The Olympic Games are the world’s largest and most anticipated international sports competitions, and on July 27, the 2012 Summer Games will begin in London, England. For children interested in the sports that are included in the Summer Olympic Games, the following two books would be helpful:
Great Moments in the Summer Olympics by Matt Christopher 104 pages. @ SPL: J 796.48
Some of the most inspiring athletes and astonishing achievements in the history of the Summer Olympic Games are highlighted in this book, starting in 1896 – the year in which these competitions, first held in ancient Greece, were resurrected.
Behind every Olympic effort are years and years of training and perseverance. Some athletes have dedicated even more years than most to the Olympics. Endurance runner Paavo Nurmi, for example, known as “the Flying Finn”, won his first medals in the 1920 Games … but also ran 32 years later in the 1952 Summer Games! Swimmer Dara Torres participated in the Summer Olympics for an amazing span of 24 years, winning 12 medals during that time – including three silver medals in her last year (2008, as a 41-year-old mother).
The history of the Summer Games includes some truly heroic moments. In 1976, Shun Fujimoto, a gymnast, broke a kneecap during one of his tumbling routines, but he continued, finishing with twists, jumps and somersaults despite agonizing pain. His performance gave his team the gold medal. Similarly, in the 1996 Summer Games, female gymnast Kerri Strug broke her left ankle on her first vault – but she continued on, leaping, twirling and landing, to lead her team to the gold-medal finish.
The author has included a brief history of the Summer Olympics (first held separately from the Winter Games in 1924). Readers may be interested to know that Canada hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1976 (in Montreal), and that London, England last hosted the Summer Games in 1948. (In that year, soon after the end of World War II, Germany and Japan were not invited, and the Soviet Union chose not to participate.)
History will be made at the 2012 Games too – for example, it has been announced that for the first time, Saudi Arabia will allow a small number of its female athletes to attend.
** Recommended for ages eight and up.
Swimming, Diving, and Other Water Sports by Jason Page 32 pages. @ SPL: J 796.42 Pag
Did you know that diving was first invented by gymnasts about 300 years ago as a way to practise their moves, and that divers slice through the air toward the water as fast as 55 km/hour? Did you know that an Olympic swimming lane is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in width, the butterfly is the hardest swimming stroke to master, and that Teflon is used in making Olympic swimsuits?
You may not realize that water polo was limited to men until the 2000 Sydney Olympics when women were first allowed to compete, and that players often swim up to five kilometres during a water polo match. And did you know that one athlete, the winner of five gold Olympic medals, later became a Hollywood star? (Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller later played Tarzan in various movie productions.)
There are plenty of attention-grabbing did-you-know facts in this slim book and in the other seven books of the Olympic Sports series for children by Jason Page. Some of the other series titles are Gymnastics Events, Decathlon, High Jump and other Field Events and Rowing, Sailing, and other Sports on Water.
For added interest, the author has drawn comparisons to various animals. For instance, the massive manta ray, which swims by beating its huge fins like underwater wings, would be the butterfly swim champion at an Animal Olympics.
** Recommended for ages seven to 12.
– Sally Hengeveld, librarian