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The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat – Adapted for Young Readers, Author: Daniel James Brown. Blue Bear Endeavors, 2015; 221 pages. For advanced readers. Non-fiction.

This book was the 2017 Vinny Award Winner, an award given by the 7th & 8th grade students of Faith Christian School to the winner of our Book March Madness contest.

This book is adapted for school age children after it had enormous success as an adult non-fiction book reaching #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. The material and story is one that can easily be enjoyed and understood by young readers and I’ve been encouraged to see more adapted books become popular over the past few years. The students in my classroom who have read the book highly recommend it!

The book follows a talented but raw young man, Joe Rantz, who has a rough childhood and is essentially without any family by the time he enrolls at the University of Washington. Joe joins the college rowing team and from there and the reader will be taken on an adventure into the world of rowing. Although rowing is still an Olympic sport, rowing has lost a lot of attention and I guess most readers don’t know much about competitive rowing. This book brings a lot of information about the history of rowing and what it takes to be a successful rower and a championship team. In the 1930’s, rowing was one of the most popular sports. Tens of thousands would line shores of rivers to enjoy the competitions. You’ll also meet George Pocock, a quiet but distinguished Englishman who hand crafted the very best boats for rowing, had much rowing wisdom for the coaches and boys, and just happened to have his workshop above the boathouse at the University of Washington.

The story is fascinating because the team is an unlikely mix of farmboys, loggers, and other young blue collar boys who came together and made a formidable rowing team. With a great coach, just the right ingredients, and many other things falling into place, this team was able to makes its way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics where they would go on to win gold.

I listened to the full version of the book on tape and found it fascinating but the full version had many slower portions. The adapted version seems to stick to the action a bit more and cuts out a lot of tedious background information that might bog down a young reader. I think the students made an excellent choice for the 2017 Vinny Award Winner.

May 5, 2017

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