My last post was in advance of National Poetry Month and now that we’re midway through the month that celebrates prose, rhyme, and verse I couldn’t resist sharing two additional titles: GOOD SPORTS by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Chris Raschka and THE FASTEST GAME ON TWO FEET by Alice Low and illustrated by John O’Brien.
Jack Prelutsky was named our nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate in 2006 and like many who grew up near Yankee Stadium (or any similar stadium) is a baseball fan. GOOD SPORTS is filled with delightful rhymes about running, jumping, and throwing. It includes team sports like baseball, basketball, soccer plus gymnastics, surfing, and karate. Girls are sure to identify with sports they are currently playing or would like to try. The illustrations by award-winning, Raschka are both full of motion and whimsical. While sports stories often focus on scoring the touchdown or finishing first, my favorite poems reflected the in-between moments of participation like the daydreaming swimmer who isn’t sinking to the bottom but can make it to the opposite end of the pool or the basketball player longing for the day they can dunk, “When I grow three feet taller.”
I readily admit to not knowing the history for several of the 19 sports featured in Alice Low’s THE FASTEST GAME ON TWO FEET AND OTHER POEMS ABOUT HOW SPORTS BEGAN. Like me, readers will be fascinated to learn that the origin of soccer goes back to kicking a skull around an old battlefield, or Mary, Queen of Scots, was likely the first female golfer, and the first skiers probably strapped animal bones to their shoes to move around faster! Each sport is introduced with the origin of the name and brief history followed by a poem that reflects the history. While some poems worked better than others, the combination of all plus informative endnotes makes this a must-have for any sports collection. Low is not only a writer but also a sporty girl with fond memories of learning sports at camp and at five feet three inches tall, she was the captain of her basketball team. The ink and watercolor drawings are captivating. I found myself flipping back over the pages to view all the fine details. One of my favorite illustrations was for ice skater Sonya Henie, “Girl in White.” Look for the cursive message she skates on ice. My only critique – likely due to, alas, getting older – is the small typeface on the introductions of each sport. The dark background color and small font size made some pages difficult to read.
Both of these picture books capture the joyful experiences that come with play and the illustrations compliment the text beautifully. Each author and illustrator shine a light on the world of play and word play.