Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson--a Terrific Read and Listen

Greetings, guys everywhere! The Iron Guy is sorry he's been silent for so long but I was away over Spring Break and have been sick since I came back. Between those two things, I haven't had much time to read, so I found this review that I had started in November, right after the World Series of Reading but, due to many circumstances, never posted. It's a great story and there's a terrific audiobook version. So check it out and enjoy!

Boys, here's a review of a terrific book that I read several years ago and never forgot. I remembered it while the World Series of Reading Contest was going on because the World Series and the Brooklyn Dodgers formed an important part of the story. I found a copy of the audiobook, listened to it and remembered why this book had such a lasting impact on me--as it will for you.

The book is In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord. In this book, a young girl, immigrates from China with her mom to join her father, who moved to America earlier to get a job as an engineer. They arrive in Brooklyn in the late 1940's in the same year that Jackie Robinson plays his rookie year. Her family has been in China for many generations but now the girl, who takes the "American name" of "Shirley Temple Wong" is now in a land of strangers. She doesn't understand their customs and they don't understand hers. She doesn't even speak English--and now she has to go to school in this new country! How will she ever manage? Especially when she runs afoul of the biggest and baddest girl in class?

Guys, this is one terrific read. And one terrific listen! There's a lot of humor here (just wait until you see what happens after she tries to fix the furnace for the apartment building!) and some wistfulness, as when they remember the Moon Festival back in China. But it's also a story that everyone can relate to, especially if you've ever moved to a new school or a new city and wondered how you'd fit in. Plus, after all that this girl goes through, the ending will make you want to stand up and cheer. So will her teacher's speech why being an American and playing baseball are so similar and so important. The audiobook version really makes this story come to glorious life. Narrator Christina Moore captures the tone of this book perfectly, as well as the voices of all the different characters from the Chinese great-relatives to a Hispanic neighbor to the tough Brooklyn kids. Either version is good, so find one or the other. but don't miss out--this story will stay in your memory for years and years.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Three More Terrific Books About Sports!

First day of April greetings, everyone! This is no fooling--I've got three really, really good sports books to tell you about. And what a great time of year for sports! Major League Baseball begins today. The NFL draft comes up soon. Hockey is still going on. I'm sure you've seen your schools' soccer teams play. The NBA regular season is winding down but the NCAA Final Four is on tonight! Of  course, the Iron Guy must maintain his strict impartiality about the Final Four games (Go Tarheels!) but, in the spirit of fairness, I hope that all teams play well (Go Tarheels!!) and may the best team win.

Ahem, as I was saying, I just read a truly terrific book about basketball. It's Legends: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Basketball by Howard Bryant. Wow! What a great book! It's so good that I'm bending one of my rules. I haven't actually finished it--I'm about three-quarters through--but it's so very great that I just have to tell you about it.

Why do we love sports, people? For the same reason we love movies--the drama, the excitement, the fun! In sports, as in movies, there are moments of suspense, dynamic action, and humor. There are unexpected endings and sudden changes in the story. There is the buzzer-beater shot, the impossible catch, the  quick-as-lightning steal or the come-from-behind victory. Sports has dynasties that dominate and underdogs that defeat those dynasties. And sports provide us with a lot of ways to bond. Guys (and girls, too!) have gotten close with their parents, their siblings and their friends through endless discussions about who's the best, why my team is better than yours and what would have happened if...

And nobody captures that drama, excitement and fun better than Howard Bryant. This book on basketball is full of great and terrific stories (plus fascinating facts) such as:
  • The 1970 Finals with Willis Reed and the Knicks, a story that should be a movie
  • How "Dr J". changed the way basketball is played today
  • The rival basketball league that also changed how basketball is played 
  • The epic rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
  • And, of course, the unbelievable 2016 Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers
Plus there are facts that I, a long-time basketball fan, didn't know
  • There was a time when coaches hated slam dunks!
  • Michael Jordan almost didn't make his high school varsity team because he wasn't tall enough!
And, when you're through, you could argue whether Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain or Oscar Robertson was the best player ever. (maybe we could add LeBron James or Steph Curry to that discussion one day)

If you're any kind of sports fan, you need to rush on down to your library and check this out. And if you're  not, you still need to rush on down because you'll find plenty high drama and excitement and fun in this book. Howard Bryant is a very good writer and he's given us one fine book.

