Thursday, October 25, 2012

Football--the Official Sport of Fall

It's almost Thanksgiving, the day a lot of guys like to eat insane amounts of turkey and watch FOOTBALL! Of course the Iron Guy does too. (I guess that makes me the Gridiron Guy---ah hahahaha!!!) The season is halfway over and we in Charlotte have groaned all year, watching our beloved and frustrating Panthers lose some games that were going our way. Anyway, here are some good books about the pigskin sport:

How Football Works by Keltie Thomas

Here's one that I've written about before and it's still terrific. Chock-full of useful information, this book is a must-read for the the novice or the long-time fan. You can see my original  review Go ahead and take a look--not only does it tell you how terrific the book  is, but it lets you see how hopeful we Panthers fans at this time last year. Well, we had Cam Newton tearing up the gridirons in his impressive rookie year, so we had good reason. But this year---Oh, will we ever learn????

Long Arm Quarterback by Matt Christopher

Most reader guys know that the name "Matt Christopher" on a book guarantees a good read. Here's what I said in the original review:

 Long-Arm Quarterback by Matt Christopher. I hope you know about him already. He writes sports books and I haven't read one yet that I didn't like. Cap Wadell is frustrated because his little Texas town is so small that they can't get enough guys together to make a football team. His grandfather Tully remembers when he was in high school and played with six-person teams; in fact, there was a high school league made of six-person teams. Tully suggests that all the small towns in that area get together and make such a league. Cap's friends get excited at the idea and, before long, there's a league going. Tully agrees to coach Cap's team but there's a problem--Cap's friend Jimmy joins the team. That's not so bad, but Jimmy's grandfather Sable comes along to help coach. Sable used to play on Tully's league on a different team and was a good player. Tully won the championship that year and Sable is still mad about it after all these years. Will that old rivalry tear the team apart? Will Sable ever put his anger away and think about the good of the team? I had to read all the way to the end to find out!

NFC South by Michael Teitelbaum

This is a good one if you want some quick facts about the teams in the NFC South Division: the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers, the New Orleans Saints or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The whole book took me only 15 minutes to read. There a short history of each team (only a page long) plus info on the Home Field, Big Days, Superstars (Then and Now), and Stat Leaders for each team. Interesting reading.

And here's a video to make you laugh. It's based on an old Andy Griffith routine called "What It Was Was Football" about a young hillbilly boy who sees his first football game. It'a about 7 minutes long, so make yourselves comfortable.

If I don't see you before then,  I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Michael Talks About the Latest Amulet and N.E.R.D.S!!

Taking a break from all my sports talk, the Iron Guy is pleased to present the latest reviews from our good friend Michael:

Amulet, book 5
Prince of the Elves
by Kazu Kibuishi
I don't know about you, but after what Max did in The Last Council, I wasn't sure whose side he was on. This book reveals it all. Stonekeepers can use their amulets to travel back into their own memory, and when Trellis the elf prince decides to do so, things take a dangerous turn fast. I can't put much more without spoiling the book, but it's definitely worth reading. There aren't many fantasy series that I like, but this one is one of the few.

N.E.R.D.S., book 4
The Villain Virus
by Michael Buckley
Something's going around, and it's not your average flu. People globally are suddenly overcome with thoughts of revenge against people who never wronged them, building doomsday devices, and wanting to take over the world to show everyone their supreme power! Sound like someone familiar? Those are just the things that Heathcliff Hodges, aka Agent Choppers, aka Screwball, aka Brainstorm would say. But how could he be infecting the whole world? After the fiasco in The Cheerleaders of Doom, Heathcliff is sleeping under sedation, and he hasn't woken up. But there must be some explanation for the virus that may destroy the world. This is a decline from the books before, and the climax is worse than some of the other action scenes, which aren't great. I must say, though, there are some unbelievably amazing twists at the end. I just hope it doesn't turn out to be a flop ending to the series.

