s determined to settle one of baseball’s greatest puzzles.

 Babe & Me explores the father-son relationship through both Babe Ruth’s eyes and Joe’s eyes. Even though Joe’s father has spent little time with him, Babe Ruth points out the good aspects of Joe’s dad. Despite this, Joe struggles with feelings of resentment because his father seems more concerned with coming up with get-rich-quick schemes than spending time with him. His father, who is often angry, blames his troubles on luck. He says, “You can try as hard as you want. Be as good as you can be. But a lot of what happens in the world is plain dumb luck.” Towards the end of the book, Joe’s dad finally realizes that his relationship with Joe is more important than money.

Throughout the story, both Babe Ruth’s public persona and his private, more serious side are shown. Babe Ruth is loud, reckless, and a big spender when around people. However, when he is alone with Joe and his father, Babe Ruth has a tortured soul because of his upbringing as well as his belief that he was not a good father. Historical pictures and partial news articles are scattered throughout the story. Plus, the author explains what events actually happened and which events he made up. In addition, there are four pages of quotes from baseball players that show that even now, people do not agree on whether or not Babe Ruth called his shot.

Joe is a likable main character, who has conflicting emotions about his father. Because Joe and his father were able to spend time with Babe Ruth, they witnessed Babe Ruth’s generosity, his reckless behavior, and his emotional turmoil. However, Joe’s father is not necessarily a likable man and his change of attitude is not believable. Despite this, the fast-paced time travel adventure will appeal to sport-loving readers even though the story has little baseball action. Readers who want to learn more about Babe Ruth should also read Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse by David A. Kelly. Middle-grade baseball fans can also jump back into time by reading The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz.

Sexual Content

  • Babe Ruth sees a woman crossing the road and says, “Got a load of the sweet patootie! She is one red-hot mama!”

Violence

  • While at a park, men stood on wooden crates making speeches. As one man spoke, “some people booed, and somebody threw a rock at the guy . . .” When two policemen show up, “somebody threw a rock at one of them, and it bounced off his helmet. The cop pulled out a nightstick and hit a guy with it. . . The people in the crowd began to hiss and boo and throw things at the cops. The second cop pulled out his pistol and fired it up in the air.” The scene is described over two pages.
  • Babe Ruth was signing his autograph when one boy dropped his paper. Joe picks it up and refuses to give it back to the boy. The boy’s father “reached into his jacket and pulled out a knife.” After the fathers’ argument, Joe gives the paperback to the boy.
  • As a boy, Babe Ruth stole money from his father. “Dad caught me and beat me with a pool cue.”
  • Babe Ruth’s father “got kicked in the head in a fight outside his saloon and died when he was forty-six.”
  • Babe Ruth tells a story about a baseball player who “didn’t see a pitch coming at him. It busted his skull. He crumpled like a rag doll right in the batter’s box.” The man died.
  • One of the reasons that Joe’s father is often angry is because of his family history. His grandparents and their children were rounded up by the Nazis. Joe’s father says, “Only my father escaped, by hiding under the house. The Nazis sent the rest of the family to Treblinka, a concentration camp. They were all killed. In the gas chambers.”
  • Joe’s father catches Babe Ruth’s home run ball. His father “and a few other guys dove for it, but I got there first. They tried to beat it out of me. That’s how I got the black eye, actually.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Babe Ruth is seen smoking a cigar.
  • Even though it’s prohibition, Babe Ruth orders a pitcher of beer. During his meal, “he washed everything down with another pitcher of beer.”
  • Babe Ruth says that he “was drinking beer before I could read.”

Language

  • Several times cuss words are replaced with @#$%.
  • Someone calls Joe’s father an idiot.
  • Babe says heck once.
  • While at a game, some of the other teams called out insults. Someone calls Babe Ruth an “ugly tub of guts.” He is also called, fatso, a washed-up balloon headed meatball, old potbelly, lummox, and other names.
  • Some boys are playing baseball. A boy calls a player a dope.

Supernatural

  • For Joe, baseball cards function as a time machine. When he touches an old card, “that tingling sensation was the signal that my body was about to leave the present and travel back through time to the year on the card.”
  • In order for Joe and his dad to return from the past, Joe needs “to bring a new card. . . If I didn’t have one with me, we could have been stuck in 1932 forever.”

Spiritual Content

  • While men were giving speeches on the solution to the Great Depression, someone says, “God is the answer.”

Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber 

“Press Box: Women and children not admitted.” So read the press pass that Mary Garber had to wear as a reporter at sporting events. It was embarrassing, even insulting, but in the 1940s, sports—and sports reporting—was a man’s world.

Mary didn’t let that stop her. She never let anything stop her really. As a kid, she played quarterback for her local football team. Later, as a reporter, she dug in her heels and built up her own sports beat. For close to fifty years, Mary shined the spotlight on local heroes whose efforts might otherwise have gone unnoticed. “‘That’s Miss Mary Garber,’ one boy said at a soapbox derby. ‘And she doesn’t care who you are, or where you’re from, or what you are. If you do something, she’s going to write about you.’”

This is the story of a woman who pursued her dream and changed the world.

If you’re looking for an inspirational story that will encourage young readers to follow their dreams, then Miss Mary Reporting is the book for you. While the story focuses on the hard work and dedication that made Miss Mary an excellent reporter, the story also shows how others helped Miss Mary along the way. In addition, the book briefly mentions the segregated Negro leagues as well as Jackie Robinson and the discrimination he faced.

While Miss Mary’s story is inspirational, younger readers may have a difficult time sitting through a reading of the book because of the text-heavy pages. Each page has four to seven complex sentences and the text includes difficult vocabulary. The full-page illustrations use muted tones that reflect the serious topic of discrimination. The illustrations will give readers a peek into the past because it shows the clothing, hairstyles, and other aspects of the time period. Readers who want to learn more will find an author’s note, a timeline, and a list of more resources at the end of the book.

Miss Mary’s biography will inspire readers and show how one woman impacted the world of sports. However, the heavy topic makes the picture book more suited to older readers. While Miss Mary’s story is interesting, it’s not necessarily entertaining; the book is best read by those who have an interest in sports and journalism. Readers who would like to learn more about women in sports should also read Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubbard and She Persisted in Sports by Chelsea Clinton.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Dawn Patrol

Luca and Esme have more than monster waves to worry about.

When Kevin disappears, leaving only a cryptic note, his best friends Luca and Esme have no choice but to try and find him. Their journey takes them to the coast of Panama, where they confront monster waves, unfriendly locals and a surfer who seems bent on destroying them. As their hope dwindles and time runs out, Luca and Esme realize they may be in over their heads.

Because of the short length of the book, none of the characters are well-developed. However, the fast-paced mystery will still capture readers’ interest. The main plot focuses on Luca and Esme’s search for their missing friend. As the two friends search for clues, they meet Jose, whose strange behavior puts Luca and Esme on high alert. Between surfing monster waves, looking for clues, and trying to track down Jose, Dawn Patrol keeps the action and mystery high.

The story is told from Luca’s point of view. Readers will connect with Luca because he is an admirable character who is willing to go to great lengths to find his friend. The conclusion ends on a hopeful note but doesn’t wrap up all the story threads. Despite this, Dawn Patrol is a quick and easy read that will engage readers. As part of the Orca Sports collection, Dawn Patrol is perfect for reluctant readers because it uses a high-interest topic that will entertain teens and help them improve their reading skills.

Sexual Content

  • When talking to a girl, Luca tells her that he’s not interested in Esme. “Nor would I be interested in getting together in, um, that way with this Jose guy.”
  • Luca meets Alana and a few days later, “she leaned over and kissed me on the mouth.” Alana and Luca kiss two more times, but the kisses are not described.

Violence

  • While trying to chase down Jose, “a big guy in dark sunglasses ran out of a hut and barreled into us. . .I slipped and fell headfirst into the water. I popped up just in time to see Esme hit the water.”
  • Esme is kidnapped. When Luca finds the hut Esme is being held at, he tries to sneak up to it, but “Jose came out of the trees and tackled me to the ground. . . I was face-first in the dirt. I struggled to get away. Jose had his hand on the back of my head, pushing my face into the sand.” Luca gets away.
  • Kevin, Esme’s boyfriend, holds a knife toward Delgado, the man that kidnapped Esme. “Kevin hit Delgado’s throat with his forearm, dragged him to the ground, and smacked his head. There were tears on his cheeks.” Delgado lets Esme go.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • While in the village, Esme and Luca pass a group of people who are drinking beer.

Language

  • Profanity is used frequently. Profanity includes ass, crap, damn, and hell.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Becoming Muhammad Ali

Before he became the legend, Muhammad Ali, young Cassius Clay learned history and card tricks from his grandfather, hid report cards from his parents, and biked around Louisville with his pals. But when his bike is stolen, Cassius decides there’s something else he wants: to be able to fend off bullies by becoming a boxer.

Cassius has a best friend, Lucky, who sticks by him whether his fists are raised in victory or his back is against the ropes. Before long, Lucky is cheering Cassius on in his first amateur fight. With the support of all his friends and family, will Cassius make it to the top?

Becoming Muhammad Ali focuses on Cassius’ younger years and highlights the importance of his family and his community. Cassius’ story is told from both his point of view and his best friend’s point of view. When Cassius is telling his own story, the words appear in poetry format. This narrows the story and allows Cassius’ swagger to shine. When the story shifts to Lucky’s point of view, the text appears in paragraph structure that uses a conversational tone. Lucky’s perspective allows the reader to see Cassius’ intense training schedule and shines a light on Cassius’ fear. The joint perspectives give a well-rounded picture of Cassius’ bold personality and personal struggles.

Because the story begins in the late 1950s, Cassius’ story isn’t just about boxing. The biographical novel delves into the racism prevalent during this time period. Each example of racism is described in a kid-friendly manner that allows the reader to picture the events. The descriptions all focus on events that affected Cassius. He explains the events in a way that shows the unfairness of the situation without sounding bitter or preachy. However, some readers will not understand the correlation between racism and Cassius’ desire to change his name to Muhammad Ali and “use his time to focus on black pride and racial justice.”

