Chasing the Legend

Ford Street Publishing has recently revised and re-issued ‘The Legend Series’ by Michael Panckridge. I remember how appealing it was for primary age children when I read it in 2003 and so was keen to re-read it. chasing-the-break-cover-e1474516051991

The Legends sports competition is held over the course of the year, beginning with surfing in February. The scoring for the winning Legend in each sport is based on skills, knowledge and a game or competitive session.

The first book in the series is Chasing the Break and it’s about surfing. Mitchell Grady is a new student and is immediately targeted by vindictive bully Travis Fisk. A strong (dirty) athlete like Travis is the perfect antagonist in a series like this.

Camp at the beginning of the year is dedicated to surfing, with the ironman and ironwoman competition held at the end of the week. The descriptions of surfing will capture the attention of young sports’ lovers, with an added thrill from Travis’s underhanded tactics.

Mitchell and his new friends work out a ploy to help Mitchell ‘find the flag’ in the traditional Aussie Nippers’ beach race. Jack tries to sacrifice his own chances of winning to help Mitchell in the race itself. Non-sporty readers may find an affinity with Bryce, who is skilled in using technology.

Mitchell is probably the best male surfer in the group but Travis is a strong swimmer and sprinter, so the ironman race is up for grabs. As a surfer, Mitchell knows the ocean, and uses it to his advantage.

Girls don’t miss out. Some of the best athletes are girls. Their talent in both surfing (such as Penny who has just returned from a surfing competition in Sydney) and cricket (the featured sport in Against the Spin, the second book in the series) can supersede the boys’ skill. The competition between the girls is also intense, particularly between Mia Tompkins, Katie Chan and Luci Rankin at the start. against-the-spin-500-h-cover

There is a hint of beginning romance between Mitchell and Luci, who shows an interest in Mitchell by talking to him and watching him surf. Mitchell has probably never spoken more than a few words to a girl before but he enjoys her attention.

Tennis follows cricket. Then there are some winter team sports before concluding with athletics and swimming. Each book has a slightly different feel because of the focal sport. There is a quiz about the sport at the end of each book.

Reading the series is fun with the points being added up not just in each book but also cumulatively throughout the series to find out who will become the Legend of Sport.

Father’s Day Gifts: 3 of the weirdest Sport Books

The Olympics are over and many sport-loving Dads from all over the world are feeling a little flat, my own father included.

After several weeks with an excuse to always have the channel set to Sport he’s had to relinquish the remote. It’s not that he’s deprived normally; my Mum and I also like a good game played well but we can’t match my father’s dedication to all things sporting. If there’s a ball or puck involved, he’ll watch it. If there’s not, he watch it in the hope that there might be a ball or puck involved soon. (I once came home at 2am to find him trying to take an interest in curling. He’ll watch anything.)

Luckily for him, it’s Father’s Day soon, and Sunday September 2nd offers the opportunity not just to buy him a book about sport but a chance to introduce him to a while new bunch of sports so incredibly strange that even he doesn’t already know about them.

1.  Insatiable – Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone

How many hot dogs could you eat in 10 minutes? 10? 20? If it’s over 25, you could be the next big star of one of the world’s most controversial sports – competitive eating.

(Don’t get into practicing unless you are also a fitness freak, as the world record holder can eat 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. At 290 calories that’s as much as a normal person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet would need for ten days.)

From pie-cramming competitions at county fairs to the spectacle that is the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, author Jason Fagone spends a year traveling, eating and even competing with the biggest names in the business trying to find just out just what compels a ‘gurgitator’ to force down forty-six dozen oysters in ten minutes – and what makes us want to watch them. Filled with drama, conflict and larger-than-life stars, this book is well worth taking the time to digest even if thinking about the food they are cramming makes that difficult.

(I should probably point out that typing “Insatiable” into Boomerang’s search box brings up over 20 results, only one of which involve food instead of semi-naked people cavorting. Be warned.)

2. Lucha Loco by Malcolm Venville

From the eating highs of America we go south to Mexico where the Lucha Libre – “free wrestling” – is a cultural phenomenon, renowned not only for the wrestler’s moves for the masks they wear, and the mythology that has grown around the masked wrestlers or luchadors.

I was lucky enough to make it to the Lucha Libre while in Mexico and had the time of my life – it’s part sport, part soap opera, and all drama. In modern lucha libre, masks are designed to create a persona for the luchador to takes on during a performance. Putting your mask – or your hair – on the line against a foe is the ultimate challenge in this sport. During their careers, masked luchadores will often be seen in public wearing their masks interacting with the public and press normally, and concealing their true identities. One of Lucha Libre’s most famous figures, El Santo continued wearing his mask after retirement and was buried wearing his silver mask. Now there’s a commitment to your sport.

