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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Curling up with Sports books? Me? Yes! And you should curl up with Team Spirit, too.

Practice what you preach, librarians. Read a variety of materials. Recommend a variety of books. Don’t just Matt Christopher - The Basket Countsfocus on your own interests but seek out books to entice new readers into your library. Read nonfiction. nonfiction mondayFor me, sports and sports fiction reading seemed laborious. That’s until I began reading through the box of books from Norwood House. These are some impressive sports books. 

You haven’t ordered from Norwood House, you say? Well, let me tell you some special things about them. They are the company that produces those easy reading Margaret Hillert books. They do the easy reading fairytale books for beginning readers. They also have redone a large number of the Matt Christopher books with really enticing covers that even I couldn’t resist. Would you believe I was curled up with The Basket Counts instead of my favorite mystery author this weekend? Norwood House has that series of Joke books we need the entire set of and one of my top picks for nonfiction series this year "A Great Idea." But, what truly is my high interest for middle school is the Team Spirit series.

Team Spirit - Baseball - The San Francisco GiantsThis year the library information specialists in my district have been instructed to plan and teach at least one collaborative lesson with every teacher in the building every nine weeks. That’s every teacher including art, music, physical education, band, choir, etc. While I was taking ID photos of staff members, I mentioned this to the physical education teachers. They seemed skeptical because they have nearly 100 students in each of their blocks for the 3 coaches to teach. They couldn’t envision using the library for that many students. 

I mentioned how many exciting new sports books we have received in the past year, including the new Norwood House books. One coach skeptically said, "I suppose they’re all professional sports teams." 

"Oh, no!" I assured him. "We have a large variety of college sports teams, too. Individual teams, regions and conferences, health, safety in sports, a huge variety."

They were so pleased. One of the coaches said, "That’s what we’ve been needing. I want the kids to go to college and dream college-sports first, not professional." 

Now they are waiting for my list and ideas. What an opportunity and they know they are helping me to meet my district requirements. 

Let me tell you about some of the series from Norwood House that impressed me. Team Spirit is a definite top pick. You cannot go wrong with owning all of these titles. New this season is the professional hockey series including:Team Spirit - Hockey - Chicago Blackhawks

The reading level for Hockey is 5.5 with the company suggesting an interest level of grades 3-6. These are absolutely perfect for grades 6-8 middle schoolers, particularly the reluctant readers. In 48 pages, there is an intense amount of information. These titles will not go out of date quickly because they are more than just current record books. They combine history, legend and lore with mathematical facts and dates.

Each title in the Team Spirit series includes historical information on the team, information about the standout players in the series, current information about the team today (2008-2009 info), information about their playing fields/arenas, numbers of seating, costs, numbers of uniforms retired, basics on logos & uniforms, highlights of the big wins, biographical sketches on the "Go-to Guys", biographical sketches on "Modern Stars", behind the scenes information on the coaches, "One Great Day" highlighting one most important day in the record books, "Legend Has It" about some of the most interesting trivia for the team, "It Really Happened" with an amazing event in team history, team spirit about the colors, fans, mascots, a Timeline of events, Fun Facts, "Talking Hockey" (or whichever sport) with famous quotations, "For the Record" with the statistics sports fans devour, "Pinpoints" that uses a map to indicate where key parts of the teams history has occurred, information about a key term of the sport – for hockey it was Faceoff, an extensive glossary and list of other words to know plus a bibliography of "Places to Go" for more information including places to visit, websites to explore, and books to read. 

What impressed me most about these books was how much was intertwined into these 48 pages. I can’t say crammed in, because each page reads fluidly. Yet they managed to get the great heroes of hockey into these pages in such an interesting way that new fans of the history of hockey will be born. Author Mark Stewart managed to include:
Stan Mikita, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Wayne Gretsky, Domink Hasek, Tony Esposito, Chris Chelios, Ed Balfour, … 75 different players in the Chicago Blackhawks book alone. 

Team Spirit - Football - Michigan WolverinesWhat about the college teams? I read with great interest The Michigan Wolverines and The Ohio State Buckeyes. College football fans know about their great rivalry (oldest football rivalry in the country) so these were appropriate team titles to come first. 

Did you know that The Michigan Wolverines’ stadium is called The Big House and that they lead the nation in attendance? More than Team Spirit - Football - Ohio State Buckeyes100,000 fans at every game since the mid1970s. 

Favorite facts from the Ohio State Buckeyes book? The story of how Keith Byars was so fast, he ran right out of his shoes. Football aficionados know this story. Do you? Do you know which role in the marching band is most valued? The person Team Spirit - Basketball - Boston Celticswho dots the i in Ohio, of course.

Whether you are a fan of baseball, football, basketball, or hockey, you are going to love these books. I believe the similarity in layout will prompt students to cross-over sports and read a wider variety in the series. The Team Spirit – Baseball set includes 30 team titles plus 4 in Spanish. The Team Spirit Basketball set includes 30 titles plus 4 in Spanish including the four newest titles:

  • The Golden State Warriors
  • The New Jersey Nets
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder
  • The Orlando Magic

Sixteen of those basketball titles were published in 2009. The set should capture a large percentage of the country’s favorite basketball teams. 

Team Spirit - Football - Tennessee TitansThere are 32 Team Spirit Football titles. Of course, I had to read The Tennessee Titans book and mourn Steve McNair’s passing again. If you haven’t experienced football in the South, you haven’t experienced football. I’ve seen many a father carry a football in to their newborn just to touch it. Is this a ritual to ensure their love of the game? I searched to be sure "The Music City Miracle" was described in all its glory, but if you weren’t there or watching it live, you don’t know how wonderful it felt to be a Titan fan that day. 

I hate to admit it, but everytime I’ve been at the Coliseum on Titan Game Days, it was to work the concession stands as a fundraiser for my son’s high school choir. I still enjoyed the enthusiasm of the crowds.

It’s a good thing all of the Norwood House Press books have reinforced library covers because these books are going to be read over and over. For all those parents who tell me their child doesn’t read, just looks at sports magazines – these will be a huge hit. There is so much to each title. I can think of many a grown person who will want to read these, so I won’t be surprised when the students tell me the book is overdue because their dad is reading it, too. 

Now, if I can just get Mark Stewart to hurry up and write about the Nashville Predators for hockey, and the top women’s college basketball teams in the country like the Tennessee Vols, I’ll be satisfied. Well, let’s see. How about soccer teams? Golfers? Top tennis players? Hmmm. Who are we overlooking? How about a series on the top tournaments for each major sport – the bowl games for example, the Final Four celebration, the NHL Stanley Cup finals, the top races? I think we can keep Mark Stewart busy writing for a long time and I’ll be eagerly waiting to see what else he produces.