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

September 23, 2008

Alex Rider Skeleton Key

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Alex Rider Skeleton Key

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Page Length: 327

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: As the story opens, Sarov, a former General in the Russian army, has obtained a kilogram of weapons-grade uranium.  He intends to destroy the world with it and regain Russian power.   In the United States, 14-year-old Alex Rider is playing ball when Mr. Crawley, an employee of M16, a branch of the investigative department of England, approaches him.

It has just been a month since Alex Rider completed his second piece of spy work for the M16, and he is reluctant to talk with Crawley.  He says he does not want to be a spy, but a schoolboy.  Crawley assures him that he just wants Alex to help him find the reason the Wimbledon Tennis Courts have recently been burglarized.  Crawley believes Alex can do that, while he acts as a ball boy at the world famous Wimbledon Tennis Championship.  Hesitantly, Alex agrees to help. 

Alex does find there are advantages to working the tourney.  One, seeing the famous tennis players of the world compete, and the other, meeting Sabina Pleasure, another teen helping at the tourney.  Alex is surprised when two of the top ten players suffer losses to a not-so-well known Chinese player.  He becomes suspicious of a guard who he overhears talking on a cell phone. 

In his own investigative style, Alex discovers how the victories of the little known player are being made, but not without incident, where he is almost charged with attempted homicide. Once again, Mrs. Jones and Mr. Blunt of M16 rescue Alex from harm, but only to “loan” him out to the American CIA to do undercover work for them.  Although Alex feels he has been railroaded into another dangerous adventure, he agrees to be part of an undercover mission where he plays the role as son, to a couple vacationing in Cuba.

When the couple does not return from a scuba diving trip, Alex begins another adventurous, action packed investigation where he meets General Sarov and learns of his plan to destroy the world.

REVIEW: I found the third book of the Alex Rider series as intriguing as the first two.  Anthony Horowitz does a great job of creating suspense in his writing.  He also writes with vivid descriptions, which the reader can realistically imagine.  I think anyone who enjoys mystery, suspense, adventure and action would like this series of books.

SUGGESTED TEACHING AREAS:  Leisure reading, Sequence of Events, Drawing Conclusions, Predicting Outcomes, and Making Generalizations, and Descriptive Writing

RELATED BOOKS: Point Blank, Stormbreaker, Eagle Strike, Scorpia

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker” (2006), “Mission Impossible l, ll, and lll”, “The Bourne Identity” (2002), “The Bourne Supremacy” (2003), “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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