The Olympics are a wonderful thing to watch with kids, full of great stories, amazing feats of athleticism, and reflecting the goals of striving to be your best that we try to teach.
There are lots of great non-fiction books about the Olympics, and no doubt there will be a new spate of them this year both now, in the run-up to the games, and afterward, recounting the stories and tallying up the medals. Meanwhile, these two are a little something different, one for the very small on the more general topic of winning and trying, and the other for a decidedly older and more focused person on the history of today’s games.
A Passion for Victoryby Benson Bobrick
Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978 0 375 86869 6
This book is subtitled The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times, and indeed, it does not extend past 1948 into current Olympics, so it is worth noting first and foremost that this book is really for the history buff, or the child/teen/adult who likes to go further into a topic. It would not be too slight for an adult, either, as the tone is very much that of non-fiction writing, and almost scholarly, but it is not too much to be accessible for an older child who is keen on learning more.
Bobrick is very thorough, beginning with the settling of the area of Olympia and the Greek expansion outward to give context for why the first Olympics were established, so it’s an interesting, in-depth read. He also focuses, as he moves into the reestablishment of the Olympic tradition, on the many wonderful and inspiring stories to be told about the athletes, giving it a bit less of a serious feel toward the end. The book if replete with photos, though they are all black and white, so children who are accustomed to brighter books may wonder why. Heh… More history lessons!
Definitely not a fluffy, light little book for someone merely curious, but a great blend of manageable reading level and serious information for those who want to know more about what’s going on these next couple of weeks.
Also available as an ebook.
I Want to Win!
by Tony Ross
ISBN: 978 1 84939 402 4
Tony Ross’ Little Princess books are aimed at roughly preschool level, and are light and funny, centering around a princess who learns little lessons in each, though they manage to be humourous enough to stay on the right side of the teaching line, never sounding didactic.
In this installment, the Little Princess’ fondness for winning takes centre stage, and we see her going to great lengths to try to win at things big and small. At school, there are cups to be won in various subjects, and she tries desperately to be good enough to win one, but fails. In the end, it turns out that her efforts weren’t for naught anyhow, as she wins a small but very important cup for effort. yes, it’s not a new message, and it’s not even expressly sports- or Olympic-themed, but I think it ties in nicely to the message of aiming for your highest. As Jesse Owens once put it, “The only victory that counts is the one over yourself.” (and there you have your Olympics reference for this book all tied up. You’re welcome!)
This book should actually work for a range of ages if you’re looking for something on the theme. For slightly older kids, the school setting speaks to them, while his characteristic bold illustrations and relatively little text make these accessible for toddlers, as well.