Becoming Muhammad Ali is an entertaining and engaging biographical novel that will inspire readers to fight for their dreams. Through Cassius’ actions, readers will see the hard work and dedication that allowed Cassius to become one of the best boxers in history. However, Cassius’ story isn’t just a boxing story, it’s a story about family and friends. Cassius’ story doesn’t gloss over some of the unfairness in life. Instead, Cassius shows how he overcame obstacles and, in the end, realized that there are some things that are more important than boxing.

When a reporter asked what Cassius wanted to be remembered for, he said, “I’d like for them to say, he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, one teaspoon of generosity, one pint of kindness. He took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern, and then he mixed willingness with happiness, he added lots of faith, and he stirred it up well. Then he spread it over a span of a lifetime, and he served it to each and every deserving person he met.”

Cassius’ story comes to life in easy-to-read prose and includes full page, black and white illustrations that are scattered throughout. Becoming Muhammad Ali is a must-read because it highlights how hard work and dedication allowed Cassius to achieve his dreams. Readers who want to read another inspirational sports book should check out The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, which has also been made into a graphic novel.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Since Cassius watched boxing matches and later fought in them, there are some descriptions of the matches. For example, Cassius describes a fight when Frank Turley “broke a guy’s nose with a left jab, then smiled when the joker went tumbling outta the ring, blood spurting everywhichaway.”
  • Cassius and his friends were walking along the street when a “car filled with men. White men” drove by. One of the men “flashed a knife—a switch blade. [Lucky] saw the guy with the knife say something to the driver. The car engine stopped. Then all four car doors opened at once.” Cassius and his friends ran away from the men and were safe.
  • Cassius tells a story about “how Tom the Slave escaped freedom by hiding in a casket on a ship of dead bodies on its way to London, England, and how when he got there he became a famous bare-knuckle boxer. . . the Brits rushed the ring in the ninth round, clobbered Tom, and broke six of his fingers.”
  • A kid from the neighborhood, Corky, bullied Cassius and his friends. Corky “stepped on my sneaks, and bumped Lucky with just enough force to make him lose his balance, and knocked Rudy backwards like a domino into a couple. . .” then Corky wandered off.
  • During a match, Cassius landed “a series of short pops to his head, one right below his left ear that makes him stumble into the ropes. . .” Cassius wins the match.
  • Cassius’ father showed him “a gruesome magazine photograph of a twelve-year-old faceless boy who was visiting family. . . when he was shot in the head, drowned in the river, and killed for maybe whistling at a white woman.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Darn is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Cassius’ mom didn’t like him betting “on account of God not liking ugly, and all gambling is ugly.”
  • When Cassius says that the Bible didn’t get him and his brother into the whites’ park, his mother says, “Boy, don’t you dare blaspheme the Good book.”
  • During one match, Cassius “recited the Lord’s prayer.”
  • Cassius’ mother prays, “we gather together to send this boy out into the world, and ask that you hold his dreams tight, let them rocket to the stars and beyond.”
  • Cassius “joined the Nation of Islam—a movement that was founded to give black people a new sense of pride. A week later, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali.”

 

Much Ado About Baseball

Twelve-year-old Trish can solve tough math problems and throw a mean fastball. But because of her mom’s new job, she’s now facing a summer trying to make friends all over again in a new town. That isn’t an easy thing to do, and her mom is too busy to notice how miserable she is.

But at her first baseball practice, Trish realizes one of her teammates is Ben, the sixth-grade math prodigy she beat in the spring Math Puzzler Championships. Everyone around them seems to think that with their math talent and love of baseball, it’s only logical that Trish and Ben become friends, but Ben makes it clear he still hasn’t gotten over that loss and can’t stand her.

Ben hasn’t played baseball in two years, and he doesn’t want to play now—but he has to, thanks to losing a bet with his best friend. Once Ben realizes Trish is on the team, he knows he can’t quit and be embarrassed by her again. To make matters worse, their team can’t win a single game. But then they meet Rob, an older kid who smacks home runs without breaking a sweat. Rob tells them about his family’s store, which sells unusual snacks that will make them better ballplayers. Trish is dubious, but she’s willing to try almost anything to help the team.

When a mysterious booklet of math puzzles claiming to reveal the “ultimate answer” arrives in her mailbox, Trish and Ben start to get closer and solve the puzzles together. Ben starts getting hits, and their team becomes unstoppable. Trish is happy to keep riding the wave of good luck . . . until they get to a puzzle they can’t solve, with tragic consequences. Can they find the answer to this ultimate puzzle, or will they strike out when it counts the most?

Much Ado About Baseball is a fast-paced story that teaches about friendship and fitting in using baseball as a backdrop. The story is told from both Ben’s and Trish’s point of view. The alternating points of view allow readers to see how Ben and Trish struggle with conflicting emotions. Middle grade readers will relate to Ben and Trish, who both are trying to fit in with their new baseball team. While the two are often at odds, they learn to work together. As a result, Ben realizes that friendship is about “arranging things so they’re best for the group, and not just for one person.”

While the story has plenty of baseball action, math puzzles also take center stage. Readers will enjoy trying to solve the puzzle before the answer is revealed. In addition, Much Ado About Baseball has a Shakespeare quoting character and magical fairies that need a lesson in cooperation. By combining baseball, puzzles, and Shakespeare, LaRocca creates an imaginative and engaging story that is full of suspense. While the story focuses on friendship, it also shines a light on the importance of honesty and forgiveness. The story’s conclusion is a little too perfect and cheerful. Everything is wrapped up in a positive manner which causes the ending to sound a little preachy. Despite this, Much Ado About Baseball will appeal to sports fans and non-sports fans alike. If you’re looking for another book full of baseball excitement, grab a copy of Soar by Joan Bauer.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Several times someone is referred to as a jerk. For example, Trish thinks a boy is a jerk.
  • Heck is used occasionally.

Supernatural

  • Both Ben and Trish get a magical math puzzle book. When the right answer is written down, “the entire grid turned bright green. . . Then, under the puzzle, a sentence appeared.” The sentence gives help with a problem.
  • After using the magical math book, Ben tells the baseball where to go. The ball, “seemed to slow down. . . it was surrounded by sparkling green light.” Because of this, Ben is able to hit a home run.
  • Ben thinks eating the Salt Shaker snacks makes him better at baseball. His team eats the snacks before every game. “But the kids kept having weird reactions. . .breaking out in purple blotches that disappeared after a few minutes; hiccupping intermittently for an afternoon; even growing fuzzy hair on our forearms that resembled a donkey’s fur.”
  • In Ben and Trish’s world, fairies exist “as much as magic math books and lucky coins.”
  • Ben and Trish go to a part of the forest where fairies are. After a brief conversation, “The mouths surrounded us like a green cloud. When they finally flew away, we were back in my yard.”

 

Spiritual Content

  • None

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Born in Ghana, West Africa with one deformed leg, Emmanuel was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.

Even though Emmanuel only had one good leg, he was determined to do what the other children did—go to school, play soccer, and ride a bike. Unlike most children today, Emmanuel also had to work shining shoes and selling vegetables to help support his family. Because of his disability, people told him to “go out and beg, like other disabled people did.” However, Emmanuel refused to give up, and his experiences led him to ride 400 miles across his country to show that “being disabled does not mean being unable.”

Even though Emmanuel’s Dream is a picture book, most young readers will not be able to read the book independently because of the advanced vocabulary and text-heavy pages. Each page has 2 to 4 sentences and many of the sentences are long and complex. The simple illustrations use bright colors and show Emmanuel’s world. Through the pictures, readers will get a brief look at Ghana’s culture.

Because of his disability, Emmanuel faced many hardships and discrimination. However, his story focuses on how he overcame each difficult situation. Emmanuel’s Dream will entertain readers as it teaches them the importance of perseverance and hard work. Because of Emmanuel’s dedication, he was able to succeed in spreading his message. “He proved that one leg is enough to do great things—and one person is enough to change the world.”

If you’re looking for more inspiring sports related books that focus on people overcoming difficult situations, pick up a copy of She Persisted in Sports by Chelsea Clinton and Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubbard.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When Emmanuel was born, most people thought he would be “useless, or worse—a curse. His father left, never to return.”

Spiritual Content

  • Emmanuel was given his name because it means “God is with us.”
  • Emmanuel asked the king of his region “to give him a royal blessing.”

 

A Time to Dance

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

First and foremost, Veda is a likable teenager who deals with many types of normal teenage problems including conflicts with her parents and friends, crushes, insecurities, as well as the loss of her leg. Readers will connect with Veda because she is an imperfect teen who feels an array of emotions. Throughout her journey, Veda refuses to give up. Despite the loss of her leg, she is determined to continue Bharatanatyam dance. For Veda, dance is “a sacred art, an offering of devotion to God.” When Veda wrestles with the way her disability affects her dancing, her grandmother tells her, “There are as many perfect poses as there are people. . . Shiva sees perfection in every sincere effort. He loves us despite—or maybe because of—our differences.”

When Veda is learning how to use her prosthetic limb, the story skips past the difficulties of learning how to use the prosthetic as well the other physical ailments. Instead of explaining the difficulties, Veda’s time with the doctor is spent describing her infatuation with him. To learn more about how amputation can affect an athlete, The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen is an engaging story that can give you more insight.

A Time to Dance is written in beautiful verse that magnifies emotions and conflicts but is never confusing. The inspirational story shows Veda’s courage, perseverance, and the importance of personal growth. A Time to Dance is an entertaining story that contains positive life lessons and teaches readers about Veda’s traditions, culture, and religion.