Michael Lanier
Pianist, guitarist, banjoist, autoharpist, jaw harpist, Ukeist 

Wow, I sure hope the same thing! The N.E.R.D.S. series have always gotten good write-ups, especially from you and I'd hate to see them end with a flop. And I must admit that I've never read the Amulet series. What about you reader guys out there? Have YOU read them? Did you like them? Shoot us a review and let us know! And don't forget--you're doing all your fellow reader guys a service when you tell us about terrific books. After all, when you write in, other guys know they're not hearing from some boring old grownup (though the Iron Guy defies ANYONE who calls him boring!), you're hearing from a boy, just like you. That means those books will be--


Monday, October 22, 2012

Batter Up! More Blasts From the Past

Hey, all you swinging dudes in blogland! (Baseball--bats--swinging----heh, heh, heh!!!!! Oh, me, how do I keep coming up with all those knee-slappers??!!??)  I told you I'd write a post soon about baseball fiction and here it is. Actually, this post is a Blast From the Past because I'm  recommending books that have been reviewed before. They were terrific then and they're still terrific now.

These books are about the early days of baseball. I just love reading about that period in the game because the stars were larger-than-life figures. They were more than heroes; they united the country by the great admiration and love people had for them. Baseball truly was the national pastime and everyone followed it. Here are some good reads about those days, with one contemporary story thrown in.

The first one is Bill Penant, Babe Ruth, and Me by Timothy Tocher. You can read the original review here but it's halfway down that page. I'll reprint the relevant part for yout:

It's the 1920 baseball season. Young Hank Cobb spent the last summer working for John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants. After the season, McGraw sent Hank off to Anson Academy so the boy could get an education, but Hank absolutely hates school and doesn't see why he needs to be there. His great dream is to be a ball player; he can learn all he needs on the ballfield. Imagine his joy, then, when McGraw calls him out of school to work for the Giants again. But then imagine his surprise when he finds out his new job will be taking care of Bill Penant, the team mascot. And Bill Penant is a baby wildcat--a real wildcat, totally untamed! But that's not all; he also discovers that he must also "take care" of the Yankees' new player, Babe Ruth, who is rather untamed himself. (The Giants and Yankees shared a ball park back then) Can Hank work for both the Giants and Yankees? And what happens when this baby wildcat grows up? And will Hank ever go back to school or stay in the ballpark all his life? Want to know? Then you have to get this book and find out!

I tell you, if you get this one, you'll enjoy it for sure. It's funny, funny, funny--especially with all the scenes of Hank and the wildcat! But then, just as you think it'll be all fun and games, something serious happens that changes Hank's whole life. He has to face up to his fears and decide his future. Is he a coward? Or does he have what it takes? All guys have to answer that question at some point. Read it and see how Hank gets his answer.

The next one is the contemporary story. It's the terrific book Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta, first reviewed on 3-12-09. Let me reprint some things I wrote about it.

 It's hard to believe that this is Mr. Scaletta's first book because it's so good. The basic idea is that these kids live in a town in which it has rained for 22 years!! Then, one day, it stops!! And it may have something to do with a baseball game 22 years ago, a foster brother, and Native American mysticism. I didn't talk about this book nearly enough when I reviewed it on 3-12-09. The characters act like real kids, the situation, strange as it is, iis totally believable, the story gets a big hold on you, and there's quite a twist at the end. You'll like it a lot!

And here's my interview with Kurtis Scaletta.

Then we have Lucky: Maris, Mantle and My Best Year Ever by Wes Tooke. I really enjoyed this one and here is what I said about it on 6-10-09:

It's 1961 and young Louis May lives with his father, stepmother, and stepbrother in White Plains, a suburb of New York City. Louis loves baseball and has a huge collection of baseball cards. In fact, he has memrozied all the information and statistics on all those cards. Imagine, then, his surprise when he gets to be a batboy for the Yankees! He gets to be friends with his two heroes, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, and watches with anticipation as they try to break Babe Ruth's record for the most home runs in one season. Louis's stepbrother is jealous, however, and seems determine to ruin his life--even attempting a very low trick with Louis's baseball card collection. Will his stepbrother actually win? And do Maris and Mantle get to break the Babe's record? You can find out only by reading this terrific book!

