Smith, Jr. Charles R. 2008. WINNING WORDS: SPORTS STORIES AND PHOTOGRAPHS. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763614454 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-10]
This is a wonderful and innovative story collection highlighted by bold and bright photography of young athletes in action. Six stories spotlight the sports in which children often participate: baseball, football, soccer, gymnastics, karate, and basketball. In each, athletes try to overcome an obstacle such as the fear of “choking,” a formidable opponent, or inadequate size. Two sports announcers describe the action at a football game where one team is trying to end a scoreless season. A young baseball player’s thoughts reveal his frustration in a game where his batting slump continues. A girl questions whether she can break a board with her fist in order to obtain her brown belt in karate. Some of the characters prevail, some do not; yet all the stories have a positive resolution.
Unusual page colors, bolded excerpts and up-close photos attract attention and reflect the action of the sport. Quotes by famous people sum up the theme of each narrative, while a two page essay on motivation rounds out the end of the book. All young people – competitors and otherwise – will enjoy this inspiring collection.
The emotions portrayed in the stories are common to all young people. Respond to the stories by writing personal experiences of fears and frustrations. Interview community athletes about hindrances they had to conquer in order to be successful. Read biographies of famous athletes and assemble information about obstacles they may have had to overcome.
Other contemporary story collections with sports themes:
Lubar, David. LAY UPS AND LONG SHOTS: EIGHT SHORT STORIES. ISBN 9781581960785
Mercado, Nancy, ed.. BASEBALL CRAZY: TEN SHORT STORIES THAT COVER ALL THE BASES. ISBN 9780803731622
By Rebecca S. McKee