And he has done the same for baseball in Legends: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Baseball
and football in Legends: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Football. (see my review of that book here)

Am I excited? You bet! That's why I've given this book (and the other two)--

The Iron Guy Seal of Approval as Terrific Books

Monday, March 13, 2017

It's Monday--What Am I Reading? Sports Books, Of Course!

There's a great meme out there called It's Monday--What Are You Reading? in which a lot of kidlit bloggers talk about what they are currently reading or have read in the last week. (you can find out more at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers) The Iron Guy has been so busy lately that he hasn't had a chance to review anything but he hates to go a long time without talking to you, so here are a few things I'm looking at now:

Legends: The Best Players, Teams and Games in Basketball by Howard Bryant

It's March and the thoughts of young men, middle-aged men, boys and old geezers turn to BASKETBALL! The regional tournaments have just finished and the Madness is about to begin, so what subject could be better than roundball? I've read the first chapter and it's really good--among other things, it talks about Wilt Chamberlain, the only player to have scored 100 points in a single game. And this was in days before three points shots! I've read Mr. Bryant's books about football and baseball, enjoyed them a lot and I think I'll enjoy this one too.

Soccer and Soccer on Sunday by Mary Pope Osborne

All guys, especially younger reader guys, know how addicting The Magic Tree House books are. Ms. Osborne has also written some nonfiction books to go along with them. I read the Soccer book and learned a lot. Can't wait to read the Soccer on Sunday book because it's about Pele, soccer's greatest star.

OK, everyone, this is my check in. Now tell me--what are YOU reading? The Iron Guy and all the other reader guys out there want to know! Hit that Comment button under this post and let us know.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Iron Guy Talks Books with a Bunch of Cool Guys

Damond Ford, the Iron Guy and all the MANLY MEN at the Boys Club
March greetings, everyone! This month is always great but let me tell about something that happened last month. The Iron Guy got invited to address a bunch of boys in the Boys and Girls Club of York County--Fort Mill, South Carolina, just over the NC/SC border near Charlotte. The head of this group is Damond Ford, a truly great guy. He runs a program for the Boys Club called Password to MANhood, which teaches boys to become responsible men. Damond asked me to bring some books about growth and change, so, after mentally checking through the enormous files of books stored in my MANLY brain, I came up with a few good titles, checked them out and took them down to Fort Mill.

There I found Damond and about 15 boys. They had just started the newest session of the program and the plan was for me to talk about several growth-and-change books. They would pick one and talk about it over the next 12 weeks. But first, we all talked about what it means to be a man and everyone agreed that it included:

Taking responsibility
Doing your best
Overcoming obstacles
Being respectful and considerate to others

(Anyone who tells you differently is WRONG!)

Then I shared several books with them. (I'll show you the list with you in a little bit) After a while, they finally decided on N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley. Does that sound like an odd choice? It might at first but think about it--the main character, a cool and popular guy, starts off by picking on all the nerdy kids in his school. Later on, when he's forced to join them to fight the villain, he understands them, takes responsibility for changing his attitude and learns to respect them. Not to mention he needs to do his best and overcome the obstacles the villain has set up for them. So not only is the book fun, it also has a good message about growth and change.

Here is the list of books I took with me. Some are fiction, some are biographies and one is nonfiction. All of them deal with growth, change, doing your best, overcoming obstacles, etc.---and they are all terrific reads!

N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley--as I said, a whole of fun to read with a good message as well. See my review here.