And if you'd like to read my interview with Wes Tooke, click here.

Finally, we have the Sluggers series (some of the books were originally issued as the Barnstormers series) by Phil Bilden and Loren Long. This is still one of my all-time favorites. It would be hard to tell about all of them since there are six in the series but I'll repeat what I wrote about the third book on 4-25-08:

It's about the Payne family; the three kids Griffith, Ruby, Graham and their mom. Where's the father? He didn't come back from the Spanish-American War (the books are set in 1899) The father's friends from the war (they were all in Colonel Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders) formed a baseball team called the Travelin' Nine. They plan to go around the country and play exhibition games in order to raise money for the Payne family, who owes ten thousand dollars! The father left them his baseball, but when the kids put their hands on it, strange things, and I mean really strange things, happen during the games. Could the baseball be magic? And who is this creepy guy called The Chancellor and why does Uncle Owen tell the kids to beware of him? Why does Uncle Owen tell them that they are in very great danger, particularly young Graham? And, whatever they do, don't let the Chancellor know about the ball!!!You got to read these books!!! They'll suck you into the story and make you want to get the next one right away!!

If you want to find out more, click on the "Barnstormers" or "Sluggers" tabs under this post.

OK, guys, the World Series starts this week. Good time to find these books. And be sure to tell us what you think of them. Baseball and book fans are waiting to hear from you!

Friday, October 5, 2012

October's Here and That Means---


Yes, indeed, this is a great time of year because it's the month when the big three of sports converge--football, basketball and baseball. Football has been going on already; in fact, it's one-quarter of the way through the season. We in Charlotte have been watching our beloved Panthers struggle (pleeeaasseee don't get me started on last Sunday's game) but you'll find most of us glued to our sets every time they play. The Charlotte Bobcats start playing this month. OK--if you want to get technical, those are preseason games, but still, it's basketball! And it's hard to believe that, in this month of cool weather and falling leaves, there's still baseball. The World Series will be upon us in about three weeks. Now it seems to me that baseball is always associated with summer and should stop when things turn cold. But, doesn't matter--baseball is still the great iconic American sport. I just love reading about its colorful history and its larger-than-life characters.  Here are a couple of really good books about the early days the official sport of summer.

Ball Park: The Story of America's Baseball Fields
Written and illustrated by Lynn Curlee

You can watch baseball on TV but there's nothing like actually seeing a game in a real ballpark. This fascinating and beautifully-illustrated book gives a history of baseball parks from their very beginning. Find out why each ballpark is unique and why there is no standard way to build them. There's also a lot of interesting things to learn--the history of baseball, when New York was the "capital of baseball," how baseball invented Astroturf, and which pre-WWI ballparks are still around. This is  a very interesting read.

Heroes of Baseball: The Men Who Made It America's Favorite Game by Robert Lipstye

Here's another great book about the history of baseball, full of stories of the giants of the game. And what stories they are! The chapters on Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson Mickey Mantle are terrific in themselves but there's a lot more. Find out why Ty Cobb was one the greatest players ever and why no one liked him,who was A. G. Spalding (and why we still see that name on sports equipment), who was "The Clown Prince of Baseball," which records will never be broken, and what Yogi Berra's real name is! This is one terrific book, guaranteed to keep you turning page after page. If you're a rabid fan or if you've never been to a game, this is one you should NOT pass up! In fact, this book gets--

  The Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One Terrific Book!

That's some of the nonfiction about baseball. I'll write a post soon on baseball fiction and then some books on football and basketball. Stay tuned, sports and reading fans!