Sexual Content

  • Veda’s grandmother tells her about the history of dancers. Brahmin dancers “weren’t allowed to marry. And somehow, somewhere along the way, / society retracted / its promise to respect these women. / They were treated as prostitutes / and their sacred art degraded / into entertainment to please vile men.”
  • Govinda helps Veda overcome her leg’s phantom pain. “His fingers feel good/stroking my invisible skin./So good I want him stroking my real skin. / Want to reach out and stroke his. / My desire scares me, and I reach for the safety of my teacup.”

Violence

  • Veda is on a bus when it crashes. “Pain / sears through me / as though elephants are spearing my skin with sharp tusks and trampling over my right leg. . .” Her dance teacher covers her eyes, but “through his fingers I see / shredded skin, misshapen muscles. / Mine. Feel sticky blood pooling / below my right knee.” Veda’s leg is amputated below the knee. The bus driver “hit a tree. He died.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Veda’s Hindu religious belief is an integral part of every aspect of her life. Below are some specific examples; however, it is not a complete list of everything in the book.
  • When Veda was a child, she climbed up a ladder to touch Shiva’s feet. The priest tells her, “You don’t have to climb ladders to reach God. He dances within all He creates. . . God is everywhere. In everybody. In everything. He is born at different times, in different places, with different names.”
  • Veda believes in reincarnation, which is mentioned often. For example, Veda’s grandmother says Veda was always able to “shape thoughts” with her fingers. “It was as if you remembered the sign language of Bharatanatyam from a previous life you’d lived as a dancer before being reincarnated as my granddaughter.”
  • When Veda dances, she loves “portraying Shiva, who, through the steps of His eternal dance, creates and destroys universes.”
  • After Veda’s accident, her grandmother says, “God’s grace moves the mute to eloquence and inspires the lame to climb mountains.”
  • After the accident Veda doesn’t “feel God is anywhere nearby let alone inside of me.”
  • Veda wonders if losing her leg is a punishment from God or for “bad Karma we built up in a past life.” Her grandmother says, “I don’t believe in a punishing God. I believe in a compassionate God. To me, Karma isn’t about divine reward or retribution. Karma is about making wise choices to create a better future.”
  • Veda’s grandmother tells her a story about God. “The sight of you—poverty-stricken, overcome by age and illness—turned Buddha from a mere man into a reincarnation of God.”
  • When Veda’s grandmother is dying, Veda gives her “a drink of this water from the holiest of rivers. She believes it will help wash away her sins.” After she dies someone says, “I’m sure her soul doesn’t need to be reborn in the world. She’ll now be reunited with God.”

Descent

Peak, Zopa, and Joshua Wood’s adventure down the mountain, Hkakabo Razi, continues as the group is pursued by the Chinese government. Picking up immediately where the last book left off, Peak and the gang are running out of time to escape both the mountain and China. Fortunately, Zopa has more tricks up his sleeve as they search for sanctuary in the fabled monastery, Pemako. But with old enemies on their heels, the group will have to move quickly to avoid capture.

As the final installment to Peak’s adventures, Descent is an action-packed ending that wraps up all the loose ends. Although the first half of Descent is slow, the rest of the story is fast-paced with plenty of new elements, including the hidden monastery, Pemako. Peak learns much more about Buddhist beliefs and life in Pemako, thanks in part to Zopa’s increased role.

Despite being on the run from the Chinese government, the main theme that Peak and the other characters drive home is the importance of going out into the world and doing good, even when it may be difficult. An old enemy from the first installment named Captain Shek reappears. While climbing, Peak decides to save Captain Shek because Peak feels that letting the captain fall to his death would be wrong. This decision arises despite Captain Shek’s merciless pursuit of Peak, Zopa, and Joshua Wood, and despite Captain Shek’s aims to capture and imprison Peak and his family. At one point, Captain Shek does capture Joshua and beats him. Regardless, Peak shows Captain Shek humanity and mercy by saving his life, even if Captain Shek has no interest in showing Peak or the others any compassion.

Descent is as much about survival as it is about climbing, though climbing is once again a big part of the book. Although Peak’s climbing adventures do end with this book, Peak takes away important lessons about finding inner peace and being a compassionate person. Throughout the series, Peak has shown time and time again that he is a strong-willed teenager, but he really shines when he consciously decides to be the best person he can be. His talent as a climber is impressive, but even that comes second to his ability to choose humanity over revenge. Descent is a strong conclusion to Peak’s story. Although readers will be sad to see the series end, the lessons learned will outlast even the books themselves.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • In Tibet, the Chinese military arrests Josh Wood and beat him. Peak discovers this because Josh’s two eyes are “swollen shut.”
  • Captain Shek’s men catch up to the family that helped Josh, Peak, and Zopa escape. According to the monks at the monastery, Captain Shek and his men questioned them, and the family wasn’t “beaten too badly.”
  • In the monastery/crater called Pemako, many of the monks practice martial arts. Peak describes, “Practicing is a little mild for what I witnessed. They were sparring, full contact, with fists and feet, and tossing each other onto the unpadded floor. Several of the monks were bleeding. Half a dozen others were sitting next to a wall like broken, discarded dolls.”
  • Peak learns a bit about Pemako, like the crime rate. Peak explains, “Crime is rare here, but not unknown. Anyone you ask will tell you about it. There has been one murder, two rapes, and seventeen thefts. I was shocked to hear this until the farmer who told me this added, ‘In the past one hundred years.’”
  • Lightning strikes Josh while he’s climbing a wall. He falls and “he hit the ground a few feet from the rope. Both of his legs were twisted in sickeningly, unnatural angles, shattered.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Josh Wood is arrested and interrogated, Peak is pretty sure they drug Josh as well. Josh is extremely groggy and isn’t always sure of his surroundings.
  • Due to the severe head injury that Ethan sustained in the previous book, Ethan now takes a lot of medications to help him get better. Ethan says that he’s “a zombie most of the time.”
  • One of Shek’s soldiers stops to “smoke a cigarette and answer his two-way.”

Language

  • Light language is used infrequently. Words include: moron and stupid.
  • Ethan calls Peak over the satellite phones and tells Peak to “get his ass out of Tibet.”
  • Peak mentions that Zopa “didn’t give a damn what he looked like when he was climbing.”

Supernatural

  • Peak asks how Zopa was able to find him when he was lost in the jungle. Zopa is evasive, and he says that he reached Peak via “other means.” Peak guesses, “Star Trek transporter? Broom? Quantum shift? Time machine?”

Spiritual Content

  • Peak discusses how documentaries make mountain climbing look so simple. Peak says, “Suddenly, the intrepid, brave climbers appear on the mountain out of nowhere as if God dropped them from the sky.”
  • Zopa gives climbing gear to the hunters who help feed Zopa, Peak, and the others. Zopa says, “It is all about karma. The giving, not the taking.”
  • Zopa mentions that there are women who are monks. Peak is surprised by this, and Zopa replies, “Enlightenment has nothing to do with gender.”
  • In Tibet, Zopa explains that he, Peak, and Josh should head towards Pemako. Zopa describes, “It is the hidden lotus land, the earthly representation of the Tibetan goddess Dorje Pagmo. The mountains and rivers of Pemako are thought to be her body, with her center, or womb, being somewhere in the Tsangpo River Gorge.”
  • Zopa spends some time meditating in the lotus posture, or “padmāsana.”
  • Much like in the other installments, Zopa gives every passerby that aids Peak, Josh, and Zopa a “Buddhist blessing” for safe travels.
  • Peak explains to Zopa that he was under the impression that Buddhist monks didn’t eat meat. Zopa replies, “The big Buddhist food debate. Which has been going on since Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha twenty-five hundred years ago. Buddhists are definitely not allowed to kill animals and are encouraged to be vegetarians, but this does not prevent them from eating animal flesh if that flesh was not expressly killed for their consumption.”
  • One of the monks mentions that “work is prayer.”

by Alli Kestler

 

I am Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King, the world champion tennis player, fought successfully for women’s rights. From a young age, Billie Jean King loved sports—especially tennis! But as she got older, she realized that plenty of people, even respected male athletes, didn’t take female athletes seriously. She set out to prove them wrong and show girls everywhere that sports are for everyone, regardless of gender.

Billie Jean’s story shows the inequity in tennis, which at the time was played mostly by rich, white males. The story focuses on how women were discriminated against. For example, women were paid significantly less. Even though Billy Jean and her partner, Karen Wantze, were the youngest team to ever win Wimbledon, they could not afford to attend the Wimbledon celebration ball.

Right from the start, Bill Jean King’s story begins explaining what “fair play” means. Billie Jean defines fair play, saying, “In sports and in life, it means you respect the rules and treat everyone equally.” Most of Billie Jean’s story focuses on equity in sports, but it leaves out what exactly Billie Jean did to help solve the problem. However, the book’s message is positive: “All of us are powerful in our own ways. So how do you get to be your best self? By practicing, sweating, and giving everything you’ve got. And when you have nothing left, give more.” Later in her life, President Obama awarded Billie Jean the Presidential Medal of Freedom for being “one of the first openly lesbian sports figures, and for using sports to create social change.”

Colorful, full-page illustrations show important aspects of Billie Jean’s life beginning when she was a little girl. The book’s text includes speech bubbles as well as short paragraphs. Throughout the book, Sonia and some of the other characters are cartoonish. The cartoonish figure of Billie Jean does not change throughout the book; when she is an adult, she is pictured with other players who look like adults, yet Billie Jean still looks like a child which is a little disconcerting. When groups of people appear, the people are diverse and include both male and female. The end of the book has a timeline of Billie Jean’s life and six pictures of her. In the last line, Billie Jean says, “Be bold. If you’re going to make an error, make a doozy, and don’t be afraid to hit the ball.”

Younger readers will enjoy I am Billie Jean King’s fun format, conversational text, and positive message. However, the heavy focus on equity may be difficult for younger readers to understand. For these readers, parents may wish to read the book with their child and discuss some of the important achievements Billie Jean made for women. To explore equal rights further, read A Girl Named Rosa: The True Story of Rosa Parks by Denise Lewis Patrick, which is another inspirational book about fighting for equal rights.

