November 01, 2018


Scholastic Year in Sports 2019. Scholastic. $9.99.

Scholastic Book of World Records 2019. By Cynthia O’Brien, Abigail Mitchell, Michael Bright, and Donald Sommerville. Scholastic. $12.99.

     Every year, Scholastic gives young readers fascinated by sports a chance to relive some of the top moments of the first eight months of the year during the year to come. This means that Scholastic Year in Sports 2019 actually covers only events through August 2018 – the same time period covered by each annual release in the series, because, after all, it takes a while to put a book together. For kids focused on the specific material covered in the book, that time span will be just fine. The latest volume, like its predecessors, is a slam-bang, picture-heavy, statistics-laden celebration of sports events and sports figures of all kinds. And some of the pictures really are delightful, such as the one of the U.S. women’s hockey team posing with its gold medals, on which many of the team members are biting (a traditional method of determining whether something is real gold). The usual lists of winners, suitably updated, are all here: all 52 Super Bowls, college football rankings dating back to the list’s start in 1936, World Series winners going all the way back to 1903, World Cup winners back to 1930, and many more. There are also plenty of lists and photos focusing on single-year honors, not only in professional and college football, professional and college basketball, major league baseball, and other top sports, but also in NASCAR, the 2018 Winter Olympics, and other fields. The “Sudden Stars” section features players such as Saints running back Alvin Kamara, a third-round draft choice who scored 14 touchdowns; Sung Hyun Park, who won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open during her first year on the LPGA Tour; and NHL rookie Mathew Barzal, who had three five-point games for the Islanders – the first time a first-year player had done that since 1919. The most-followed sports get most of the pages here, but there is also room at the back of the book for horse racing, including Justify’s Triple Crown performance; lacrosse; and even bass fishing. Many young readers will be especially interested in the choices of the year’s Top 10 Moments in Sports, trying to decide whether or not they agree with the picks. No. 2 here is given as the upset of Virginia by the University of Maryland—Baltimore County in the NCAA basketball tournament – the first time ever that a 16th-seeded team had beaten a top seed. The No. 1 event given here was France’s victory in soccer’s World Cup – the biggest sporting event in the world, although one that is still not as popular in the United States as it is just about everywhere else. Scholastic Year in Sports 2019 is neither comprehensive nor unarguable in what it shows and how it ranks events, but as a once-over-lightly look at games and players that preoccupy sports fans throughout the year, it is packed with facts and filled with photos that will help fans relive many favorite moments.

     There are sports elements in Scholastic Book of World Records 2019 as well, but this book – although it looks very much like the one featuring sports records, with its strong visual appeal and very short paragraphs of information – is more of an overview of popular culture. The sports section is the last of nine, the others being “Music Makers,” “Stage and Screen,” “On the Move,” “Super Structures,” “High Tech,” “Amazing Animals,” “Incredible Earth,” and “State Stats.” Some of these are not really tied to the year 2019 (or 2018) at all: the koala is the world’s sleepiest animal in any year, the smelliest bird continues to be the hoatzin, the Chihuahua is still the smallest dog, Alaska still has the most pilots per capita of any state because of its size and the remoteness of its settlements, Tennessee still makes the most MoonPies (all of them, in fact), and the Sahara remains the world’s largest hot desert. These facts, although interesting, are essentially filler items for a book aimed primarily at young readers eager to find out about the pop-culture world. That means they will more likely focus on finding out who the top-earning actress was in 2017 (statistics for 2018 not yet being available): Emma Stone, with income of $26 million. They may care about the top-grossing animated-film franchise: Despicable Me, whose films have taken in more than $3.5 billion. They can read about the world’s fastest bumper car, which can go 100 miles per hour – 20 times as fast as usual – and was created for the TV show Top Gear. They can find out that Saturday Night Live won nine Emmy awards in 2017, the most ever for a TV show. They can find out about the completion in 2017 of the massive transformation of an inner-city highway overpass into a public walkway, a project that began in 1970. They can see the largest sandcastle ever built, constructed in 2017 in Duisburg, Germany. There is much more like this, some of it occurring as recently as publication deadlines allow and some of it having been true for a very long time and continuing to be true in 2018 and 2019. Scholastic Book of World Records 2019 is, like previous entries in the series, a hodgepodge of largely unrelated facts, and does not pretend to be anything more than that. It is an assemblage of mostly trivial information that young readers can enjoy looking through pretty much at random pretty much anytime. Parts of the book will likely no longer be accurate by the time the year 2019 actually comes around, and other records will surely be supplanted during the coming year. But some of the featured material has stood the test of time for a very long period indeed and will surely continue to show up in the book’s versions for 2020 and beyond.

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