In honor of Nonfiction Monday today, I'd like to highlight two new series from Bearport Publishing: Defining Moments - Super Athletes and Little Dogs Rock! Bearport sent me the first two titles available in the Super Athletes series and two of the eight titles from the Little Dogs Rock! series. I found all four books to be high-quality titles, suitable for middle grade readers. The books feature a nice mix of text, with insets and callouts, and color photographs, as well as bibliographies, author bios, and references for further reading on each topic. Words likely to be unfamiliar to middle grade readers are printed in bold, and included in the glossary at the end of each book.
LeBron James: I Love Challenges, by Michael Sandler focuses on LeBron James' gold medal-winning performance in the 2008 Olympic basketball game against Spain. After a brief section stopping at a critical point in the game, the book moves backwards to discuss James' background and his close relationship with his mother, Gloria James. Sandler highlights James' determination to play in the NBA (he says: "Basketball kept me off the streets"), moving on to his becoming the top NBA draft pick straight out of high school.
Sandler also takes a step back to discuss US Olympic basketball history, giving context for the 2008 game. The text comes full circle to end on a high note with the gold-medal win, followed by a timeline and various facts about LeBron James (he writes and eats with his left hand. Who knew?). Without being particularly message-y, the book does convey the benefits of personal responsibility, determination, and teamwork. It seems to me like a book that will have young basketball fans turning the pages.
Michael Phelps: Anything is Possible!, by Meish Goldish follows a similar pattern, starting in the midst of the relay race that, if won, would give Michael Phelps his eighth gold model in the 2008 Olympics, and then taking a step back to recap Phelps' childhood. His childhood diagnosis of ADHD and the statement by a teacher to his mom that "Your son will never be able to focus on anything" are covered (as you might expect - these are pretty well-known facts at this point), along with his early fears of putting his face in the water.
Phelps' coach, his early swimming milestones, and his "Swim with the Stars" program are also reviewed, before Goldish returns to wrap up the wins in China. Some of the photos, especially the Olympic photos, are truly gorgeous. I think this one will be successful, because Phelps remains in the limelight, and it is beautiful. I would try it on kids who have ADHD or other learning difficulties, to show them a case-study in overcoming hurdles.
Chihuahua: Senor Tiny, by Natalie Lunis begins, irresistibly, with the story of a fluffy little Chihuahua who saved a one-year-old's life by stepping between the boy and a rattlesnake. The photo of boy and dog after the rescue, well, you'd have to be heartless not to be touched. The book then covers the history of the Chihuahua (the smallest of dog breeds), and highlights several Chihuahuas who have been in the spotlight (from Taco Bell to Legally Blonde).
Other sections discuss the positive attributes of Chihuahuas as pets, and things that owners need to watch out for. Throughout the book are fetching photos of Chihuahuas in various costumes (and even one riding a mini-motorcycle). There are also facts about Chihuahuas' size, colors, coats, lifespan, etc. Those are nice, but it's the pictures that are going to make readers exclaim "aww... how cute!". There are also little fire hydrants around the page numbers, which I thought was a nice touch. I think that middle grade dog lovers (one I'm thinking of in particular) will adore this series, and this book in particular.
Dachshund: The Hot Dogger, by Natalie Lunis follows the same format as the Chihuahua book (and is by the same author). It doesn't have quite the same "hook" as the previous book (the pictures of dogs in costumes, and the little red-headed boy whose life was saved), but the pictures are still "awww"-inducing. There's a great action shot of a Dachshund in mid-air during a race (the 2007 Wiener Nationals), and even a picture of Queen Victoria with one of her Dachshunds. I liked the "Dachshund Dos and Don'ts" page (including health risks) and the "In the Movies" section (with pictures from Toy Story). If you know a young dog fan, I highly recommend checking out the books from this series. Other dogs featured include Beagle, Jack Russell Terrier, Pomeranian, Pug, Toy Poodle, and Yorkshire Terrier. Something for everyone!
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.