Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - equal opportunities for all - 5.20.2020

Wednesdays I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
#kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

As many of you know I have a very vested interest in the rights of disabled people and in the Paralympics.  My daughter was born with a severe limb length difference in her right leg.  She also does not have a hip and now has a fused ankle which leaves her with no flexion.  She has had multiple limb lengthening surgeries and really needs this next surgery that will give her some more length and stability, but we're having a hard time figuring out when that will be because she is also training for the next Paralympics - although a few unknowns with that one right now!  She is on the United States Paralympic National Swim Team and this pandemic has made her be very creative in how she exercises since water is no longer a part of the equation.  
I am always excited to find books about equality, disabilities, and Paralympics.  Here are some new releases and one book that is NOT recommended:

All the Way to the Top by Annette Bay Pimentel
All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything

written by Annette Bay Pimentel
illustrated by Nabi H. Ali
Educators may be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but young readers probably aren't.  Decades ago, it wasn't always possible for a young, disabled student to attend school.  It's because of activists like Jennifer Keelan who helped make this a reality for people today.  Readers will respond to her tough drive and how she fought for other young kids to have these rights.

A Sporting Chance by Lori Alexander
A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games
written by Lori Alexander
illustrated by Allan Drummond
This book focuses on the person who started what became the Paralympic Games.  There is a very interesting history behind the person, as he also had to fight inequalities, but not as a disabled person, but as a Jew living in Nazi Germany.  Ludwig was a well-respected neurologist in Germany who was focusing on spinal cord injuries.  However after Kristallnacht ("the Night of Broken Glass") Ludwig and his family escaped to England.  Eventually he worked at a war hospital treating spinal cord patients who were injured in the war.  These patients were deemed "incurable" and often left to eventually die.  Ludwig knew they had a quality of life in them, although it would have to be a new quality of life.  He solved numerous problems and then got physical therapists involved so these people were up, in wheelchairs, and moving.  Eventually, sports started happening naturally.  Once Ludwig saw how this invigorated the patients, he set up more organized sports and eventually started holding competitive games at the hospital.  These "games" grew and grew until other hospitals, and then countries, started participating.  The leader of the International Olympic Committee saw what was happening and recognized the spirit of the Olympic Games in what they were doing.  Eventually, this set up the first Paralympic Games.
With illustrations by Allan Drummond (Green City, Energy Island, Pedal Power) and photographs, readers will be fascinated by this story.  It reads quickly and is entertaining.
I liked that this explained so much about the background of the beginnings of the Paralympic Games.  However, I know there is still so much unknown about the Games and there is some confusion and misunderstanding about these athletes.  I would love to see a book just like this that sheds light on the present athletes and Games so more people would understand them.

What Are the Paralympic Games?
What Are the Paralympic Games?
by Gail Herman
I was interested in reading this one because of my connection to the Paralympic Games - namely watching my daughter try to get there!  Interestingly enough, the associate director of USA Para Swimming, Erin Popovich, oversees my daughter on the National Team, and she's featured in this book!
This book shines the spotlight on some highlights and achievements of athletes over the years.  It shares accomplishments in swimming, basketball, track and field, archery, tennis and table tennis, to name a few.  It also gives a brief background of how the Paralympics came to be.  If someone was looking for additional information, I would point them to the above book.
However, this book is not without some big criticism.
First of all, I'm disappointed that what they (author? publisher?) decided to share for the opening preview is a story about how during the 2016 Opening Ceremony for the Paralympic Games, the torch bearer fell when approaching the Olympic flame and that she got back up and finished what she was there for.  What that is telling the reader is that Paralympians are known for facing their challenges and getting back up again.  So, it's not for their athletic greatness.  It's because they get back up again?  It's a feel good story for able bodied readers.  Disappointed in that choice.
One of the biggest parts of being on the Para teams is going through rigorous classifications.  There is quick mention of classification but it left a lot to be interpreted... and usually incorrectly.  For example, it briefly mentions that now athletes of different disabilities are grouped together, but unless you are familiar with disabled athletes, you probably have no idea what that means.  And it's further complicated by the picture that is included.  There is a chart that lists a sport and then has a grid labeling different classes based on different categories such as amputee, visually impaired, intellectually impaired, spinal cord injury, and trauma brain injury.  I'm not familiar with all sports and their classes, but I can say for swimming that is not how the athletes are classed.  If you would like further information, I'm happy to provide it, but it would make this post longer than it already is!
When the book explains how the International Paralympic Committee took notice of the original Stoke Mandeville Games, there is a picture of the Olympic rings.  However, no where in the book is the Paralympic logo.  Interesting....
The book focuses on many athletes and their accomplishments.  The athlete they spend the most pages on.... Oscar Pistorius.  Yup, the person who is currently serving time for murdering his girlfriend.  I get that he had some amazing accomplishments, but there are so many other athletes that did too, who didn't take a life...
And the biggest mistake in our minds... there are some photographs at the end of the book, one being of my daughter's mentor, Erin Popovich.  The caption under the photo says she is swimming the 100m freestyle.  But she is clearly swimming the breaststroke.  Even most people who are not swimmers will know you don't have your head all the way out of the water and looking forward for freestyle.
If you're looking for a book to give you more information about the Paralympics, this is not the one you're looking for!
Oh, and here's the Paralympic logo!

Paralympic symbols - Wikipedia

If you want to know more about the logo and some recent changes to it, check out this post!


  1. Thanks for these thoughtful recommendations!

  2. These sound great, Michele--thanks for the recs!

  3. I had no idea your daughter is getting ready for the Paralympics—that's so exciting! All the Way to the Top and A Sporting Chance both sound excellent! It's a shame that the final book is such an utter mess when it could bring such an important topic to more people's attention. Thanks for the great post!