Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Game of My Life by Jason McElwain with Daniel Paisner

Jason "J-Mac" McElwain, for anyone who was living under the same rock where ESPN wasn't playing as I was, is the stuff of a Disney producer's dreams. Better than that, actually, for on the silver screen it would likely make grown men and small girls teary and everyone else snigger at a screenwriter's presumption. For the rest of us, it really did happen.
Jason was diagnosed as a young boy with severe autism. In high school he had come farther than his mother ever dreamed, serving as the team manager for the JV basketball team. The coach had even let him dress for the last game of the season and, with two minutes left to go in the game, put him in to play. Part of the crowd, called "The 6th Man", cheered for him, calling "J-Mac!" They had a lot to cheer about when he was called for a foul and managed to sink three free throws in a row.
This isn't the game mentioned in the title, The Game of My Life: a true story of Challenge, Autism and Growing Up Autistic. The 4 minutes that changed Jason's life happened when he was put into the game as the manager of the Varsity basketball team, and managed to score 20 points in under 4 minutes at the end of the game. The video of the subsequent news coverage is available on youtube, if you haven't seen it.
This is a remarkable book, as well as a great example of a young man devoted to his game and the friends and family who can and do speak about what basketball and Jason's achievement have meant to him in a completely realistic way.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oh No She Didn't by Clinton Kelly

I'll admit I may be the last person to become aware of the TLC show What Not to Wear, but after picking up Clinton Kelly's bitingly funny Oh No She Didn't: The Top 100 Style Mistakes and How to Avoid Them I will freely admit to wandering over to youtube to amuse myself with clips from the series.
I'm fairly certain that Clinton (and Stacy) would have a field day in my closet: come on, I worked as a children's librarian for years, aren't I allowed to have a christmas sweater? Or three? I live in Calgary, we're pretty much required by law to wear jeans on top and bottom during the Stampede (what he says is called a Canadian Tuxedo in the Pacific Northwest.) For the record, I suppose I should mention that during the Stampede is the only time at work I'm actually allowed to wear jeans. Given that I live in a cold climate, I'll admit that I also own polar fleece. LOTS of sweaters, too. Those will probably be in his next book.
Advice on how to rectify style errors (how long hems should be/ where waistlines should be, etc.) accompany many of the articles. The humor here is sharp, and often contains references that may be directed at the over-30 crowd, but given that he pokes fun indiscriminately and more often than not at the over-30 crowd, most of the style-conscious teenagers I know would love this book.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Deadliest Sea by Kalee Thompson

On page 161 of a book that I can only compare to 2003's Left for Dead in terms of 'Disaster/Survival' books, rescue swimmer O'Brien Starr-Hollow informs the reader that "The grass is always greener over the septic tank." This is not a book to begin close to bedtime, if you have any intention of actually going to bed.
Thompson does a wonderful job of recounting the stories of the men (and woman) who found themselves on the Alaska Ranger on Easter morning in 2008 when it began to take on water in the frigid waters of the Bering Sea. She also puts this disaster in its place in the very dangerous history of Alaskan fishing. 
The training needed for Coast Guard rescue (whether swimming or flying) is rigorous: the actual practice described here, that saved more than twenty of the 47 crew members, is almost overwhelming to contemplate. No part of the 'rescue' was easy: from the difficulties the crew had abandoning the ship, to finding the life rafts, boarding the helicopter or being offloaded on one of the rescue trawlers, Thompson imparts several breathless moments. Kaley Thompson's  The Deadliest Sea: The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Coast Guard History will appeal to high school readers that enjoy fast-paced books of adventure, survival, sports, and combinations of all three.