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry--one of the best books about growth and change I've ever read and one of the most thrilling stories I've ever read too! (It was also the first book I ever reviewed on this blog--check it out here)

The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight by Tony DiTerlizzi--everyone knows how Luke grew from a farm boy who plays with a toy starship to a true Jedi Knight and this captures that story in one book. Plus the artwork is amazing! (see review here)

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings--I didn't take this book with me but I have to include it because it's the best book I know about growing from an irresponsible boy to an adult. Yes, it's long but it's an epic story and you really get caught up in this boy's life. (see my review here)

Who Was...Roberto Clemente, Louis Armstrong, Muhammad Ali and Julius Caesar--four from the great Who Was...biographies and all of them are incredible stories of  true life. See reviews here, here and here--have not reviewed the Louis Armstrong book yet)

The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American's Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown--I can't say enough good things about this one! See my review here.

All right, all you guys and grownups, go check these out!  I've always said that reading is not only fun but also prepares you for life. These books are proof! And Damond (plus all you other cool guys in the Boys Club) let me hear from you while you read this book. Would love to hear what you think!

Cool guys doing the Dab

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Good Quick Reads About Sports

Hey there, guys and sports fans everywhere, this is Iron Guy Carl with a bunch of good books that are fun, interesting (even informative) and don't take very long to finish. I call books like that Good Quick Reads.
Ever since our good friend Ms. Yingling challenged book bloggers to talk more about sports books, the Iron Guy decided to take her up on that challenge. In fact, he even made it a New Year's resolution. So here are my first offerings for 2017:

Free Throw by Jake Maddox--Last year Jason was the tallest kid on the Hampton Hornets and was the star player. But this year, Derek grew five inches and is now the tallest. Coach gives him the center position but now, when Derek has open shots, Jason won't pass the ball to him. And now Derek can't hit his free throws and Jason keeps reminding him about it. Could the team win with all this going on?

Who Is Wayne Gretzky? by Gail Herman, illustrated by Ted Hammond

All guys seem to love the Who Was... or Who Is... series of biographies. And there's a good reason! They are always interesting, always quick to read and always have stories that really draw you in. And they often talk about amazing people. Like Wayne Gretzky. He was a truly incredible athlete, setting unbelievable records. Find out how young he was when he first started skating, why he was called "The Great One," and why he gave the Stanley Cup trophy to another player in 1987.

Who Is Muhammed Ali? by James Buckley, Jr. and illustrated by Stephen Marchesi

Everyone knows about the man who could "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." He lived an epic life, achieving victories no one thought possible, losing it all when he refused to sign up for the Vietnam War and making comeback after comeback. It's a great story and, even if you think you know a lot about him, like the Iron Guy who lived through that whole era, you'll still find out things you never knew! (PS--this book came out in 2014 and Ali has died since then. The book cover you see has been updated in the library's system)

Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet by Jonah Winter, illustrated by C. F. Payne

This is an extremely short biography (I read it in about 15 minutes) but, wow, what an impact it had on me! Mickey Mantle set records that have not been broken to this day! But he didn't start out with many advantages--in fact, his home was a "tiny shack with ten people, three beds and no indoor plumbing." Yet he was asked to join the New York Yankees, the greatest team of that time, when he was 16! He was too young, of course, but joined when he was old enough--then an accident happened that affected him for life. What was it? Oh, man, you've got to read this story to find out!

Boys, if you want to read some terrific stories, here they are. Grownups, if you're looking for books for boys who say they don't like to read, hand them one of these. I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Once Again--What Do Boys LOVE?

Here it is again, guys. It's February. Time for that cringeworthy holiday. You know which one I mean. The one dedicated to all the things that make Manly Men cringe. Stuff like kissing and romance and looovveee. Yeesh! It's enough to make us run and hide until February 15. But have no fear, boys--the Iron Guy is here to turn your minds from all the (shudder!) romantic scenes all around us.
How MANLY MEN  view romance!

Every few years I write a post about this time that talks about love, as I did in 2014. But not all the mushy looovveee scenes that's surround us now--I write about things that GUYS would LOVE. What do you think they might be?

Extra large cheeseburgers

Yep, that's extra large

Space movies with lots of things that blow up

Pretty much anything with superheroes or pirates


And, based on what you have told me in the past, boys love these book series:

Harry Potter and Percy Jackson (of course!)

