Fight Game by Kate Wild

Author’s myspace account hosts a book trailer, but the website it references has been disabled. It was posted in 2007 and, as far as I know, there are no plans for a movie.

Summary: Freedom Smith is a gypsy boy who can’t stay out of trouble. (There’s a mystery about him – he remembers being kidnapped, stuck with a needle, and returned to his home without anyone being the wiser.) In his latest scrape, he is accused of murder and is offered the chance to escape punishment if he will help the authorities (a secret group called Phoenix) infiltrate an underground fight club run by an evil man named Darkus Knight. Darkus would love for Freedom to fight in his illegal and profitable gambling fight club.

Personal Reaction: This book was brought to my attention by an 8th grade boy who never read much, but could not get enough of this series. That’s a winner of a recommendation for me, so I knew I had to find out what it was about.  Whatever you do, do NOT listen to the audiobook! It just ruined the whole thing for me and I could barely get through it without laughing. The male narrator does an admirable job on Freedom, but everything else is hideous (Java, Ant, Darkus – awful). I started this book in July 2012 and just kept stopping my listening because it irritated me so much.

I think kids could probably get over the silliness of some of the details in order to enjoy the story. I would have appreciated it more if it was only about Freedom and the fight club. I think Darkus could have been a menacing figure without bringing in all the gene-splicing, altar worshipping, zombie brainwashing. The dark side of human nature works just fine in fiction without the extra fantastical stuff.

Connections to other books: Like a fighter with a heart? Try The Contender by Lipsyte  or The Boxer and the Spy *mature content by Parker (boxing), or The Last Thing I Remember by Klavan (karate). Or, learn self-defense moves with nonfiction: Self-Defense for Women by Soo-Warr and Krav Maga and Self-Defense by Byers are just a few of the titles available on fighting and mixed martial arts. I suppose if the gene-splicing subtext strikes your fancy, you could try DNA and RNA (Understanding Genetics) by Hall. I am not aware of any books about gypsy/traveller culture, but there is information available online.

Items to display with book: backpack, trailer/caravan model, old sneakers, monopoly money, boxing ring model, hoodie sweeatshirt

Food items connected to story: Because it took me so long to listen to this audiobook, all I can remember was that Freedom was a sucker for spicy foods. A popular location from the book is a local ice-cream parlor which served Knickerbocker Glories.


Keeper by Mal Peet

publisher website with author bio and link to character’s blog                   fan made book trailer

Age: YA

Summary: El Gato has just won the World Cup as a goalkeeper with his team. He tells an incredible story to the reporter about learning his craft from a ghost in the forest near his home. Told in flashback format as an interview of the main character (El Gato) to a sports reporter.

Personal Reaction: Incredibly detailed look at learning how to be a goalkeeper in soccer set against backstory of logging a rainforest. Sure the Keeper is a specter, but still… I was interested in the story, though I have no interest in soccer (so that’s high praise), but the nagging thought I couldn’t shake was that the story is set up as an interview between El Gato and a reporter and, if this story were being told to the reporter, no one “speaks” like that, they only write like that. What I mean is, I might tell someone that I ran down the path and burst through the leaves, but I would never say, “I ran down the silvery moonlit path and pushed my way through the thick green leaves with my heart in my throat.” See what I mean? But the ending takes us into the realm that the interview will be turned into a book (this one) so it all works out… kind of.

Suitable for grades 6 and up, but I’m thinking it takes a mature kid to sit through all the details, so I’d recommend for high schoolers.

Points of discussion: Could be used as a novel study for PE, has a minor environmental/naturalist connection; an interesting choice for International Baccalaureate programs (author is from England, set in South America, learner profile characteristics included)

Realia: soccer ball (modern and/or historical examples), soccer goal/net, stuffed Jaguar or photographs, examples of botanical & insect observation notebook, trophy

Connections to other books: as for soccer themes in fiction, I have only read Tangerine by Bloor, but there are plenty of others (and for girls too like Breathing Soccer by Spring). For the soccer enthusiast, there’s lots to interest everyone – World Cup of Soccer: The Complete Guide by Hunt,  The Soccer Goalkeeper by Luxbacher and Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities by Snyder. For rainforest or Brazilian connections, try Asphalt Angels by Holtwijk, Rainforest researchers by Castner, Draw Rainforest Animals by DuBosque or even Jaguar by Smith.

By moviesofthemind Posted in sports Tagged , ,

A Ballplayer’s Choice by Reed Lengel

Date reviewed: 4/15/04                                 Age/Grade:  YA        IL 9-14

Personal Reaction: I understand that this is a sports book that’s supposed to hold the boys’ attention, but I thought it was too neat or too simplistic (obvious) to be very riveting.

Points for discussion with children:  sports ethics, honesty

Possible classroom uses: Could be used in a unit on ethics, especially sports (pro players in the news as a current events tie in).

Connections to other books? Baseball lovers fiction – Maniac Magee by Spinelli, any of the Baseball Card Adventures series by Gutman. Baseball non-fiction & biographies: All You Can Be: Dream It, Draw It, Become It!     Jackie’s Nine: Jackie Robinson’s Values to Live By

Realia: baseball bat, mitt, ball; Yankees jersey, fake money

Shoeless Joe & Me by Dan Gutman

Date reviewed: 4/5/04                IL 9-12                  author’s website with excerpts and teacher guides

Summary: Another in sports time travel series by Gutman. Joe Stoshak travels back in time with the help of a baseball card – this time it’s to 1919 and the Black Sox scandal of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Stoshak wants to travel back for 2 reasons: 1 – to keep Joe from being framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and 2 – to take a picture of his mother’s twin aunt and uncle (the uncle died of influenza). Gripping in the portrayal of the mafia-type threatening behavior from the bad guys, otherwise a simplistic but enjoyable story.

Personal Reaction: Good story, but same-old same-old. Kids who read Gutman will continue to read Gutman.

Points for discussion with children:  baseball, corruption/temptation/ethics – correlation with any current events?, sports memorabilia

Possible classroom uses: This may be an enjoyable read aloud, but not correlated to the curriculum unless you were studying that era or perhaps beginning a unit on sports math.

Connections to other books? Any other of Gutman’s baseball card adventure series will do. Matt Christopher will also be a good author choice.

Realia: baseball cleats, bat, ball, mitt, etc.; baseball cards; photographs from era and Shoeless Joe Jackson; empty medication boxes/bottles for flu meds; photograph of fraternal or identical twins from era

Food items connected to story: hot dog, popcorn, *what else did he have in his pockets?

By moviesofthemind Posted in sports Tagged , , ,