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

December 19, 2010

Storm Run

Storm Run by Libby Riddles: Book Cover

Storm Run

Author: Libby Riddles

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Non-fiction, Adventure, Auto-biography

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: A lover of animals and a woman with passion and endurance – Libby Riddles recounts her life as a young girl growing up in the Midwest/Northwest United States to her brave move to Alaska to become the first woman to win the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Storm Run contains beautiful illustrations, vivid photographs, and informative diagrams and maps that supplement Riddles’ own written account of her life. The combination of all, forces the reader into Riddles’ world of risk-taking and adventure.

Influenced by her friends and mentors, Riddles enters the 1985 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Financed by the supportive members of her Teller, Alaska community (mostly through bingo money), Riddles is able to acquire all she needs for the long race. Braving below 60 degree weather and harsh blizzards, Riddles clings to her closest friends of all – her dogs – to go on to win the race!

I enjoyed this book, because it is a blend between an illustrated picture book and a compilation of real-life photographs. The pictures, diagrams, maps, and illustrations supplement the descriptive writing of Riddles as her story progresses. It was a neat approach to an auto-biography.

Riddles provides us the race route she traveled in Alaska, the clothes she wore, and the supplies she used. Of course her furry dog friends are featured all throughout. A few interesting notes that stood out to me were – 1 – on the trail she ate Norwegian chocolate and seal oil (considered to be “power food” by Eskimos) and – 2- during a harsh blizzard, it took Riddles several hours to change into dry clothes!

This is a very creative book written by a very brave and talented woman. I recommend it to all. I suggest that this book be used as an introduction to an auto-biography activity.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile, setting, vocabulary, reading a map, creating an auto-biography

RELATED BOOKS: The Great Serum Race by Debbie Miller, Balto: Sled Dog of Alaska by LaVere Anderson, Racing Sled Dogs: An Original North American Sport by Michael Cooper, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, White Fang by Jack London (list of books)

MOVIE, MEDIA, & ART CONNECTIONS: “Iditarod: A Far Distant Place” (2000) (comprehensive site about Iditarod)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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