Friday, August 3, 2012

The Olympics Unshelved: Track and Field

We're picking up again with our Olympics coverage. We're totally addicted already to the games and are looking forward to watching today's sport: Running (or Track and Field). Thanks to Rachel for tackling this awesome event:


The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Track and field sports are some of the most-watched events of the summer Olympics. One of the other librarians and I decided that this is because they represent the most pure contests of athleticism—whoever crosses the line first is the fastest (though maybe we need to reassess after this race), whoever throws the metal ball the furthest is the strongest, and so on. None of that fancy stuff about off-sides calls or style points.

The running events are especially enjoyable for me to watch because, well, it seems like something even I could do. I mean, anyone can run, right?

Wrong.

In Wendelin Van Draanen’s The Running Dream, we meet Jessica, a junior in high school who loses one of her legs from the knee down when a truck driver plows through her bus on the way back from a track meet. Once a shoo-in for an athletic scholarship to college, Jessica must go back to the basics: allow her amputated leg to heal, learn to walk with prosthetics, and go back to school to face stares from her peers.

And sure, she does all of that. The problem is, Jessica wasn’t just good at running, she was born to run. She dreams about it at night and feels the ache in her lost limb to hit the pavement again. So with the help of an amazing friend named Fiona, a very cute boy named Gavin, and a surprising ally in Rosa, a girl with cerebral palsy, Jessica gets back on her feet—natural and artificial—and inches closer to her dream of running again.

For those of us lucky enough to have two functioning legs, this book will make you cherish every shin splint, cramp, and bout of hip bursitis you ever get. If the story dips into the saccharine at times, you’ll forgive Van Draanen because you believe in Jessica—her flaws, her agony over losing so much of herself, her self-doubt, her strength of will—every step of the way. Jessica reminds us of why we love running events: because when we watch people run fast, we can feel the wind on our own faces, the push of adrenaline through our own legs, and the freedom to imagine that we, too, can one day run like an Olympian.

The Olympics loves a good underdog story. Here's one where Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, gets upset by up-and-commer Yohan Blake in Jamaica's Olympic trials!

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