Sexual Content

  • Billie Jean realizes that she is gay. “Being gay means that if you’re a girl, you love and have romantic feelings for other girls—and if you’re a boy, you love and have romantic feelings for other boys.”

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon

Every step forward is a victory.

Fauja Singh was born determined. He was also born with legs that wouldn’t allow him to play cricket with his friends or carry him to the school that was miles from his village in Punjab. But that didn’t stop him. Working on his family’s farm, Fauja grew stronger, determined to meet his full potential.

Fauja never, ever stopped striving. At the age of 81, after a lifetime of making his body, mind, and heart stronger, Fauja decided to run his first marathon. He went on to break records all around the world and to become the first person over 100 years old to complete a marathon.

The picture book begins with a forward by Fauja Singh where he writes about his disability. Despite people teasing him, he never stopped believing in himself. Fauja says, “Doctors couldn’t figure out why I had trouble walking as a child, nor could they figure out why I was able to begin walking and, eventually, running. I think of it as a reminder that all of our bodies are different—and so are our experiences with disabilities.”

Every reader can benefit from Fauja’s story, which highlights the importance of perseverance and determination. Despite his disability, his mother continued to remind him, “You know yourself, Fauja, and you know what you’re capable of. Today is a chance to do your best.” With every small step, Fauja became stronger and eventually reached each of his goals—to walk, to farm, and to run a marathon.

Fauja’s story comes to life with fun, brightly colored illustrations. For example, when Fauja is stretching, a bird perched on his arm does the same stretch alongside him. While most of the illustrations focus on Fauja and his family, illustrations that portray more people show diverse groups. Even though Fauja Singh Keeps Going is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 2 to 7 sentences, and some sentences are complex.

If you’re looking for a motivational biography, Fauja Singh Keeps Going is the book for you. Even though Fauja faced hardship and discrimination, he focused on the positive and kept working to achieve his goals. He did not let the negative comments of others bring him down. Instead, “As he ran, Fauja thought about all the things people from his village said he would never do. . . They thought he was too old to run and yet, here he was, running 26.2 miles at the age of 100.”

Fauja Singh Keeps Going is a must-read because it shows the power of positive thinking and believing in yourself. In addition, Fauja’s story will encourage readers to “try your hardest, and always choose yes when you meet a challenge.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Fauja lived in England, he “learned that some people in the United States were attacking Sikhs for how they looked.”
  • While running a marathon, “someone shouted racist and hateful words at him. Other people joined in. Fauja brushed it off. He knew he had a strong spirit.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Fauja began to walk, “his parents were so happy, they shared prayers of thanks and distributed parshad to the entire village.”
  • At the end of the book, there is a one-page section that gives more information about Fauja and how his religion, Sikhism, affected his life. “Sikhs believe in treating everyone equally, serving others, working hard, and living with honesty and integrity.”

Parker Shines On: Another Extraordinary Moment

As she grows older, Parker Curry puts her whole heart into the art of ballet. At home, this passion manifests through silly dance moves Parker performs with her younger sister Ava and her younger brother Cash. These “dance parties” bring the whole family together.

In ballet class, Parker focuses more seriously on the movements of her teacher and vows to practice her skills more adamantly in the hopes of becoming a soloist like her friend Mira, or a professional dancer like those she sees featured on posters in the dance studio. With newfound determination, Parker waves away her sibling’s silly dances, instead dedicating herself to long hours in front of her mirror alone, practicing ballet steps over and over. “Becoming a real dancer is a serious business,” Parker thinks to herself. It isn’t until the day of her recital that Parker notices their soloist, Mira, is nervous. In this moment, Parker realizes it isn’t always practice, but the joy in the practice, that makes a performance beautiful. This realization, along with Ava and Cash’s encouragements to form a “Dance party!” help Mira and Parker showcase their hearts onstage.

The sequel to Parker Looks Up, Parker Shines On, is a true story from Parker Curry’s life, and works again to display the way powerful role models and positive experiences can shape a child’s life. Parker Shines On has dynamic and eye-catching digital illustrations by artist Brittany Jackson. On each page, readers follow Parker as she gathers dancing guidance from the posters of famous ballet icons, the movements of her best friend Mira, and the silly shenanigans of her siblings Cash and Ava.

Each illustration contrasts Parker’s carefree adventures at home — reading books, playing piano, dressing up, eating the last slice of cake, holding dance parties on the bed — with the precise and structured dances of Parker’s ballet classroom. With this contrast, readers can quickly see the way these two environments impact Parker’s approach to dancing. This adds an interesting tension to the story by displaying the way in which influences can negatively impact a person if they cause that person to pull joy away from their passions. In resolving this conflict in the end, Parker Shines On exemplifies how one can balance the structure and fun of life to not just improve on a skill, but also enjoy the process of that improvement. Each page holds scattered sections of text ranging from two to five lines and a simplistic vocabulary perfect for emerging readers.

In addition, the end of Parker Shines On is followed by Jessica Parker’s story behind the story, a note from famous ballet dancer Misty Copeland, and a biography for each dancer illustrated on the posters Parker sees throughout her practicing. These additions add another interactive piece for the readers of Parker Shines On, as these sections grant parents an opportunity to discuss real-life role models with young readers.

Though Parker Shines On will mainly appeal to those with a passion for dancing, it aims to truly capture the attention of all young readers looking for inspiration while practicing a new hobby. In showing the way Parker celebrates her own unique way of dancing, all readers are encouraged to express creative endeavors on the outside in the exact way they feel on the inside.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Hannah Olsson

The Knockout

Kareena Thakkar is very good at Muay Thai, a mixed-martial art. So good, in fact, that she’s been invited to the US Muay Thai Open, which might lead to her landing a spot on the first-ever Muay Thai Olympic team. The only problem? She might alienate herself from the Indian community even further by doing so. Kareena shouldn’t care– as her parents haven’t raised her within the Indian community since they became estranged from it years ago– but Kareena can’t help feeling like she’s not “Indian enough.”

This is especially a problem since Kareena likes Amit Patel, who is the definition of a perfect Indian boy. Liking Amit isn’t difficult. But navigating Amit’s parents’ disapproval of Kareena and Amit’s relationship may prove to be. Not to mention, Kareena has her own friend issues and the big Muay Thai competition coming up. Needless to say, Kareena has a lot on her plate. The breaking point might be Kareena’s father’s health issues and the family’s mounting debt. But Kareena won’t go down without a fight.

Kareena battles other Muay Thai fighters and her own insecurities in The Knockout, and her determination to come out victorious is inspiring. Most importantly, her most human moments are when she’s anxious about her father’s health and has lapses in confidence. Her ability to bounce back from those moments and have faith in herself and the doctors treating her father is remarkable. Kareena is a good example of what it means to get back up after getting knocked down.

The Knockout shows an interesting intersection between religion, culture, and sports. The expectations on Kareena’s shoulders also weigh on the other Indian American characters: Amit and Saanvi, one of Kareena’s ex-friends, compare themselves and their “Indianness” through cultural and religious expectations. Kareena finds herself isolated not only because of her parent’s refusal to participate in many traditional activities and gatherings but also because Kareena is told that Muay Thai is “too violent” for women. However, Kareena finds community in her parents, Amit, and the other female athletes at her high school who support her goals and her love for Muay Thai.

The Knockout is a smart and insightful story about resilience in social situations and in sports. The book also covers Muay Thai, a sport that is not often written about. The fight scenes are exciting and help show Kareena’s strength of character, which drives the plot. Ultimately, Kareena’s story is about self-acceptance and getting back up when you’re knocked down, which is a lesson that everyone can stand to learn.

Sexual Content

  • Kareena’s friend Lily has unruly hair. Kareena suggests that Lily go natural instead of trying to tame it, and Lily says, “My hair is a horror show of spiderwebs making awful love to twigs.”
  • Some girls gossip about Kareena, spreading rumors. Kareena overhears them saying, “First [Kareena] goes after your crush, my brother, while she was talking to Reg? Of course, Travis wants to mess around with her. He probably heard about her hooking up with guys. There’s no way she dated Reg and didn’t do stuff. She probably would fool around with Travis. Why else would he bother flirting with her? Travis is ever only after one thing, we all know that. And he only goes after girls who he thinks he can get.”
  • Amit kisses Kareena on her cheek, “on the far left corner of [her] lips.”
  • Kareena falls out of her bedroom window and lands on Amit. Kareena and Amit kiss, and Kareena describes, “Our lips touched with an explosion of senses that I didn’t even know existed. His warmth against my skin, the softness of his mouth against mine, the taste of cardamom and pasta on his tongue.”
  • Kareena explains that Travis “had gone to senior prom since he was a freshman . . . every prom he’d get that senior girl to rent a hotel room upstairs, get lucky, and then blab about it the next day to all of his buds.”
  • Kareena and Amit kiss while working on computer programming. Kareena says, “My stomach did a million flips as I kissed him back.”

