Sports Heroes: Inspiring Tales of Athletes Who Stood Up and Stood Out (Mia Cassany & Iker Ayestaran)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sports Heroes: Inspiring Tales of Athletes Who Stood Up and Stood Out by Mia Cassany and Iker Ayestaran, translated by Howard Curtis, a collection of groundbreaking and change-making figures in the world of sports.

The world of professional sports is all about perseverance and achievement, especially for those who embody the new, the different, or the unconventional. This selection of sixteen mini-biographies introduces young readers to athletes who broke the mold in some way, whether they were innovators like Dick Fosbury and Sonja Henie, barrier-breakers like Jackie Robinson and Katherine Switzer, or incredible achievers like Nadia Comăneci and Pelé.

Intriguing yet limited. While the stories covered in this compendium are most certainly interesting and inspiring, there are noticeable gaps in both the information provided in their blurbs and in diversity of representation. Very brief bios (3-5 paragraphs apiece) often feel rushed and/or incomplete, and frequently end abruptly without exploring the impact of the facts or theme presented (such as the fact that cyclist Gino Bartali spent the WWII years of his competitive career as a smuggler working to liberate 800 Jewish people, something only mentioned briefly in the penultimate sentence of the last paragraph of his page). There is also a notable lack of diversity: most of the athletes featured are male, most are white, half are American, and none have disabilities. Otherwise, Ayestaran’s boldly-colored mid-century-style illustrations are very appealing, the length is fine for an older elementary or middle-grade reader, and JJ enjoyed the stories I read to her, but I can’t help but feel like we’ve seen this genre done better and more thoroughly in other titles. Overall, a nice place to begin learning about athletic innovators, but incomplete on its own. Baby Bookworm approved, but barely.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Golden Girls Of Rio (Nikkolas Smith)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Golden Girls Of Rio by Nikkolas Smith, a celebration of the gold-winning female athletes of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

In the summer of 2016, on the world’s stage, a handful of young female athletes captivated, awed, and inspired. But before these young women were champions, they were little girls from all across America, who worked hard and practiced tirelessly to become the best in their sports. They made friends and formed teams along the way, and were invited to represent their country in the largest athletic competition in the world – and all of them triumphed. Michelle Carter became the first US gold medalist in shotput, while Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel broke multiple swimming records between them. And of course, The Final Five, the multiple gold medal-winning gymnastics team, including Simone Biles, the most decorated US gymnast of all time.

A cute book that celebrates some seriously awesome women. If you weren’t enraptured by the female US athletes during the Rio Olympics, you weren’t watching, and it’s great that there is a book that celebrates not only their achievements, but the immense amounts of determination and hard work that went into reaching gold. The digital art is a little uneven, lacking depth at times but creating great abstract visuals at others, and is the one place where the book struggles. Otherwise, the length is fine, and JJ definitely enjoyed it. One personal note: since the book was published, members of the Final Five have gone on to be prominent figures in the #MeToo movement, and instrumental in prosecuting one of the worst monsters and most corrupt institutions brought to light in this reckoning. So in my very biased opinion, any book that celebrates them as athletes and women deserves to be shared with every little reader. Baby Bookworm approved.