Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Celebrating the Olympics

This is the first year that I have watched the Olympics with very athletic kids. One a gymnast in the making and the other a multi-sport high school athlete. Seeing the Olympics through their eyes has been interesting, fascinating, and entertaining. I have also had quite a few chuckles as a result. So in honor of the Olympics and the young athletes I know, here are two books to celebrate and share.

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still
by Karlin Gray; Illustrated by Christine Davenier
HMH Books for Young Readers (June 7, 2016)
Nonfiction * Biography * Sports
Audience: 2nd to 4th grade
Indiebound | Worldcat

Description from GoodReads
Nadia Comaneci was a feisty and fearless little girl who went from climbing trees in the forests of Romania to swinging into history at the 1976 Olympic Games, where she received an unprecedented seven perfect scores in gymnastics. But as readers will see in this first-ever illustrated picture book about Nadia’s journey to Olympic gold, the road from small-town girl to world-class athlete was full of many imperfect moments.       Expert illustrations that capture the energy and fluidity of Nadia's exuberant gymnastic routines and referential back matter round out this inspirational story of determination and overcoming adversity. A perfect 10.

Quick thoughts:
In 1976, I remember both the Winter and Summer Olympics. These were the first Olympics that stood out in my memory and made a huge impression on me. During the summer Olympics, I and millions of others were drawn to Nadia Comaneci. Her performance and perfect scores were incredibly inspiring. 

Gray works to provide young readers with a perspective of a very young Comaneci and her energy. 

Though this only provides a narrow focus into the life of Nadia Comaneci, it is definitely a good introduction and one to encourage further reading. 

The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon
by Meghan McCarty
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman (March 1, 2016)
Nonfiction * Biography * Sports
Audience: 2nd to 4th grade
Indiebound | Worldcat

Description from GoodReads
It was 1904 and St. Louis was proud to host the World’s Fair and America’s First Olympics. Hundreds of thousands of people came by car, by train, by boat. Part of the Olympics was a wild, wacky marathon. Forty-two racers registered, thirty-two showed up, and of the three racers vying for the finish line: one drove part way, one was helped by his trainers over the line, and one was a postman who travelled from Cuba and ran in street clothes that he cut off to look like shorts. How they ran and who won is a story of twists and turns that wouldn’t be believed if it weren’t true! And it is! Find out who won in this picture book all about the historic Olympic Marathon of 1904.

Quick thoughts
I admit I have never run a marathon. However, I have walked a few half marathons and I can say that even the half distance of 13.1 miles is an admirable goal. For those who have participated in local or national 5K races or half marathons or the full 26.2 miles, you know that there are rules in order to make the race fair and to ensure the safety of the participants. However, in 1904, things were a little different. 

For those participating in the 1904 Olympic Marathon, there were challenges that made the experience memorable and not always in a good way.

As I read this book, I was simply amazed that this had happened but as they say "truth is stranger than fiction". I can confidently say that for the runners out there you will appreciate how far marathons have come in the past 100+ years. 

Pick up a copy of both of these books at your local indie bookstore or community library.

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