Tag Archives: sports

Natalie Rompella on OCD, #OwnVoices, and Sled Dog Racing

Today we welcome author and MUF contributor Natalie Rompella to the blog. We asked her to speak about the #OwnVoices movement in #kidlit, and how it relates to her latest book, Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners.

The character, Ana Morgan, in my book Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners, has obsessive-compulsive disorder.  She obsesses about germs, and she washes compulsively. At the start of the book, we learn that Ana has OCD. She sees a therapist and seems to be working through her obsessions and compulsions. However, her life faces many changes, and her OCD flares up.

The idea of Ana having OCD wasn’t planned. That’s just what came out as I began writing. I’m often influenced by other research I’ve done. The idea of sled dog racing came from a book I wrote on sports that started in the United States. I had also just finished writing a nonfiction book for teens called It Happened to Me: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Scarecrow Press, 2009). I couldn’t get either topic out of my mind and recycled them for this book.

Although I didn’t have in mind who I wanted my readers to be when I started writing the book, I’m glad I tackled this topic. While writing my nonfiction book on OCD, I reached out to teens, hoping to get narratives about what it was like for them living with the disorder. It was very difficult to find people with OCD who were willing to share their experience. But I think it’s important for others with OCD to see that they’re not alone. And I think it’s just as important for people without OCD to learn about the disorder. I hope that in my book, I help the reader get inside Ana’s head and feel what obsessive thoughts are like and how powerless you can feel to them.

Books that fall under the category of #OwnVoices are written by someone who is from the same marginalized group as the protagonist in the book. Like my character, Ana, I have suffered from OCD. Although I feel it is under control, I will find it gets worse when I’m stressed or overtired. I have not had it spiral out of control as it does for Ana, but I was able to draw on my own experiences with both OCD and anxiety when writing her story. I vividly remember having a flare up on an airplane. When I got home, I was able to write up the big OCD scene in my book. The whole idea of knowing that your brain is throwing out these unwanted thoughts but not being entirely sure whether to ignore the thoughts or act on them is from experience. (For instance, having the desire to check that you turned off the oven even though you’re pretty sure you did already check but not feeling 100% positive you actually did. So you check you turned it off. And then, as you’re walking away, part of your brain wonders, Did you really check that it was turned off? I’m not sure you actually did, so you check once more. This process may repeat numerous times.)

I want kids who have OCD to be able to relate to Ana. They know what it’s like to have these unwanted thoughts. They can see they’re not alone.

Author Natalie Rompella

Natalie Rompella is the author of eleven trade books including Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners (Sky Pony Press, 2017) and The World Never Sleeps (Tilbury House Publishers, 2018) as well as twenty leveled readers and workbooks on a variety of topics, including STEM, text evidence, common core, and science fair experiments. Natalie lives in the Chicago suburbs. You can follow her on Twitter at @NatalieRompella or find her at www.natalierompella.com.

Faster – Higher – Stronger: Books Celebrating the Olympics!

If your middle schooler has caught Olympic fever, they’ll want to check out these reading materials that provide a history of the games,  the science of the hottest summer sports and an in-depth look at some of the most famous athletes of all time.

BoysintheBoatThe Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation): The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown  
An adaptation of the well-reviewed adult title, this is the true story of an inspiring American crew team and their quest to win at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

 

 

WhatAreTheWhat Are the Summer Olympics?  by Gail Herman 

A brief history lesson on the Olympics, from their start in Ancient Greece to their current modern incarnation.

 

 

 
ScienceBehind

Science of the Summer Olympics by Lisa J. Amstutz, Christine Peterson

In this four-volume set, readers will discover the science behind swimming and diving; track and field; soccer, volleyball and cycling; and gymnastics.

 

PEOPLE Olympics 2016: The Best of the Games: Gold and Glory
Think of this as a fanzine of all the top athletes competing in the games.

GreatMoments

Great Moments in the Summer Olympics by Matt Christopher

Sports fans will find these incredible stories of athletes like Jesse Owens, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Mary Lou Retton thrilling. A well-written account by veteran sportswriter Matt Christopher.

