Thursday, August 17, 2017

Are You Ready For Some Football History?

In the fall a young man’s (actually, any man’s or boy’s plus a lot of woman’s and girl’s) fancy turns to football. Another season of enjoying this all-American game is underway. How much more exciting it is to know the history behind the origin of the game and the records set by the legends who have played it? The Everything Kids' Football Book by Greg Jacobs, a teacher and coach, is a great introduction to the history of football for readers of all ages. You will learn about the origin of the game, the rules, and the skills required to play. You will gain insight into the different levels of the sport, from high school, through college, on to the NFL, and even into fantasy football.

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in  Football, by Howard Bryant, will take you into the history and glamour of that most popular of football games—the Super Bowl. This book is current through Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots, played on February 1, 2015. Bryant doesn’t cover all the Super Bowls—some of them were not that exciting. He concentrates on what he calls the “classics,” writing about selected special games from kickoff to final whistle.

Sports Illustrated is a prolific publisher of football books. Football Then to WOW! is one of the best introductory volumes available. An interesting section in this book covers the changes in the rules since the game was first conceived in 1869. Did you know that touchdowns used to count 4 points, while field goals earned 5? Interesting facts are explained and illustrated, such as the evolution of the shape and size of the football itself.  The book is divided into four primary sections: the Basics, the Players, the Strategy, and the Fan Experience. Of course, true to the name of the entity that produced the book, the illustrations are outstanding.

Another wonderful offering from Sports Illustrated Kids Big Books is the Big Book of Who Football. This book was updated on August 25, 2015, so it is fairly current for its topic, which is who have been the stars of the game over history.  Here you will learn about the Champions, the Personalities, the Record Breakers, the Super Scorers, and the Yardage Kings. For example, “who has the most rushing yards by a rookie quarterback?” or “who has the most touchdowns on interception returns?” The facts with which one can impress friends and neighbors are almost endless.

To fill in the gap between what the preceding books and the latest season had to offer, try Football Superstars 2016, by K. C. Kelly. This volume presents a fascinating list of the best players from the most recently completed season. A short biography of each of the players explains how he progressed from high school through college football and on into the ranks of the professionals. A table presents interesting facts about the individual, including the successes he has had on the gridiron.

You won’t find the study of the history of football in the curriculum of any school that I know of. However, I’ll bet you there will be more interest in this subject than in what we have been told over the years are the most important lessons for our understanding of the impact of history. We all need to relax from time to time and let the overwhelming lessons of the fearful facts from our historical past take a rest. What better way to do that than by learning about the history of America’s favorite game?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sara K Joiner: Following the Corps of Discovery

Recreation of Fort Mandan, where Lewis and Clark
wintered in 1804-05 and where Sacajawea joined
the expedition.
photo by Sara K Joiner
I recently returned from vacation where we traveled along some of the route that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traversed during their 1804-06 expedition. Considering how difficult it is to get to places like Fort Mandan or Pompey's Pillar even with motorized vehicles and paved roads, Lewis and Clark's journey is almost impossible to believe.

Walking in the Corps' footsteps truly impressed upon me the remarkable nature of all those who made that trek. What an amazing feat they accomplished!
William Clark's carved signature
at Pompey's Pillar - the only
physical evidence remaining
of the Corps of Discovery.
photo by Sara K Joiner

To journey along with the Corps of Discovery without leaving the comforts of home, try some of these books.

Sacajawea: The Story of Bird Woman and the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Joseph Bruchac tells the story from Sacajawea's and Clark's point of view as they relate the tale to Sacajawea's son years later.

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve's Bad River Boys: A Meeting of the Lakota Sioux with Lewis and Clark imagines a meeting between the Corps and the Native nation.

My Name Is York by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk focuses on York, a slave owned by Clark, and tells the story of the expedition through his eyes.

Laurie Myers' Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale imagines what Lewis' dog Seaman saw on the journey and all the new experiences he had.

Sara K Joiner is the author of After the Ashes and a public librarian.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

"The Storm in the Barn" : A Review by Michele Hathaway

Learning about the Dust Bowl is like watching the passengers of the Titanic drown. One. By. One. When human error and nature collide, the tragedy overwhelms me.

But I'm reading down the Scott O'Dell Awards list and The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan was the 2010 winner. I had to read it. To my relief and delight, it is not your typical dust bowl story.

"Part tall tale rich in lore, part thriller, and part gripping historical fiction, this is an artful one-of-a-kind creation..." Jacket Flap

The Storm in the Barn is a graphic novel set in the dust bowl, but it is about much more than that. It is about a boy who feels helpless and fearful. It is about dealing with bullies, disappointing a father, and being unable to save a sick sister.

Phelan refocuses these fears on a mysterious and malevolent presence in The Barn that 11-year-old Jack Clark must overcome. By incorporating fantasy into the story, Phelan empowers Jack to save his world, the way Jack in the stories  he hears saves the day. At its core, The Storm in the Barn is a hero's journey: boy against boy, boy against nature, boy against monster, boy against himself.

The Storm in the Barn is a graphic novel for everyone, but especially for middle grade. In the hands of a visual learner or reluctant reader it is likely to unlock doors. The art features a limited color palette with grays, yellows, and, of course, dusty browns. The exceptions are brief moments of red and blue, used in profoundly symbolic strokes.

The book incorporates  a strong literary element as well. Jack's sick sister, who is slowly dying from the dust in her lungs, reads the Wizard of Oz books, and every day Jack listens to tall tales about another boy named Jack. In the author's note, Phelan writes:

Public Domain,

"I wanted to bring in elements of American folklore, like the Jack tales that were still being told and the Oz books that had been enthralling kids for thirty-odd years at that point. In the next two years, The Wizard of Oz would become a movie and Superman would leap from the pages of comic books, but in 1937 there were mostly just stories a boy in Kansas would think about as he looked at a land apparently as cursed as any in the fairy tales."

The Storm in the Barn  is a study in art, literature, and even earth and atmospheric science--and of course, history! The story has also been made into a play. You can find The Storm in the Barn at your local library under the call number J 741.5973 Phelan.

Michele Hathaway is a writer and freelance editor. She has an M. A. in Social Anthropology and has worked in libraries in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She writes stories set in culturally diverse, historical and contemporary periods.

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