Violence

  • The Knockout is about Muay Thai, a form of martial arts. Kareena and other characters spar during Muay Thai, and physical injuries do occur due to the violent nature of the sport. For instance, one of Kareena’s opponents, Jenny, sports a nosebleed when Kareena punches her during a match.
  • Kareena and Amit stare at each other awkwardly while studying for computer science. To stop this, Kareena “lightly punches [Amit’s] arm” and tells him to continue studying.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Profanity is used frequently. Profanity includes: badass, hell, crap, freaking, pissed, motha-freaking fans, slut, stupid, dick, prick, damn, and dumb.
  • When Kareena turns Travis down for prom, Travis says, “Saanvi must be right. You like girls, don’t you?” Kareena responds with, “Just because I’m not buying your trash? Get out of my face.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Kareena makes a comment about Amit being into all the “religious stuff” that comes with being Indian, but Kareena doesn’t explain further.
  • Amit invites Kareena to go to Holi at the mandir with him and his family. Kareena describes Holi: “Holi was a yearly thing that drew a butt-load of Indians to celebrate and throw brightly colored powder on each other to the rhythm of vibrant music well into the night. It was not a date thing. It was a family thing. A cultural thing. A community thing. An Indian thing.” Kareena explains throughout the book that her family does not partake in “Indian things” despite being Indian themselves.
  • Kareena and her mom sit with their feet on the coffee table, and Kareena jokingly comments, “Forgive us etiquette gods.”
  • Kareena compares her non-religious life to that of Saanvi, her former friend. Kareena says, “[Saanvi] observes all the holidays and fasts and prays every morning. We used to do sleepovers at Rayna’s, and she’d bring this portable prayer kit. You know? With a prayer towel, pictures, prayer book, and beaded necklace thing. I don’t know what that’s called. She’d wake up at dawn and face the south of the house, or something, and pray. She used to get mad when I walked in on her, even if we were quiet.”
  • Saanvi tells Kareena that according to Saanvi’s parents, Saanvi and Amit are “nakhye,” or promised to be wed to each other. Nakhye is a more religious practice. Amit denies Saanvi’s accusations.

by Alli Kestler

Ascent

In the third installment of Peak’s climbing adventures, Peak Marcello and his friends, Alessia and Ethan, go to Myanmar to climb the isolated mountain, Hkakabo Razi. However, the jungles of Myanmar might prove to be more treacherous than the climb itself. But if anyone is good at getting out of trouble, it’s Peak.

Ascent begins Peak’s Myanmar adventure that takes him on a four-week trek through the rainforest. Peak’s descent down Hkakabo Razi is detailed in the fourth book, Descent. Ascent maintains much of the same cast and includes rock climbing and run-ins with local governments in countries that have histories of civil unrest.

Characters from the first book also make a surprise reappearance in the latter half of the book, including Peak’s biological father, Josh Wood, who is a famous mountaineer and Zopa, the Tibetan monk. Peak’s relationship with Josh continues to grow. Peak is also enormously happy to see Zopa, who rarely reveals his secrets and is always the smartest person on the mountaintop. In this sense, the end of Ascent harkens back to the events on Mount Everest in Peak.

Much of the book takes place in the jungle at the base of Hkakabo Razi. The group encounters corrupt military officials, language barriers, wildlife, and a murderer on the run from the Burmese government. The actual mountaineering is near the end of the book, when they finally make it out of the jungle.

The traumatic events that occurred in The Edge are addressed, in part, in Ascent. Ascent is less intense than The Edge generally. These books should be read in order, for comprehension’s sake. Readers familiar with this series will find their expectations met when it comes to the intensity and graphic nature of the violence. Much like the previous book, Peak doesn’t experience the violence himself, but he does hear about it secondhand.

Ascent is a good continuation to Peak’s adventures and the characters’ development. Although this book moves at a slower pace than the previous two, it sets up the intense action in Descent. Fans of Peak’s adventures will be glad to see old faces reintegrated into the mix and will welcome the new additions. Ascent certainly presents an exciting first half to this two-part portion of Peak’s story, and it will be interesting to see what unfolds for Peak and his friends next.

Sexual Content

  • Peak and Alessia are dating. Peak talks about his feelings for her, saying, “I guess I am in love with her. And I think that she feels the same way about me.”
  • At several points in the book, Peak “kisses [Alessia].” It is never more than a quick peck.

Violence

  • A Burmese guide named Lwin killed an owl “with his slingshot and ate it.”
  • Lwin has a timber elephant named Nagathan, and Lwin tells Alessia, Ethan, and Peak that Nagathan has killed several people. This turns out to be false; it was Lwin himself, who killed those people. Alessia, Ethan, and Peak discover this when soldiers find them in the forest and inform them of the situation.
  • Nagathan trampled Lwin, killing him. Peak and his friends only hear reports about the state of Lwin’s body. Major Thakin, who oversees the soldiers, says that Lwin “was unrecognizable as a human. The forest animals had been feeding on what was left of him for a couple of days. It was too dark to search for remains last night, so the soldiers camped near the crime scene. This morning they searched the area and found a foot, two fingers, and a bloody longyi [pouch] up in a tree.” This description lasts for a few paragraphs.
  • Lwin, who turns out to be alive, tries to take Alessia hostage. Alessia uses the mixed martial arts that Ethan taught her to flip Lwin and break his foot and hand. Peak describes, “There was a loud snap, like a dry stick being broken, and then an unconscious Lwin was lying on the ground and Alessia was holding his [hunting knife] to his neck.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Peak and his friends end up in a bustling town in the middle of the jungle. In it, there are stands selling “animal parts, skins, rubies, and opium.”
  • Nick and Ethan have cold beers when invited to dinner by a man named Mr. Chin, while Alessia and Peak drink lemonade.

Language

  • Light language is used somewhat often. Language includes: crap, fool, damn, crazy, stupid, and weird.
  • Nick, the resident botanist of Peak’s group, says, “Good lord” when a young girl in a village runs up to him and shows him a dismembered monkey’s foot.
  • As Alessia’s bodyguard, Ethan has been teaching Alessia mixed martial arts. Ethan says to Peak, “She can kick your ass.” Later, after Ethan hears that Alessia defended herself against Lwin without an issue, Ethan says, “I told you she could kick your ass.”
  • A cameraman named Zack says, “Oh my God” when Peak tells him how Ethan was injured.

Supernatural

  • Ethan has a single spoon that he’s used during his journeys on all seven continents. He refers to it as his “magic spoon.”
  • Ethan mentions that he saw “a ghost” in the middle of the night. Peak responds that he doesn’t believe in ghosts, and Ethan replies, “Yeah, me neither. Let’s take a look.” They find that there are footprints, and Peak says, “I don’t think ghosts leave footprints.” They discover that Lwin probably faked his own death and has been following them.
  • Peak tells Nick the ghost/Lwin theory. Nick responds that he thinks it’s just a ghost. Nick says, “The forest is filled with spirits and ghosts . . . I’m surprised it took Ethan this long to spot one.”

Spiritual Content

  • Zopa is a monk and sometimes gives blessings to passing porters, hikers, and climbers.
  • Peak survives being buried in an avalanche. Josh calls him “lucky,” and Zopa calls it “karma.”
  • When a helicopter finally shows up in the forest, Alessia says, “Thank God.” Peak responds, “Amen to that.”

by Alli Kestler

Chunky

According to the doctors, Hudi needs to lose weight. His parents have him try out for various sports, much to Hudi’s chagrin. At least Hudi’s imaginary friend, Chunky, is the best hype-man any kid could ask for. While trying out different sports and striking out each time, Chunky pushes Hudi towards comedy and encourages Hudi to embrace his unconventionality.

Written and illustrated as a graphic memoir by Yehudi Mercado, Chunky gives a refreshing look into the world of youth sports. Hudi is not good at any of the sports that he tries, (except for maybe football), but Chunky and his sense of humor keep his spirits high, even when he gets injured or when things go terribly wrong. The book emphasizes themes about following what you love, having a good attitude, and the importance of having someone looking out for you.

Hudi’s father loses his job, which is when Hudi’s spirits drop and he temporarily loses his love for comedy. Hudi instead commits to football, where he excels because he’s bigger than all the other kids. However, Chunky has a harder time reaching Hudi during these scenes, as Hudi is concerned with winning and has lost his individuality. Hudi and Chunky do reconcile and Hudi returns to his jokester self, even though it means that he won’t play football anymore. This is fine with Hudi, as he gets his friend back and he can be himself—and pursue comedy!

Much like Hudi himself, the illustrations are playful and fun, with lots of warm reds and yellows. Chunky is a red, imaginary creature, and his design is goofy and sweet. The use of illustrations really shines when Hudi and Chunky make jokes about the various sports that Hudi attempts. At the end of each section, Chunky and Hudi sit at a table in what looks to be a mock-press conference. This hopping back and forth in Hudi’s reality creates a fun and interesting atmosphere that helps bring Hudi’s story and comedy to life.

Mercado also touches on being Mexican and Jewish, and sometimes Spanish is used within the story. This doesn’t make the story difficult to understand, but instead, it highlights more of Hudi and his family’s background. In general, there is also a strong sense of family throughout, and Hudi’s father losing his job hits the family hard. Overall, Chunky has an innate love and passion surging through the pages—a love for comedy, family, and oneself. Kids of all ages will enjoy Mercado’s comedy and colorful illustrations. Chunky shows us that we don’t have to be good at everything, but that we can do anything with enthusiasm and a good sense of humor.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • At baseball tryouts, Hudi gets hit in the face with the ball. The panel depicts him with a swollen, bruised eye as he’s lying on the mound. This happens several times, as Hudi is horribly unlucky.
  • Another baseball player named Sunny yells at Hudi, “If you ever ask me stupid questions again, I’m gonna throw a bat at you.”
  • Hudi’s father tells Hudi, “If the guys make fun of you, you have to kick them back.”
  • One of the swimmers, Burt, invites some of the other boys and Hudi over for a sleepover. Hudi notices that the boys all have toy guns, and when Hudi goes home and asks his mom if he can have one, she adamantly tells him no.
  • Hudi accidentally slices off the top part of his finger with a saw while trying to make a toy gun. The panel shows a bit of blood and the top part of Hudi’s index finger separated from the rest of the finger. The next panel shows Hudi at the emergency room.
  • Hudi’s sister, Wynnie, smacks Hudi with her drink at her bat mitzvah because Hudi is goofing around.
  • Hudi plays football and discovers that he’s bigger than all the other boys, which helps with making tackles. Football-esque violence during the game is depicted.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Hudi’s doctors are concerned about Hudi’s weight, and discussions about weight happen throughout the book. Terms like “fat” and “overweight” are frequently used, both by medical professionals and by other people, including Hudi’s parents and other sports players. Some players call Hudi “Hudi Big Booty” in a derogatory way.
  • One opponent says about Hudi, “How am I supposed to find the strike zone? [Hudi’s] so fat, he’s covering the entire plate.”
  • Light language is used somewhat frequently. Language includes: stupid, suckers, loser, and fatso.
  • Hudi’s family sometimes affectionately refers to him as Majecito, which in Spanish means, “Little Dummy.” The sportscasters who narrate some of the book explain this translation. Hudi explains to Chunky that he doesn’t want to tell the other boys because Hudi thinks the nickname is “so . . . Mexican and weird.”
  • During a football game, Hudi takes out the quarterback of the opposing team. People in the crowd can be seen in the panels chanting, “kill him.” Instead, Hudi helps the other player up.

