Informative and thrilling, it’s like a Rocky movie for kids.

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SIMONE BILES

MAKING THE CASE FOR THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME

From the G.O.A.T.: Making the Case for the Greatest of All Time series

This detailed profile of Simone Biles argues that she is the greatest gymnast of all time.

What are the criteria for being the “greatest of all time” in a field? This book posits an answer to that question and makes a compelling argument for Simone Biles as the G.O.A.T. of women’s gymnastics. To be an elite athlete takes a level of focus, training, dedication, and talent that most people don’t have. To become the G.O.A.T. requires another level of all of these, and Blackaby details not only the mental toughness and flexibility that get the African American gymnast through her hours of training, occasional setbacks, and nerve-wracking competitions, but the tools needed to attain those mental skills. These include a sports psychologist, the right coach, tough decisions about other areas of her life, and supportive family who invested in her success. A brief chapter on Biles’ home life and family is followed by more detail about her years of training and competitions. The focus on how she kept moving toward her goal sustains readers’ interest to the last page. Easy-to-read type with large, pink subheadings and full-color photographs sprinkled through the pages make this small volume read like a magazine. It’s a pleasingly, uniquely humanizing lens on the price of success for one young athlete of international renown. A lengthy bibliography provides plenty of references.

Informative and thrilling, it’s like a Rocky movie for kids. (glossary, index) (Biography. 8-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3206-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012).

UGLY

A memoir of the first 14 years in the life of Australian Robert Hoge, born with stunted legs and a tumor in the middle of his face.

In 1972, Robert is born, the youngest of five children, with fishlike eyes on the sides of his face, a massive lump in place of his nose, and malformed legs. As baby Robert is otherwise healthy, the doctors convince his parents to approve the first of many surgeries to reduce his facial difference. One leg is also amputated, and Robert comes home to his everyday white, working-class family. There's no particular theme to the tale of Robert's next decade and a half: he experiences school and teasing, attempts to participate in sports, and is shot down by a girl. Vignette-driven choppiness and the lack of an overarching narrative would make the likeliest audience be those who seek disability stories. However, young Robert's ongoing quest to identify as "normal"—a quest that remains unchanged until a sudden turnaround on the penultimate page—risks alienating readers comfortable with their disabilities. Brief lyrical moments ("as compulsory as soggy tomato sandwiches at snack time") appeal but are overwhelmed by the dry, distant prose dominating this autobiography.

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28775-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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