Friday, February 15, 2013

“Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball” by John Coy with illustrations by Joe Morse

Age: Picture Book (5 years and up)
Genre: Nonfiction

When teacher James Naismith took over a gym class of rowdy boys in 1891, it seemed like nothing could get them under control. He tried indoor football, soccer, and even lacrosse – but all were too rough. He needed to get the boys to stop fighting. That’s when he came up with a game that involved no tackling, no running with the ball, and very little touching. Using a soccer ball and a peach basket, Mr. Naismith invented basketball, finally getting his gym class to stop hurting each other and changing the world of sports forever. Author John Coy has presented a very easy-to-read summary of the birth of this great game. Young readers could likely relate to the rough-and-tumble gym class that had grown bored with every usual activity, and this book could even inspire readers to create their own games. Joe Morse’s illustrations lend an old-fashioned charm to the story suitable for the time period in which it takes place. Hoop Genius would be a great addition to any library or classroom collection.

Bibliographic Information:
Coy, John. Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball.  Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2013.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

“Faithful Shadow” by Kevin J. Howard

Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction(horror)

It’s summertime in Yellowstone National Park, but it’s far from a pleasant escape for the park’s visitors and staff. First a wildfire threatens nearby, inching closer and closer to the visitor’s area and leaving a thick smoke hanging in the air. Then people start disappearing, but there is no sign of a struggle; it’s as if they simply vanished. After days of searching, Rangers Joe and Andy finally stumble upon a watch in the underbrush from a missing staffer.
The watch was almost stuck to the plant with some sappy, black liquid. Joe held it up to his nose and took a whiff, pulling it away instantly. The smell was foul. Like mold and bog water rolled into one.
But what could leave such a substance? Not any animal the rangers are familiar with. Unfortunately this is only the beginning of their interaction with a mysterious shadow creature that feasts on human flesh. As more people go missing, those left must decide how they can possibly find – and destroy – this beast. But how can you find something that lurks in the shadows?

Though I rarely read the horror genre, I do enjoy “creature features” like the SyFy original movies, and Faithful Shadow unfolded in a similar fashion. It was a little gory for me, especially towards the end, but regular readers of horror may have less of a problem with that. In a former job I read a great deal of self-published novels that were so bad I could barely understand what the author was trying to communicate, much less enjoy them – but Howard’s writing is truly professional. Not only was the story enjoyable, but it was free of the usual errors one would expect to find without a professional editor on hand. The author obviously put a lot of time into crafting not only the plot but the language to create a picture in the mind of the reader. He used great skill in writing horrifying descriptions of the monster and his wrath throughout the novel. He also kept me turning pages by giving so little information about the monster early in the story. I kept wondering what we were dealing with, and that kept me reading. Faithful Shadow should appeal to anyone who enjoys dark tales of evil creatures unknown to man.

Bibliographical Information:
Howard, Kevin. Faithful Shadow. Outskirts Press, 2012.