Supernatural

  • Chunky is a red monster-esque figure and Hudi’s imaginary friend. Chunky is extremely kind and supportive of Hudi in all his endeavors.

Spiritual Content

  • Hudi is Jewish. Hudi’s sister Wynnie has her bat mitzva during the novel.
  • Hudi envisions his future on the big screen. One of the potential movies is called “Hudi and Chunky in Hanukkah Cops: 8 Nights of Danger.”

by Alli Kestler

After the Shot Drops

After the Shot Drops follows the story of a friendship between two high school sophomores, Bunny and Nasir. Although they have been best friends since childhood, their friendship begins to deteriorate after Bunny transfers from Whitman High to a private, affluent, less-diverse school. Bunny, a rising star in high school basketball, has a dream for making it to the NBA. He is noticed for his athletic prowess, but the path to making his basketball dream may lead him to losing Nasir as both a friend and confidante.

Besieged with problems of his own, Nasir must prevent his impoverished cousin, Wallace, from becoming homeless. Wallace is in debt and on the verge of homelessness. In order to make money quickly, Wallace bets against Bunny’s team in the upcoming basketball state championships. However, thanks to Bunny’s amazing basketball skills, this plan quickly falls apart with terrible consequences for Wallace, Nasir, and ultimately Bunny.

After the Shot Drops is told in an alternating pattern of first-person accounts, thus weaving together a narrative about the lives of both main characters, Bunny and Nasir. Each chapter shifts between both characters, which allows the audience to create a sympathetic connection to each of them. Each character must find themselves amidst their drama making their struggles highly relatable. Although Bunny and Nasir become increasingly distant, the audience is treated to both the joys and sorrows from each of their perspectives.

Through the lens of basketball, Ribay demonstrates the awesome, yet sometimes divisive power of competitive ambition. In this touching story of friendship, readers will learn about the difficulties facing people of color in America. While the book does not directly address racism, certain instances and scenes poke holes in prevailing stereotypes in order to defy them. While there are a few violent scenes and swear words, Ribay strategically uses these devices to intensify the story’s drama.

After the Shot Drops is a face-paced, intense, and often empathetic story that highlights the difficulties of balancing friendships. Ribay’s exciting descriptions of basketball games and character building lead the audience towards forging a real and very moving connection with each character.

Sexual Content

  • Bunny and his girlfriend, Keyona, exchange intimate kisses while standing next to traffic. “Some passing car beeps its horn, and then another car honks at us, and then another like it’s become a thing everyone’s doing. We start laughing even as we’re still kissing”
  • While at the victory party, Bunny fantasizes in a direct, suggestive manner about his new friend Brooke. “To be honest, I try to not look at her butt, but it’s right there and it’s looking real nice in those jeans”

Violence

  • In an act of revenge against Bunny’s betrayal, Wallace convinces a hesitant Nasir to paint the front of Bunny’s house with a smattering of eggs. Wallace “cocks his arm back and chucks the egg. It hits the brick of the Thompsons’ row house with a small but oddly satisfying ”
  • After making a few bad bets on local sports, Wallace is punched in the face at a party by one of the gamblers as a warning. “[The stranger’s] fist cracks into the side of Wallace’s jaw, and Wallace drops to the ground like a sack of bricks”
  • To sublimate his guilt, Nasir plays a shooting video game in which he kills Nazi zombies. “I pull the trigger the moment the Nazi zombie shambles out of the darkness and into my crosshairs. Head shot. Blood, brain matter, and skill fragments spray the wall.”
  • After falling further in debt with the gamblers, Wallace tells Nasir that he faces pretty fatal consequences unless he is able to pony up the money. Specifically, Wallace reflects on the story of a former late classmate as he says, “Word on the street is that the bullet he caught by accident was meant for someone who fucked with these guys.”
  • During the heat of the third quarter in the state championship game, Bunny takes an elbow directly to the face. The opponent “looks to the outside like he’s going to pass but then pivots, swinging his elbows—clocks me right in the nose.” He was knocked unconscious with a nearly broken, bleeding nose.
  • A heated shouting and punching match begins between Bunny and Wallace. Bunny sees “Wallace standing there, holding something and pointing it at me – he shifts, and it glints, catching the light from one of the faraway streetlamps. It’s a gun.” Wallace aims and shoots Bunny straight in the chest. Bunny is quickly rushed to the hospital after massive blood loss but eventually makes a full recovery.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • While skipping out on class, Bunny’s peers at St. Sebastian’s attempt to get him to smoke weed for his first time.
  • After going to the movies with Nasir, Wallace lights up a joint. Wallace “fishes a blunt from his pocket and lights up right there in front of the theater.”
  • Nasir and Wallace attend a house party in which many guests are using drugs and alcohol. “Most [people here] look like they’re college age, and most have a drink in one hand and a cigarette or blunt in the other.”
  • After winning a game without Bunny playing, the St. Sebastian’s team celebrates by throwing a classic high school party laden with cheap alcohol and drugs. “There are red cups arranged in a triangle at either end. Two guys are trying to toss a Ping-Pong ball into the cups on the opposite end.”
  • After winning the state championship, Nasir and Bunny catch up in their neighborhood but are approached by a drunk Wallace, who is brandishing a gun. Nasir notices Wallace approaching “… as soon as I see his tall figure making its way toward us, kicking up the snow like a playground bully kicking over some kid’s block city, I know something’s not right. He’s swaying, clutching a bottle in a paper bag in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other.”

Language

  • While Nasir and Wallace are at the cinema, they encounter Bunny and his girlfriend Keyona, whom Nasir had a crush on. Wallace finds Bunny, Nasir and Keyona and says “There you are, Nas. Shit, I thought you abandoned my ass.”
  • After coating Bunny’s house with eggs, Wallace tells Nasir to “[g]et this shit out of your system, or I’ll empty the rest of this carton on his house myself.”
  • Inside the Thompsons’ row house, Bunny and Keyona are studying while they hear the muted thumping of eggs against the side of the house. Keyona says, “I’m sorry that people can’t let it go. That you have to deal with this ignorant shit.”
  • Wallace rebukes Bunny in an attempt to further ingratiate himself with Nasir. “Wallace spits. ‘Man, fuck Bunny.’ And even though he’s expressed similar sentiments before, his words feel laced with a new level of malice.”
  • While driving Nasir to a party in their neighborhood, Wallace colorfully expresses his frustration with the lack of available parking. “Wallace slams his fists on the steering wheel. ‘Goddammit, motherfucking, bitch-ass, motherfucker,’ he mutters around the cigarette.”
  • Wallace tries to convince Nasir to befriend Bunny again in order to make him lose an upcoming game as he says “I know this isn’t easy for you, Nas, and I know I can be a dickhead some of the time – okay, a lot of the time – but I appreciate you trying to help out me and G[randma].”
  • With words flitting through his anxious mind, Nasir reflects on his plan to force Bunny to sit out for the rest of the season. “ Fearful. Friendless. Fucked.
  • After a string of seemingly unfair calls made by a basketball referee, one of Bunny’s teammates exclaims loudly, “Bullshit!”
  • In the state championship game, Bunny believes the referee is making unfair calls and cries, “Bullshit!”
  • At the park, an inebriated Wallace confronts Bunny saying, “Fuck you.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • To renew their friendship, Bunny takes Nasir to St. Sebastian’s and to the school’s library, which is large. Nasir says, “What’s up there. . . God?”

 by Daniel Klein

 

The Missing Baseball

There’s nothing eight-year-old twins Zach and Zoe Walker love more than playing sports and solving mysteries. And when the two worlds collide. . . well, it doesn’t get any better than that! So when a baseball signed by Zach’s favorite major league player goes missing, the search is on! Luckily, amateur sleuths Zach and Zoe are on the case. Can they solve the mystery and find the ball before it’s lost for good?

Zach and Zoe are positive characters who are kind to each other. Even though they are competitive, they do not get upset when they lose. While the sibling’s parents do not appear in the book often, the kids talk about the lessons their parents have taught them, including being a good teammate and not jumping to conclusions. The twins’ mom also reminds them that, “It’s not the souvenirs that matter. It’s the memories that go with them.”

Even though the story has a positive message, the message is repeated often and tends to sound like a lecture. While most of the story takes place at the siblings’ school, most of the illustrations only show the siblings. The only other boy that appears in a picture is Mateo, who some think stole Zach’s ball. The short chapters and illustrations that appear every 4 to 7 pages make The Missing Baseball a quick read. However, emerging readers may struggle with some of the vocabulary.

The Missing Baseball blends mystery and sports into a story that younger readers will enjoy. The story’s positive lessons and kind main characters are some of the book’s best features. While parents might not connect with Zach and Zoe, the story is a quick read and will appeal to parents looking for a book to read aloud to their child. Old readers who are ready for a more developed plot may quickly become bored with the Zach & Zoe Mysteries. The Ball Park Mysteries by David A. Kelly would be a better choice for fluent readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Shadow Over Second

Nicky Chong is set to beat the RBI record with his baseball team, the Peach Street Mudders. The problem is that people accidentally keep saying things to jinx Nicky, who is very superstitious. What’s worse is that the kid who currently holds the record, Sam Jolly, might be trying to sabotage Nicky’s chances.

