From School Library Journal
Grade 4 Up—This outstanding collection consists of six readable and engaging stories. In "Don't Say It," Brian attempts to break out of a batting slump. "Stuffed Eagles" is a humorous account of a football team's last-gasp effort to keep from being scoreless for an entire season. A soccer player notes her team's lack of teamwork in "I'm Open." A gymnast overcomes her fear on the balance beam in "Crack-Crack-Crunch." In "A Mountain of Wood," Candace focuses her energy on breaking a wood board with her fist as she completes the test to earn her brown belt in karate. A teen gains the confidence he needs to perform well in a pick-up basketball game in "Makes Me Wanna Holla." Each story illustrates a particular quality and is paired with an apt quote, such as this one from Bruce Lee following "A Mountain of Wood": "In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail." Throughout, Smith does a fine job of evoking the action and character of the games, in words and in close-up photos. Here, he captures the staccato pace of infield play: "Crack!
React. Here it comes. Lunge left. Leap. Stop. Off the dirt. Onto your feet. Throw to first. Got him!" An excellent choice for reading aloud, this book should win over a wide audience, including reluctant readers.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
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Smith, who has written several books about sports, including Twelve Rounds to Glory (2007), which is included in this year’s Top 10 Sports Books for Youth on p.114, now offers a series of short stories centered around various quotations from sport figures such as Mike Ditka and Bruce Lee. Some of the stories work better than others. One about a young baseball player in a slump effectively shows how athletes can get in and out of their own heads. But a dialogue between two sportscasters calling a football game falls flat. Still, many young athletes will find something of interest here, and the quotes at the end of each story give them something to think about, as when Jerry West notes, “Confidence is a lot of this game or any game. If you don’t think you can, you won’t.” Smith, also noted for his photographic images, offers a stimulating mix here, some sepia-toned, others in color, throughout this attractively designed collection. Grades 5-8. --Ilene Cooper