Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How to Train with a T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals by Michael Phelps with Alan Abrahamson, illustrated by Ward Jenkins - review

How to Train with a T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals by Michael Phelps with Alan Abrahamson, illustrated by Ward Jenkins
Oh my gosh do I need this book!

When you select books for school libraries, you are always on the lookout for sports-related books. It's a fact that some people - usually gentleman-type people, although there are ladies who fit this description too - just won't read anything that's not about sports. So we need sports books for every assignment: we need sports fiction, sports poetry, sports science project books, and lots and lots of sports biographies.

Most of that stuff is easy. Dan Gutman and Tim Green can carry a lot of water for a school librarian (especially Gutman - guy, if I ever meet you, I'm gonna kiss you right on the mouth!). But then there are the bios. Now, when you select biographies of athletes, you want to cater to local tastes. I mean, of course, we're all going to buy LeBron and A-Rod, but you might not plonk down your school system's hard-earned $17.95 on, say, Troy Polamalu unless your school is full of Steelers fans.
Even if he is an athletic polymath with fabulous hair. Which, yeah, no Steelers fans in Baltimore.

So there's my problem. Baltimore. Which is in Maryland. We play things like lacrosse here, and do you know what I have to offer the young ladies looking for biographies of outstanding female lacrosse players? Zip. Also, our football team is the Ravens, whose players are famous not only for their athletic prowess, but also for their arrest records. So, no juvenile biographies of famous Ravens. (Way to go, JAMAL.) And? we don't even have a basketball team.

So, here in the kids' sports biographies aisle in Baltimore, we've got Johnny U, who played for a team that doesn't even live here anymore, and Cal, who the kids are kind of rapidly forgetting. Thank heaven, then, for Michael Phelps. Can I make little sparkly fireworks shoot out of his name? Blogger? Help me? No? Ok then you have to imagine them.

Michael Phelps is a hometown boy. Born, raised, learned to swim, went to school here... heck, the kid even uses the library where I work (when he uses a library, which, well... after all, you can't read in the pool, regardless of what the condition of a lot of our Large Type books might seem to indicate). Michael Phelps is a bona fide sports hero. Unprecedented achievement. Also, accessible to the point of goofy. Ok, there's the pot thing, but as far as I'm concerned, that just proves he's a real guy. It's not like he tortured dogs or beat up his girlfriend. He just got - one has to imagine - really, really high. Seriously. The lungs on that guy? Bad decision though. Bad. Say no to drugs.

Say yes to How to Train with a T.Rex though! Michael gives us a quantitative look at his Olympics training - in 6 years, he swam 12,480 miles, napped for 273 days, ate half a ton a year, leg-pressed 9 tons per workout... you get the idea. These figures are given scale in multiple ways: we see Michael sitting down to eat half a car, swimming the length of the Great Wall, and lifting a NYC subway car (the W, my old line!) with his legs. Curriculum connection to measurement and scale lessons - niiice! The illustrations are perfect - as loose-limbed and friendly as our hero himself. Although rendered digitally, they have a very nice, tactile, watercolor-y feel. Colors are both bright and earthy. I feel like I've seen the work of Ward Jenkins before (but apparently I haven't), and I like it.

Eight gold medals to this fun new book!

1 comment:


What a great title! And yes, I have trouble finding good sports books for our small school library. Thanks for the recommendation, also your take on the Pot Incident!