 

 

SIKIDSSports Illustrated Kids
For a full year of sports-related news, get them a subscription to SI KIds and they’ll always be up on the latest scoop.

 

 

 

Andrea Pyros is the author of My Year of Epic Rock, a middle grade novel about friends, crushes, food allergies, and a rock band named The EpiPens.

Come On, Sporto! Read a Book

Like it or not, sports dominate our society.

And for many kids, sports are a major part of their lives. Sports, in proper context, can teach so many positive things. Working toward a common goal, teamwork, discipline, and physical awareness are only a few of the many positive things people, and especially kids, can take away from sports.

What about in middle-grade literature? Is there a good representation of sports in this field?

Yes!

There are many great writers producing quality sports books. For example, there are the books of Matt Christopher, Chris Crutcher, and John H. Ritter, books by former professional athletes, like Tim Green and baseball Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr., and there are even great titles from sports reporters Mike Lupica and John Feinstein.

Hothead_CoverFootball GeniusThe Underdogs

For a sampling of some middle-grade sports titles, check out this excellent list of middle grade sports books from Kirkus or Michael Sullivan’s list of sports-themed boy books.

One place you will not find many sports-themed books, though, is on the awards list. For some reason, maybe because they are not considered intellectual or high-brow enough, sports titles are left off the main stage of juvenile literature. I scanned through the Newbery Award historical listing and found only three titles that would even in the least bit appear to a kid as being a sport book. Only one, though, an honor book in 1935, appeared to be centered on a sporting activity. That’s a serious omission of sports-themed books from the Newbery award list. Enough of an omission to require further study to evaluate if this is a trend within the entire spectrum of children’s literature awards.

Mudville

Why are sports books important? In my opinion, it is because they are gateway or bridge books for the middle grade reader. The sports topic is familiar to many kids and gives the developing reader a great place to jump into more difficult literature and/or topics. The familiarity with the sports environment and ability to associate with the characters keeps the reader engaged as they mature in their reading skills and expanding interests.

How are sports used in middle-grade literature? Sports grab the interest of target readers. Sports have inherent drama, excitement, and character interactions, which are familiar to the middle-grade reader. The sport often becomes a hook to help catch the reader. Would the Harry Potter series be the same wildly popular Harry Potter series it is today without Quidditch? J.K. Rowling’s use of Quidditch early in the series was one of the hooks (one of many!) she used to grab the audience by the hand and lead them into the wonderful world of Hogwarts. Then, as the series shifted from middle grade to young adult, the use of Quidditch faded as the characters and issues they faced matured.

Sports make great fiction and the relatability of sports to the middle-grade reader makes a greater appeal for sport books. The very nature of sport and competition lends a great dramatic background in which to set a story.

Summerland

Sports also make great non-fiction. A background of a sport, especially a world sport or an emerging sport, makes for interesting reading. Biographies of athletes and coaches have always been some of my favorite reading. It is always an inspiration to read of the triumph many athletes have accomplished over the hurdles in their lives. Non-fiction sports books can present a vibrant and alive history as no textbook can.

Take the performance of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic Games in Munich amidst the background of Nazi Germany as an example. One can probably find the basic detail of this particular showdown in many history books, but the background and detail as told in the non-fiction titles, JESSIE: THE MAN WHO OUTRAN HITLER by Jesse Owens and Paul G. Niemark, and JESSE OWENS: I ALWAYS LOVED RUNNING by Jeff Burlingame, bring the triumphant story to life for the young reader.

Jessie Owens Hitler                Jessie Owens I Always

Do sports books deserve a seat at the table of juvenile literature?

They sure do. These books are important offerings to bring readers through the rocky developmental period between early readers and lifelong readers.
Sports hold a major place in our modern society. Kids relate to sport, which means they can relate to sport in their literature as well.

Let them read sports!

Batter Up!

About the Author

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.wordpress.com. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.