3.  Wacky Nation by James Bamber and Sally Raynes

Has your Dad ever longed to chase a wheel of cheese down a hill or take his Stone Skimming to a competitive level? Wacky Nation is a potential player’s guide to the UK’s most absurd sports, with a plenty of advice for armchair enthusiasts thinking of getting into the game, whether it’s as the trainer of a champion racing snail or winning the World Nettle Eating Championships.

Sadly I can’t offer much advice for those athletes who want to stay in Australia. I haven’t come across a book that deal exclusively with Australian strange sports, although I have heard of a few (the Australia Day Cockroach Racing in Brisbane is surely worth a mention) so if you know of one, please do let me know – drop me a comment, or tweet @boomerangbooks to let us know we have missed one.

This is just a small selection of the sport-related strangeness out there – if you looking for a general global summation try the original Weird Sports of the World, from caber-tossing to wife-carrying (best not to get those two confused), or the whole series of books its popularity spawned on the same theme. There’s plenty out there for a sport-mad Dad with a strange twist to discover.

Just don’t blame me if he decides to take up hot-dog eating.

Rugby Reading

I have a confession: I have not been reading as much as normal. I have been taking time out and cheating on my stack of unread books.

And the reason is simple – the Rugby World Cup. Between the games and talking about the games, my spare time has been taken up in debates on whether the Wallabies or the Irish have a better chance against the Springboks (I’m undecided) and whether New Zealand still has a good shot at the finals.

Luckily my partner, while being a proud Aussie himself and supporting the Wallabies, has been pretty patient with my relentless cheering of my home country, Ireland, although things did get somewhat tense at the game where the two countries played each other. He has been happy to watch the games with me, read the coverage and occasionally answer my questions at 1am when something really interesting occurs to me about the All Black’s strategy and generally indulge me in the massive time sink that has been the Cup so far.

At least I get to watch the matches at reasonable hours. I am the envy of my friends back home, who are 11 hours behind and have to haul their sleep-deprived carcasses from bed to the TV at 5am and 7am, keeping cheering to a minimum in case they wake the rest of the house. It’s hard to muster up the energy to hurl abuse at the ref when you’d normally be curled up in bed, dreaming of Cian Healy on his best form.

Rugby is a great game to watch but there are also plenty of books out there worth reading about it. One of the most high profile is Invictus, a dramatic retelling of the 1995 World Cup, when embattled South Africa President Nelson Mandela enlisted the rugby team to win both the cup and the hearts and minds of a country divided by apartheid.

While Invictus is one of the best known rugby books (and is certainly a great read) it’s often more concerned with politics than play, and is only one of a great many books inspired by the games and the greats (and not so greats) that have taken to the field over the years. If you have a yen to examine the Wallabies a bit more closely, you could read Greg Growden’s recently released Inside the Wallabies (am I the only person visualising the inside of a pouch?) which takes on over 100 years of play.

Slightly older but well worth a browse is Two Mighty Tribes (by commentator Gordon Bray and Spiro Zavos) which looks at 100 years of rugby matches between Australia and New Zealand. If you are still wondering what all the fuss is about, you could try Zavos’s How to Watch the Rugby World Cup instead. Plenty of time to cram that one in by Sunday, for Australia’s game against the South African Springboks.

I will be pouring over Wales’ form in the form of flicking through The Priceless Gift by Steve Lewis, an analysis of the Welsh captains who have led their team to victory and defeat since 1881, and if that turns out to be too positive for liking I may pick up Seeing Red by Alun Carter which is guaranteed to contain some dirt.  Carter was a long-time backroom man with the Wales team and catalogues both the games and political plays he saw in his 12 years working for the WRU, providing an insight into their recent form during their 2005 and 2008 Grand Slam victories.

And I would be remiss, as an Irishwoman but specifically one from Cork, if I didn’t recommend Alan English’s Stand Up and Fight – the story of a grey day in 1978 when Munster, an unrated provincial side, beat the All Blacks. The game has long since become a legend in the Irish rugby terms (the book states that more than 100,000 people claim to have seen Munster beat the All Blacks in Limerick, even though the ground could only hold 12,000) and tells the tale of the day when some of the Irish played a game far better than anyone could have dreamed they had in them.

That’s something to keep me reading – and dreaming – until Ireland vs Wales on Saturday. And good luck to the Wallabies against the Boks on Sunday. May we see you again in the finals.