Shadow Over Second is primarily about Nicky overcoming his reliance on superstitions. Nicky is a good baseball player, but he seems to believe that he does well because he has highly specific routines before each game. He believes that if he doesn’t complete the routines, then he won’t perform well. In the end, Nicky’s mom helps him understand that his superstitions are nothing more than that—superstitions. In addition, Nicky learns that his ability is far more important than any jinx.

The current RBI record holder is Sam Jolly, who is older than Nicky. Nicky’s team has to play Sam Jolly’s brother’s baseball team, which is a point of tension for both Nicky and Sam’s brother, Stick Jolly. Trying to sabotage Nicky’s shot at the record, Stick locks Nicky and his teammate in the shed right before a game. In the end, Nicky realizes that it was Stick who locked them in, and Nicky confronts him. The resolution is peaceful, and Nicky takes the high road. Instead of continuing to be angry, Nicky forgives Stick.

Shadow Over Second will mostly appeal to elementary readers who like baseball, as it is a very short book with a straightforward and simple plot. Although baseball terminology and gameplay are large parts of the book, it is easy for non-baseball players to understand. Shadow Over Second may bore older readers who are looking for more complex character development and storytelling. Middle school baseball fans should check out Heat by Mike Lupica.

Shadow Over Second is part of the Peach Street Mudders Series; the other books follow stories about Nicky’s other teammates, and they do not have to be read in order. Each book focuses on a different baseball player on the team. Readers who enjoy baseball will be glad to find that the Peach Street Mudders have many baseball-related stories to tell. Although Shadow Over Second is quite short, it contains good lessons for kids about integrity and not placing superstitions above hard work and ability.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Nicky’s friend and teammate Turtleneck “punched him lightly in the shoulder.” It’s a playful nudge.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Stick Jolly, younger brother to Sam Jolly, laughs at Nicky. Stick says, “Bet you thought that RI was going to help your stupid team pull ahead, didn’t you?”
  • Nicky realizes that Stick was the one who locked Nicky and his teammate Turtleneck in the shed. Nicky tells Stick, “I know what you did, Stick. And I think it stinks.”

Supernatural

  • Nicky is superstitious and goes through a “ritual . . . each time he prepared to bat.” He describes it, saying, “First he tapped his right foot with the bat. Then his left. Then he took two swings. Finally, he stepped into the batter’s box and touched the outside left corner with the bat, then the right. Only then did he face the pitcher.”
  • Nicky wants to beat the RBI record, but he is afraid that “talking about his chances might jinx him.”
  • Nicky “rapped his knuckles on the bench” to counteract his teammate talking about Nicky’s chances at beating the record.
  • Nicky knocks the saltshaker over at dinner. He then “grabbed a pinch of salt and tossed it over his shoulder.”
  • Nicky asks his dad to save him a four-leaf clover if he finds one while mowing the lawn because he “could use a little extra luck.”
  • Nicky’s mom isn’t superstitious whatsoever. She tells Nicky, “You and your superstitions. Sometimes I think you really believe in that stuff.”
  • After getting locked in the shed, Nicky claims that “dark forces are working to keep me from reaching the RBI record.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Alli Kestler

 

 

 

 

 

 

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse

Babe Ruth was a star on the Boston Red Sox. He pitched like a dream and slammed home run after home run. But Babe Ruth was also trouble. So in 1919, the Red Sox sold him to one of baseball’s worst teams, the New York Yankees.

With Babe Ruth, the Yankees became legendary champions. And the Red Sox? They seemed cursed. Every time they made it to the World Series, they lost. Could the Red Sox ever put Babe Ruth’s baseball curse to rest?

Both sports fans and non-sports fans will find Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse interesting. Throughout the book, Kelly does an excellent job defining baseball lingo and explaining the significance of events. For example, in 1915, Ruth hit four home runs. “Four might not sound like a lot, but the entire team only hit ten home runs that year!” Even though there is some play-by-play baseball action, snippets of Babe’s personal life are integrated into the story and will keep non-sports fans flipping the pages as well.

Babe Ruth isn’t portrayed as a perfect person and the book doesn’t shy away from Babe’s terrible behavior. However, the author’s note explains that Ruth acknowledged that he was a “bad kid. Ruth tells readers this not so that they will imitate him, but so that they can understand him. He wants us to know that people (like him) can learn from their mistakes and still do great things.”

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse uses short chapters and easy vocabulary which makes the book accessible to young readers. Large black and white illustrations appear every 3 to 7 pages and show the players in action. While the book is easy enough for young fluent readers, the content will be interesting to older readers too.

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse makes reading non-fiction fun. The book is full of interesting facts about both Babe Ruth and the Red Sox. Despite this, readers do not need to know a lot about baseball in order to enjoy the book. Whether you’re looking for a book to do research or just want to learn more about the Red Sox, Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse would be an excellent book to read. Kelly explains all of the reasons some people believed the Red Sox were cursed but doesn’t give his own opinion. In the end, the reader must determine for themselves, did Babe Ruth curse the Red Sox?

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Barrow, Babe’s coach, came to his hotel room to see if Babe was in bed, “Babe Ruth exploded. They couldn’t tell him what to do! If Barrow ever came into his hotel room again, he would punch him in the nose!”
  • During a Red Sox game against the Yankees, A-Rod was “saying angry things to the pitcher. Boston’s catcher, Jason Varitek quickly tried to calm A-Rod down. . . Varitek had had enough. Out of nowhere, he took his big leather catcher’s mitt and stuffed it in A-Rod’s face. . . Players began fighting.”
  • During a game, Gavin, one of the fans, tried to catch a home run ball. The “ball smashed into his face! Thunk. Blood splattered everywhere! The ball knocked out Gavin’s two front teeth.”
  • During a game between the Red Sox and the Yankees, the fans were upset and “they threw cups and trash onto the field!” Riot police came and “knelt down along the sidelines in their blue uniforms and helmets.” After that, the fans calmed down.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • “. . .Babe Ruth was wild. He ate and drank too much.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Peak

Fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello has climbing in his blood. Both of his parents have climbed some of the largest mountains in the world, and his biological father, Josh, is still a renowned mountaineer. When Peak is arrested for scaling a skyscraper in New York City, he’s sent to live with Josh in Thailand rather than face time serving in a juvenile detention center.

But Josh has other plans—namely, that he’s going to get Peak to summit Everest, making Peak the youngest person ever to do so. Despite Josh’s sketchy, press-oriented motivations, Peak gives Everest a chance. But Everest is unforgiving even for experienced climbers. Any mistake could mean death.

Peak is an exciting mountaineering book that discusses climbing terms in ways that are easy to digest for readers unfamiliar with high-altitude climbing. For instance, Peak describes high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) to illustrate the sorts of dangers that climbing at high altitudes can have on the human body. Although nothing is particularly graphic in this book, it does describe seeing corpses and people suffering from HAPE.

Peak’s personal journey throughout the book is commendable. Peak’s main emphasis is on his family, who he loves dearly. His mother raised him, and his excellent relationship with his younger half-sisters (“the Peas”) highlights his fundamentally kind and caring personality. While climbing Everest, Peak’s friendship with another fourteen-year-old Tibetan boy named Sun-jo shows how much they depend on each other to make it to the summit. Their friendship is a focal point of the book because Peak grapples with his competitive nature while knowing that Sun-jo should have the honor of being the youngest person to summit. This conflict comes to a satisfying resolution, and Peak and Sun-jo’s friendship remains strong.

Peak also struggles with his feelings about his biological father, Josh. Peak is wary of Josh’s motivations. Their relationship, although fractured at the beginning of the story, begins to mend as Josh and Peak learn more about each other. Although their relationship is unlike Peak’s closer relationship with his mother, Josh starts to have a place in Peak’s life.

Peak is the first book in this series, and the next books also detail Peak’s climbing adventures. Peak is a good introduction to the series because it explains climbing facts while also creating a fun and interesting story about Peak’s climbing adventures. Climbing and being on top of the world are important for Peak, but love for family and friends top any mountain that he could scale. While reaching the top of Everest is temporary, family lasts a lifetime.

Sexual Content

  • Peak briefly recounts his parent’s relationship. He says, “I was conceived in a two-man tent under the shadow of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. At least that’s when my mom thinks it happened.”
  • Peak overhears a climber talking about Josh. The climber says, “Josh is so cute! What do you think he’d do if I snuck into his tent one night?” The person’s friend responds with, “I don’t think that’s included in the permit fee.”

Violence

  • Peak gets arrested for illegally scaling and tagging a building. A detective tells Peak, “I just talked with your mother. She said that I had her permission to beat you to death.”
  • Peak scales skyscrapers for fun, and he often ends up in newspapers as a mystery climber. A boy tries emulating him and he “fell from the Flatiron Building. He’s dead . . . The boy had all [of Peak’s] news articles pinned up in his bedroom . . . the fall was enough to kill him.”
  • Peak describes high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). He says, “Here’s how HAPE works: Your lungs fill with fluid, you can’t breathe, you go into a coma, then you die.”
  • Sun-jo gives Peak a rundown on the history between Tibet and China. Sun-jo explains, “The people’s Republic of China invaded Tibet fifty years ago. Since that time over six thousand Buddhist monasteries and shrines have been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have been killed or jailed.”
  • Peak, Zopa, and Sun-jo arrive at Base Camp “just in time to see Josh get into a fistfight with someone. At 18,044 feet, though, it wasn’t much of a fight. An older, red-faced man took a swing, which Josh easily ducked and countered by pushing him in the chest. The man landed on his butt in the snow. After this it was pretty much over except for the shouting.” Josh had told the man (as had the man’s doctor), that the man was in no shape to go further up the mountain.
  • Peak hears about someone dying on Everest. One climber says that the man who died “stepped out of his tent in the middle of the night to pee. Idiot was wearing slippers. He slid two hundred yards down a slope into a crevasse so deep the Sherpas say he’s probably still falling.”
  • A porter, or a Sherpa, tells a story about a yak that he purchased. An avalanche had almost buried them, and the yak ended up with two broken legs. The porter tells Peak, “There was only one thing to do. I unsheathed my knife and cut his throat.” The porter ended up sleeping in the carcass for warmth.
  • Several climbers die on Everest from HAPE. Peak and Zopa hear that “[the other two climbers] had died at Camp Six two hours after Zopa talked to the distraught German climber the previous day.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Some climbers smoke cigarettes. Zopa “bought up several cartons of cigarettes to sell to them.”

