The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

What Athletes Are Made Of

What Athletes Are Made Of

Author and Illustrator: Hanoch Piven and Sarah Thompson

Page Length: 34

Reading Level: 5.1

Genre: Biography

Career Connection: Professional Athletes

SUMMARY & REVIEW: This book is for the sports lover written by a sports lover.

We learn that Muhammad Ali had a “big mouth”, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar coached high school on an Apache reservation, Babe Ruth had a huge appetite, Jesse Owens proved Hitler wrong, Tiger Woods considers himself a “Cablinasian”, David Beckham once wore pink nail polish to match his girlfriends, and Pele played with a soccer ball made of a sock stuffed with newspapers. These are just a few facts that packed into this creative book filled with 23 mini-biographies of athletes. Each biography is 5-10 sentences long.

The first page provides the reader an introduction to why athletes and sports games are enjoyable to watch and respected. The author begins each mini biography with the following line:

“Athletes are made of…”

At the end of each biography, the author provides the reader with a “Did You Know” fact relating to either the athlete or his/her sport.

At the end of the book, a “Post-Game Recap” with statistics and career highlights of all the athletes is featured.  

The following athletes are highlighted in this book: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, David Beckham, Joe DiMaggio, Jeff Gordon, Wayne Gretzky, Mia Hamm, Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Diego Maradona, Joe Namath, Martina Navratilova, Jesse Owens, Pele, Babe Ruth, Michael Schumacher, Annika Sorenstam, Jim Thorpe, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods.

The sports represented in this book include basketball, tennis, boxing, cycling, soccer, baseball, racing, track and field, football, golf, pentathlon, and decathlon.

This is a very creative book. It not only provides the reader a clear and concise biography of each athlete, each individual is illustrated using traditional drawings as well as objects. For example, Tiger Woods’ eye brows are illustrated using “nails”. Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s legs are illustrated using “rulers”. Lance Armstrong’s mouth is illustrated using a “rubber band”.

The only criticism I have with this book is that the majority of the athletes students may not recognize. This book may not be engaging for students if left to read on their own. However, providing insight into unfamiliar athletes provides the teacher and student an opportunity for new learning. The addition of mini-biographies will help students engage with the book as compared to other lengthier biographies. Students will most likely recognize Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods.

Students with a passion for art will enjoy this book. This would be a great book to share with art teachers.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: art, biography, compare/contrast


RELATED BOOKS: What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven, Xtreme Sports Fast Track by Joe Layden, Amazing But True Sports Stories by Hollander

ART CONNECTIONS: (art work website of the author)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton


November 16, 2008

Tiger Woods

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Tiger Woods

Author: Nicholas Edwards

Page Length: 165

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: Tiger Woods is described in this book as a “golf prodigy”. This biography details the life of Tiger from his early childhood until the year 2000. Tiger Woods: An American Master is the easy-to-read story of Tiger’s own life of practice, discipline, and success.

Tiger’s full name is Eldrick “Tiger” Woods. He received his name “Tiger” after his father’s friend from the Vietnam War. Tiger Woods has a varied ethnic background: 50% African-American, 25% Chinese, and additional Native-American and Caucasian influences. Tiger Woods once described himself as “Cablinasian”, referring to his multi-cultural make-up.

Before he was the age of 1, Tiger was intrigued by the game of golf. He studied with his father almost daily – learning the proper methods of strokes and focusing on proper concentration techniques. The game of golf is both a physical and a mental one.

Tiger Woods is influenced by his mother’s religious faith – Buddhism. He states that it is through the Buddhist teachings that he has gained much of his self-discipline. Tiger excels in almost all areas of golf. One of his trainers, however, notes that “Course Management” is one area in which Tiger needs continual guidance and practice. Course Management refers to choosing the right club and determining where to put the next shot.

Tiger excelled on the junior courses, the college-level courses, and the amateur courses. Once he was successful in all these arenas, Tiger knew moving onto the professional scene was next.

In 1996, when he first decided to play professionally, Tiger Woods, signed deals with both “Nike” and “Titleist” even before he started to play. Many people assumed Tiger Woods would become a great professional star – and they were right.

During the course of the biography, we see Tiger garner one professional championship trophy after another. It is Tiger’s goal to win in all four major golf championships: The Master’s, US Open, PGA Championship, and the British Open. Doing so is called a “Grand Slam”.

Tiger is considered one of the top 5 golfers in the sport’s history and yet has so much room for improvement and added success.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, fact vs. opinion, Golf: A Brief History (pages 118-121), Golf Etiquette (pages 122-124), Golf: The Basics (pages 125-130), Tiger’s Career Highlights (pages 131-154), Glossary of Golf Terms (pages 157-165)

RELATED BOOKS: Tiger Woods by Jeremy Roberts, How I Play Golf by Tiger Woods,

RELATED GAMES: “Tiger Woods ‘09” (Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, & Playstation 3)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

July 7, 2008

Amazing But True Sports Stories

Amazing But True Sports Stories

Author: Phyllis and Zander Hollander

Page Length: 140

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Nonfiction

REVIEW: 87 true stories about the accomplishments and lives of athletes are contained in this book. Some of the stories are unbelievable, yet very real. The majority of the stories are about baseball players and managers (about 20%), however sports such as football, basketball, and hockey are also highlighted. Each story is a ½ page to 2 pages in length that makes this book enticing to those with a short attention span. Black and white photographs accompany some of the stories. Some of the passages cover teams that have played in Texas.

Here are some highlights: the longest baseball game in history lasted 33 innings over the course of 8 ½ hours (pages 14-16). A baseball game was once called off due to grasshoppers (page 28). The highest scoring baseball game racked up 45 runs (page 45). Tom Dempsey was a successful NFL player given that he only has half of a right foot and a stub for his right hand (page 57). An inspirational football coach in Kansas coached from the confines of his wheelchair (page 65). Wilt Chamberlain, famous basketball player, once scored 100 points in a single game (page 91). 

Other stories in the book include a batboy that was ejected from a game, a baseball player with only one arm, a referee with only one eye, and a golfer who made 3 holes in one in less than 30 minutes!

Many of the stories are about one-time accomplishments or “miracles”, while other stories describe extraordinary individuals who overcome diverse odds. I would recommend this book to any sport lover.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: adjective usage, technical vocabulary (related to sports)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: mention of an “adult magazine” (page 124)

RELATED BOOKS: And Nobody Got Hurt 2!, Baseball in April and Other Stories, National Football League: Behind the Scenes

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:Miracle on Ice” (1981), “The Stratton Story” (1949), “Hoosiers” (1986)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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