Thursday, November 18, 2010


Two award-winning authors offer a change of pace from their usual fare – they’ve joined the ranks of accomplished writers creating books designed for young adults. Both titles offer intriguing, interesting plots thathave virtually no violence and little romantic involvement.

“The Rivalry” by journalist, sports reporter and NPR commentator John Feinstein (Knopf, $16.99) is a mystery set at this year’s Army-Navy Football game.

It showcases teen newspaper reporters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, who’ve appeared in earlier Feinstein novels.

This time they’re reporting on the rivalry that takes place at a historic event, the latest match-up between the Army’s Black Knights and the Midshipmen of the Navy.

Security is tight at the game and secret service agents are worried about possible threats. President Obama is scheduled to make an appearance at the game.

Thomas and Anderson face additional challenges as journalists as they try to uncover a devious plot while facing tight deadlines.

Feinstein, who wrote “A Civil War: Army vs. Navy - A Year Behind Football’s Purest Rivalry” is ideally equipped to write this book because of his unique inside knowledge.

His fine effort relays a lot of useful information without trying to teach. Ethical dilemmas add realism to the plot, as does the appearance of real sports personalities.

The author has won an Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery for “Last Shot”; this book should certainly be a candidate for similar honors. This is great reading for younger sports fans, but teachers, librarians and adults might like it too.

Pulitzer prize-winning author Jane Smiley’s latest release is “A Good Horse” (Knopf, $16.99), the second book in her series featuring eighth-grader Abby Lovitt.

Set in California horse country in the 1960’s, it explores challenges facing her and her family at their horse ranch.

Lovitt enjoys taking care of the animals, especially handsome eight-month-old Jack and Black George, his stable mate.

Black George turns out to be a natural jumper; the Lovitt family faces problems when a letter arrives from a private investigator that indicates that the horse may be stolen property.

Elaine Clayton’s fine, detailed illustrations appear at the beginning of each chapter, offering additional clear visual images.

Smiley, who raises horses of her own, has beautifully captured the flavor of the times, with a memorable, enjoyable tale of a young girl who loves horses.

Originally published in the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, November 14, 2010.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop has reviewed books regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.

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