Language

  • Light profanity is used somewhat often. Words include: moron, idiotic, dang, shut up, lame, lousy, and pooped.
  • At Base Camp, a man denies that he has a heart condition. He yells at the doctor, “That witch doctor of [Josh’s] doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” It is meant to be derogatory.
  • Josh jokingly tells Peak that Josh is “in debt up to [his] crevasse,” which makes Peak laugh.
  • Peak meets Holly, a reporter who he refers to as “a pain in the crevasse.”
  • Josh tells Peak that getting a fourteen-year-old to climb Everest has “more sex appeal” for attracting people to his climbing company.
  • There is a German doctor at Base Camp, and some of the climbers don’t like her. As a result, they say malicious and untrue things. Peak overhears one of them say, “Straight from Nazi Germany, if you ask me. I think she’s here to perform experiments on us, not treat us.” Another climber mutters, “Heil Hitler” when the doctor’s name is mentioned.
  • Josh tells Peak that he won’t be allowed to summit because the other climbers don’t want him to. Josh explains, “I’m sorry, Peak. I’ve been a jackass about this. They’re right. This is their climb. They’re paying the tab.”
  • As Peak is leaving camp, Josh waves. Peak “returned the wave with a gesture of [his] own,” insinuating that Peak held up his middle finger at Josh or something to that effect. Josh responds with “his trademark grin.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Peak and Josh stop by Mount Everest before going to Chiang Mai. Peak is surprised and says, “For a climber, saying that you are stopping by Everest is like saying you’re going to stop by and see God.”
  • Josh’s friend Zopa used to be a sirdar, or Head Sherpa. According to Josh, Zopa is “a Buddhist monk now. Lives at the Indrayani temple. The Lama there has given him permission to forgo his vows for a few weeks to take [Peak] up to Base Camp.”
  • Before going up Everest, all of the climbers go through a puja, which is “a Buddhist blessing ritual.”
  • For the puja ceremony, Peak and Sun-jo build a cairn and raise flags. Peak explains that “as the flags flutter in the wind they release the prayers written on them and pacify the gods.”
  • Peak makes “a special prayer flag” before he attempts the summit.
  • Peak tells his sisters about the prayer flags. Peak says, “There’s a prayer written on the flag. When it blows in the wind the prayers go up to God. If you put the flag really high on a mountain the prayer gets to God faster.”

by Alli Kestler

Prime-Time Pitcher

Seventh-grade baseball pitcher for the Monticello Middle School team, Koby Caplin, wants nothing more than to lead his team to victory this season. He’s definitely got the pitching chops to help his team succeed. When a local TV station wants to do a documentary showing local youth sports, they pick Koby to be their star. Unfortunately, this causes a rift between Koby and his teammates when Koby lets his new stardom get to his head.

Matt Christopher’s Prime-Time Pitcher deals with the issue of how the arrogance of individuals affects team sports. Koby is a good pitcher. Other players and students notice this fact, including student journalist Sara Wilson. Sara puts events into motion as her articles focusing almost solely on Koby’s pitching, which causes the news station to select Koby for their documentary.

Koby’s older brother, Chuck, helps Koby understand that the success of the team rests on the team and not just Koby. Chuck and Koby’s teammates help Koby understand that teamwork is more important than individual stardom. When Koby’s arrogance causes his teammates to distance themselves from him, Chuck shows Koby how his behavior needs to change if Koby really wants to do well in baseball and still have his teammates be his friends.

Prime-Time Pitcher is a short, straightforward story that will appeal to younger baseball fans. Koby’s story isn’t uncommon in youth sports (or professional sports for that matter), and the lessons he learns about being a good teammate and person, are applicable to all people, especially those who play team sports. The book contains sections of baseball trivia questions, which will appeal to both baseball fans and readers who like trivia.  Most importantly, the lessons Koby learns can be applied to all areas of life, not just baseball. Readers who love baseball but want a more complex plot should add Soar by Joan Bauer and The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • After a game, Sara asks Coach T. a series of questions. Sara asks for Coach’s prediction of how the game was going to go, and Coach replies, “I don’t make predictions—that’s for carnivals and fortune-tellers.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Alli Kestler

The Running Dream

Running is the thing that makes Jessica feel most alive. So when she loses a leg in a tragic accident, she is shattered—inside and out.

The doctors say she’ll walk again with a prosthetic limb, but to Jessica, that is cold comfort. Walking isn’t running, and at this point just standing up causes her to shake. As she struggles to re-enter her life, Jessica gets to know Rosa—a girl with cerebral palsy—and begins to see that her future is full of opportunities. Soon Jessica starts to wonder if it is possible to cross new finish lines.

The Running Dream is told from Jessica’s point of view, which helps the reader understand her myriad emotions. Jessica’s story unfolds in five sections and each section focuses on one aspect of Jessica’s experiences. Understandably, at first, Jessica wonders why the accident happened to her. Why was she the one to lose a leg? However, the story also shows Jessica’s healing process and how she comes to better understand others because of her disability. Rosa, who has cerebral palsy, helps Jessica with her transition back into school. Through Rosa, Jessica learns that Rosa’s “biggest wish wasn’t to cross a finish line or have people cheer for her. It’s to have people see her instead of her condition. That’s all anybody with a disability wants. Don’t sum up the person based on what you see, or what you don’t understand; get to know them.”

Each chapter of The Running Dream is three pages or less, which keeps the action moving. Dividing the book into sections also helps the reader understand the changes that Jessica is going through. Even though the book focuses on Jessica’s recovery, The Running Dream is also a book about friendship, community, and finding hope.

The Running Dream was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award. The engaging story shies away from profanity and other objectionable material. Instead, the story is propelled by Jessica’s conflicts and relationships. Anyone who has ever been injured or who loves to run will connect with The Running Dream. However, Jessica’s story includes enough high school drama, sibling conflict, and parental problems to capture everyone’s attention. The conclusion ends on a hopeful note and shows how Jessica’s injury has made her a better person.

Sexual Content

  • Jessica has had a crush on Galvin. He tells Jessica how he feels about her and then gives her “a long, salty kiss.”

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • While in the hospital, Jessica is given morphine and other medication for the pain. Jessica says, “The nurses are nice about my pain meds. It’s the only way I get any sleep.”
  • After Jessica gets home, she begins, “pushing the clock on my pain meds. Taking them early. Slipping in an extra one when I really need it.” When Jessica’s parents find out, they take the pain meds away from her.

Language

  • “Oh my God” is used as an exclamation once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Gold Medal Mess

Five friends are ready for their school’s Olympics field day. There will be relay races, archery contests, and more! But not everyone wants to play fair—in fact, someone is trying to ruin the events! Can the kids in the Most Valuable Player club solve the mystery, save the Olympics, and take home the gold?

The Gold Medal Mess introduces five diverse friends—Max, Alice, Luke, Kat, and Nico. The kids work well together in order to find the culprit. None of the kids are well developed, but there is room for each character to grow in later books in the series. However, Luke is portrayed as silly and lazy. For example, when his friends ask Luke if he wants to practice archery, Luke says, “The only way I’m going to win is if they give out medals for not doing homework!”

The story’s plot is easy to understand and readers will enjoy following the clues to see if they can solve the mystery before the culprit is revealed. Large black and white illustrations break up the text and help readers understand the plot. The story’s dialogue and quick pace are engaging. However, struggling readers may have a difficult time with some of the vocabulary.

The Gold Medal Mess has a good blend of mystery and competition which makes the book appealing to a wide range of readers. The simple plot will entertain beginning readers but may be too simple for more advanced readers. Ellie Steps Up to the Plate by Callie Barkley and the Little Rhino Series by Ryan Howard & Krystle Howard will also appeal to sports fans.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While running a race, the contestants fall down. “And like the first kid, their feet flew out from under them and they rolled onto the ground too! Before long, the runners from all six teams had slid out on the grass.” The kids slipped because someone put oil on the grass.
  • During the tug-of-war competition, “the tug-of-war rope broke in half” and the “teams tumbled backward!” Someone intentionally cut the rope.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Capital Catch

Mike and Kate are about to face their biggest, most important mystery yet! Why? It involves the president of the United States! The president’s brother is a catcher on the Nationals baseball team, and someone is stealing his equipment! Can these super-sleuths help the commander in chief catch a criminal?

Mike and Kate are excited to explore Washington D.C.’s historical landmarks. While on a White House tour, Mike meets the president! This leads to Mike and Kate trying to discover who is stealing from the president’s brother, who is a baseball player. While Mike and Kate investigate, the kids don’t sneak around or go to restricted areas. Instead, they use their powers of observation and their interview skills to solve the mystery. Readers will enjoy following the clues along with Mike and Kate.

Capital Catch is an easy-to-read story that uses short sentences and dialogue to keep readers interested. Black and white illustrations appear every 3 to 5 pages. Most of the illustrations are a full page. They help readers visualize the characters and understand the plot. The book ends with Dugout Notes, which give even more baseball facts. Even though Capital Catch is the 13th book in the series, the books do not build on each other, so they can be read out of order.

Sports-loving readers will enjoy Capital Catch’s mystery and baseball action. Parents will appreciate how Mike and Kate are polite to others and do not put themselves in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, the thief was predictable and the culprit doesn’t reveal why he was stealing Chip’s baseball equipment. Despite this, baseball lovers will enjoy the combination of mystery and baseball action. The Little Rhino Series by Ryan Howard & Krystle Howard will hit the mark for young readers who want more baseball action.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Drat is used once as an exclamation.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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