Archive for the ‘Sports’ category

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

October 9th, 2012

I don’t love running.

In high school I hated it. Running was for when you were late to basketball practice or when you missed a free throw. Running for running’s sake seemed crazy.

Over time I’m starting to see the benefits and I’m hoping that one day that love will kick in like it does for main character Jessica in The Running Dream. You can tell that Van Draanen has run competitively and she does a good job of describing the sport without bogging the narrative down in too many details.

Jessica is a compelling character. Of course we’ll root for her, she’s fighting to regain the ability to walk – and maybe run. We’re not going to dislike that. We know that she’s going to grow as a character and learn more about herself; the book would flop if that didn’t happen. What I enjoyed were the character interactions. Each person involved in Jessica’s life has a distinct personality that seems like someone from real life. Like other authors have said before, a good story will explore and challenge what we know about the human experience and The Running Dream succeeds.

One of the key themes, the wide valley between good intentions and concrete actions, grabs the reader throughout without being preachy and leaves much for discussion. If you would like to learn more about one of Van Draanen’s personal causes, check out
This is a great story that will stick with me. It was an enjoyable page-turner that didn’t need to rely on dystopian governments, aliens, or explosions to keep me reading.

“Best Football Game Ever” now available through Musa Publishing

January 3rd, 2012

One of my short stories, “Best Football Game Ever”, is in Musa Publishing’s electronic magazine, Penumbra. Go pick up a copy to support independent publishers.

Payback Time by Carl Deuker

September 19th, 2011

Taking a break from all of the dystopian/government-gone-mad books, I just finished Payback Time by Carl Deuker.

This is the story of high school football, but thankfully it’s not your traditional sports story. It’s not about a plucky underdog who finds friends because he throws the winning touchdown. The protagonist is Daniel True, although his school nickname is Mitch because students think he looks like the Michelin Man. While Daniel does fight his weight issue, that is not the focus of the book. It simply adds depth of character.

Daniel is a talented reporter for his school’s newspaper. When he’s passed over for the editor position, he is taken from the front page and relegated to the sports page. He realizes that, for a high school paper, most students only read the sports articles. Daniel, though, wants to crack a big story and thinks he may have found one when a star transfer student is on the team but is kept a strict secret. Daniel thinks it may be a cover-up, that the student is ineligible to play and the coach is using him only for key plays.

Deuker knows sports and lists off the play-by-plays during the game scenes. Normally that would be distracting, but since the main character is trying to get as many details as possible, it fits the character. It also makes the book appealing for students who love sports.

The mystery of the transfer student is the focus of the story and is developed well over the course of the book. I don’t want to give too many details because I did change my opinion periodically as I read as to whether the coach was guilty, the transfer student was guilty, or if Daniel was jumping to conclusions.

This is the perfect time of year to put Payback Time out for students to read. Grab a copy. Also pick up Heart of a Champion by Deuker if you don’t have it yet.

Hoops for the House this Friday!

March 30th, 2011


Come to the Highland High gym this Friday at 5pm to see the staff from HJHS take on GrJHS to raise money for the House of Refuge.

As promised, I will be the tallest librarian on the court.

The Last Shot by John Feinstein

January 6th, 2011

The Last Shot is a book to read with a Google search at your fingertips. One of the techniques that Feinstein uses is bringing in his connections from the world of nonfiction sportswriting to add plenty of realism to the narrative. Dick Vitale is, oddly enough, not a work of fiction and Feinstein characterizes him perfectly. Talk show hosts from ESPN banter with each other like they do in real life.

This is a YA book, so the heroes are teenagers. More than once the protagonists have to smooth-talk their way past guards and NCAA officials. In reaity, the teens would be pushed aside pretty quickly and, although that does happen in the book, the teens always find a way out of the complication. That’s the only part for me that broke the realism, even though Feinstein includes plenty of plot to explain how the kids rationalized their actions.

I appreciated a different perspective on sports. This was not the stereotypical “new kid comes to school and makes friends/saves the day through sports” type of book. The world of sports reporting is not one that is explored much in YA fiction even though many of our students want to pursue that as an occupation. Deadlines, working with an editor, and searching for interesting details are all shown in the story.

For being 250 pages, it’s a very quick read and I read the book off of the recommendation of students and teachers at our school. It’s definitely worth a checkout.

Athletic Propulsion Labs and the psychology of shoes

October 19th, 2010

If you tell someone they can’t do something, they want to do it. Ban a book and it gets more attention than if it just sat on the shelf. The same applies to the Athletic Propulsion Labs Concept 1 shoes. David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, stated that the shoes give players an unfair advantage and banned the shoes.

The shoes cost $300, which is a lot for civilian use, but not that high of a price to make a dent in a professional basketball player’s salary. Why not let the whole league use them? I’m curious to see what the NCAA says about the situation.

The ban is already being used by the company as a marketing tool:
Let’s hear it for Unintended Testimonial propaganda.

Hero by Mike Lupica

September 28th, 2010

Mike Lupica is known for his sports books, so it’s interesting that sports take a back seat in Hero. Main character Billy is a basketball player, but the big challenge for him is figuring out what happened to his dad and the powers that he had.

I’m a big superhero fan, so I have high expectations for a superpowered book. Stories like the Quantum Prophecy series and Powerless find new ways to spin old tropes. It’s so tough to break new ground in a superhero book considering how many comics are published each month (each day, if you count webcomics (which you should)).

Hero does not do anything new. I really, really wanted it to, but it doesn’t. Maybe I’ve just read a lot of superhero stories, which is a very possible reality. The only thing I found different was that a lot of the metaphors are sports-related, which makes sense since it’s Lupica, but felt kinda weird in the narrative.

You’ve got the boy who loses a parent, finds a mentor, and discovers his special talent to use for the betterment of society. [Insert your Luke Skywalker/Harry Potter/Eragon/King Arthur comparisons here to make Joseph Campbell giggle with delight.]

This isn’t a bad book; it’s simply one that had potential that it didn’t fulfill. Check it out and see if I had too high of expectations.

Griggs Note: I chatted with Mike Lupica today. After hearing about his kids’ experiences in sports, I have a better understanding of his plotlines. In his words, sports teaches you that when you get knocked down, you get back up. It makes sense that you see that thread in all of his books if that’s what he’s passionate about.

King of Pop by Gordon Korman

February 3rd, 2010

I love that Gordon Korman can switch between books like the 39 Clues series and then give us a book like Pop.

Pop is the story of Marcus, a high schooler who is new to a small town and is trying to make it as quarterback of the undefeated football team. That story, in and of itself, has been told many times before.

But what makes Pop stand out is Charlie Popovich, an ex-NFL defensive player who befriends Marcus. Marcus is weirded out by the sudden camaraderie and investigates to find that this football player, the King of Pop, had a series of concussions that has messed with his mind. Marcus must navigate this friendship carefully, especially since Troy Popovich is the current star quarterback of the team.

Most of the action takes place off of the field. Charlie likes to pull pranks and leaves Marcus to take the blame, creating a detailed police record for Marcus. Marcus tries to convince the town that he’s a decent person without giving away Charlie’s secret.

The football games do have their exciting moments, but the games fly by very quickly. I think that students who enjoy sports books will still enjoy seeing another side of the sport. Make sure to sell the book to them with the knowledge that it’s about the game and Gordon Korman knows the game.

Like any Gordon Korman book, even if you’re not the biggest football fan you’ll find a character that you can relate to and enjoy reading about.