The Sea Of Monsters

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society

How about it, guys? Can you think of any others?? Or how about a book you love that not part of a series? Write in and tell us! I have some door hangers for any one who does.

So tell us about a book or books you LOVE and I'll make sure you get one of these. But don't waste your time--tell us soon because that holiday is right around the corner!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The First Terrific Books of 2017

Hey guys, in the last post, I said I was about to finish a really good book and couldn't wait to tell you about it. Well, I finished it yesterday and it's soooo great that I'm really excited about it. Actually, it's the second book in a series, so that means you get to hear about two books in one post. Yes, I know that's generous but that's just how the Iron Guy is!

These terrific reads are the first two books in The Hero's Guide to... series by the amazing Christopher Healy. The first one is The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and the second is The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle.
Wow. Wow. Wow! Were these ever FUN!!

You know the stories of Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella? Who were the princes in those stories, hmmm? It was Prince Charming, right? WRONG!! There were actually FOUR princes and not one of them was named Charming--the bards who sang those stories just thought that was more convenient. So what do you really know about them? And about the princesses? Oh, you'd be SURPRISED! One prince would faint at the sight of a wrinkle on his clothes. Another was as big as three football players and charged into situations before thinking about them. And the princesses--what were they like? Well, it would take too long to explain but one prince had a good reason to run when he woke up Sleeping Beauty!

Are you interested now? Well, let me tell you quickly what happens. In the first one, a witch has captured all the bards in the kingdoms and plans to execute them all, so the princes (and the princesses) have to rescue them. In the second, they all have to find and extricate a jeweled sword with a malevolent gem from the Bandit King's castle. Of course, in both these books, NOTHING goes as planned. There are big (and hilarious!) surprises at every turn. And in every kingdom. And in every forest and country road. Along the way, you'll meet a giant with impeccably good manners, find out what trolls really like to eat, and cross a moat full of bladejaw eels.

Guys, do you want action? It's here! Do you want comedy? It's here too. Do you want action and comedy at the same time?? Oh, man, you'll get as much as you would ever want! I can't begin to tell you how much fun you will have reading these books!! So why wait? Go check them out NOW!

There are also audiobook versions. Those would be incredible! And there's one more book in the series--The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw. I'd love to read that one too but need to move on to some other things--like sports books. I'll get back to it one day but if any of you boys get to it before I do, write in and tell us about it. (but no spoilers!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Simple Resolution for 2017

Belated greetings of the new year, guys! The Iron Guy is sorry to have taken so long to post but the first few weeks of the new year are always busy. But I hope to make up for it. And I'll start right away.

A lot of grownups start the new year with resolutions, that is, with commitments to yourself to do something better. Some people want to lose weight, exercise more, stop a bad habit, etc. The Iron Guy usually makes resolutions about what kind of stuff to read, as I did in 2014. I got the idea for this year's resolution from our good friend Ms. Yingling. She wrote a post about a football book called Left Out and challenged bloggers to read more sports books, especially sports fiction. What a great idea! Boys---Sports. It's a natural combination. So why haven't I read more sports books over the years? Such an obvious connection and I missed it! The Iron Guy hangs his head in shame---but only for a moment! Here's a chance to correct that oversight. The Charlotte Meckelnburg library system has lots and lots and lots of books, both fiction and nonfiction, about sports that guys would love. Therefore, Ms. Yingling, I will take you up on your challenge! The books are out there---bring them on!! (I have one already--Free Throw by Jake Maddox. I haven't read it yet but I know his books are quick and good)

Actually, this is a long-term resolution for all of 2017. There are so many sports books that it would take a long time to read even a small amount of them.  Besides, I've got a few other things to do soon. I've got plans for a couple of things on the blog this year. And I'm going to finish a really fun book soon and I can't wait to tell you about it. Then I've got one really, really big (and scary!) project planned for this year that will test the Iron Guy's MANLY MANLINESS to the very limits. What is it? You've got to stay tuned to find out!

The Iron Guy--he loves books, he loves sports.