The Boys in the Boat and Stuff Just Got Real at Midwinter

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

By Daniel Brown

Penguin Books, 2014

ISBN: 9780143125471

Looking for some holiday reading that features protagonists overcoming adversity and challenge? The Boys in the Boat is a go-to title for my teens who are required to read narrative nonfiction in the thematic categories of community or sports. Written by a Seattle author, it is the true story of how nine young men from the Pacific Northwest went from obscurity to the Olympics. Set during the Great Depression it is a testament to grit and determination, and–best of all for my readers–it reads like fiction. It’s also a title that was featured on the YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners 2014 list.

Achieving good results is rarely accomplished in a vacuum. Coaches Al Ulbrickson and Tom Bolles were key figures in the success of the UW rowing crew that took a different kind of battle all the way to Hitler. Like Joe Rantz and the other boys in that boat, I have been fortunate to have good mentors. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I attended my first conference came from Patti Tjomsland, retired librarian and book jury committee member extraordinaire: make sure you go to an awards session. Awards sessions represent hundreds of hours of reading and discussion on the part of committee members, and culminate with the Morris and Nonfiction Award Program and Presentation from 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Monday, January 28.  

For those who have never attended an awards session, they are pretty special. The mood is celebratory, filled with discussion of the titles that have won and acceptance speeches by the recipient and their publisher. (One of my most memorable awards sessions was at the Odyssey Awards in Las Vegas when Kirby Heyborne–amazing narrator of audiobooks–busted out a rap in homage to librarians–look it up on YouTube, it’s priceless!) The Morris and Nonfiction Award Program and Presentation will include some light refreshments and a copy of one of the finalist titles. Tickets are $25, and are well worth the opportunity to share good memories with fellow librarians, authors, and publishers, and come home with a great book.

Jodi Kruse is a Teacher Librarian at R.A. Long High School.

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