Sunday, July 29, 2012

Great Moments in the Summer Olympics, by Matt Christopher (ages 9 - 12)

Has Olympics' Fever taken over your family? The competitions have begun and the excitement is certainly mounting. Watching these amazing athletes brings back my memories of watching different summer Olympics as a child, fascinated by the athletes' strength, grace and sheer determination. If your children are feeling the excitement of the Summer Olympics, check out Matt Christopher's newest book
Great Moments in the Summer Olympics
by Matt Christopher
NY: Little, Brown, 2012
ages 9 - 12
available at your local library and on Amazon
This book will appeal to young sports fans who are interested in knowing more about the main Summer Olympics sports: track and field, gymnastics and swimming. In short, clear chapters, readers learn about the early competitors in the sports, and then the major winners throughout the past 116 years. There is a clear emphasis on American competitors, but clear coverage of historic winners from around the world.

I particularly enjoyed reading the chapter on men's swimming this weekend as I watched the US men's team race to match its incredible victories from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was very interesting to read about Mark Spitz's "mental toughness"as he competed in the 1968 and 1972 games.
In 1972, Spitz "entered four individual races and three team relays. First up was the 200-meter butterfly. Introduced to the Games in 1956, the butterfly is the most physically challenging of the four Olympic strokes. It requires tremendous shoulder strength and perfect timing on kicks. Spitz proved he had both, winning the race with a world-record time of 2:00.7." (p.93)
Young readers will be fascinated reading first about how Spitz broke the Olympic record for winning the most gold medals at a single Games, and then how Michael Phelps broke this record in 2008.

This book is best suited for kids who are interested in the particular sports. There are a few photographs included, but the do not draw readers into the book. I continually found myself wanting to look up different athletes to see if I could find video clips on the Internet of their historic wins.

The biggest drawback is that there are no references included and no suggestions for further reading. I also found myself wishing there were more tables with the different results summarized, so I could compare the different times or wins discussed in the text. These sorts of features of nonfiction text are very important to include for young readers.

If you are looking for other books on the Olympics, check out the Kirkus Reviews blog recommending 5 Kid's Books to Celebrate the Olympics. Also check out Bay Views Preschool Storytime Ideas for the Olympics or Sports Day.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers Little, Brown. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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