One of the best developments in publishing from my perspective in the past couple of years has been the creation of young adult versions of high interest nonfiction books. Very often, middle to high school kids find some of the lengthy nonfiction titles to be a little imtimidating, and thus shy away from a book solely on the basis of fear and underconfidence. In the sports related world, the past couple of years have yielded "young reader" versions of Unbroken: An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive and Boys In the Boat with excellent results. These books are not "kiddie" versions that are dumbed down. They are still rather meaty in content, but tend to stick with a more streamlined story in a manner that still keeps with the spirit of the subject. Often, additional photos are added for reference, which accommodates the more visial nature of youth learners nicely. The latest entry into this is category is Andrew Maraniss and his fantastic book Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South. Maraniss tells a powerful story of basketball, race, and history in the setting of the tumultuous 1960's Deep South. However, when I try handing the adult version this book to a 16 year old, I get reactions like I have just asked someone to guard Michael Jordan. At 400 plus pages, teens weep. So, when I saw that Maraniss was putting his story in "Young Reader" format, it was the jackpot. Now we will get an amazing story into more hands, and everyone will come out a winner. As an aside, there is such a chasm between the elementary versions of sports books that exist and the adult market version. At this time, there is very little content to bridge the gap. Is it any coincidence that these middle years are where we lose readers and stymie any momentum that is gained during elementary years? Why do we graduate from sports based light text picture books to 400 page white-knucklers and hope teenage kids just naturally adapt? We've gone from bench pressing the bar to throwing 50 lbs on each side and telling kids to suck it up. Anyways, hats of to Maraniss for understanding what this age group needs. He has taken a story that young adults really need to hear and handed it to them on their level. Stong Inside-YR Version will be released right before Christmas on December 20. This is a "must-have" for every middle school, high school, and public library with a young adult collection. The book would also make a great gift for any teenager in the family. And if you don't want to be "that person" who gifts a teenager a stinking book, then throw in a pair of tickets to a local college or NBA game as a bookmark!! You'll be untouchable!
To be released on December 20, 2016
Perry Wallace was born at an historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation. In his senior year his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee's first racially-integrated state tournament.
The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on.