Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review: Gridiron: Stories from 100 Years of the National Football League

by Fred Bowen
Illustrated by James E Ransome
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Picture Book/Non-Fiction/Sports
112 pages
ages 8 to 12

This accessible, informative, and beautifully illustrated book celebrates the 100th anniversary of the NFL and is the perfect keepsake for football fans of all ages.

The National Football League is the most popular sports league in the United States. Its championship game, the Super Bowl, is watched by millions of people every year. But it wasn’t always like this. In the last one hundred years, football has changed from a poorly organized, often overlooked sport to America’s favorite pastime. Here are the stories of that remarkable transformation. The stories of the greatest players, the most successful coaches, the most memorable games—and the amazing plays that made us gasp as we watched them in stadiums and on televisions all over America.

Discover the league’s scrappy beginnings in an automobile showroom, and early players like Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost. Relive the very first championship game, played indoors after a circus had visited, and famous games like the Ice Bowl. See the NFL at war, and meet some of the remarkable athletes who helped desegregate the league. Learn how the draft came into existence, and about the teams that strove for that almost impossible goal—a perfect season.

Veteran sportswriter Fred Bowen brings his in-depth knowledge and lively prose to these fascinating stories, and award-winning artist James E. Ransome has created stunning full-page illustrations that bring the sport of football to life like never before



Note: I received the first third of this book as an ARC copy and am writing my review concerning these first pages.

NFL is a part of every American's life, I believe, in minor or major ways. While Super Bowls, star players, and fan articles are part of every day life during football season, few probably stop to think much about the origins of football or how it's changed...along with its players...over the last 100 years. In celebration of National Football Month (August), this book takes a dive into football history in a way middle graders and even older fans can understand and enjoy.

First off, I am not a huge football fan. I attended a few games at the Bronco stadium while growing up and bought one stadium blanket, which I still have until this day and used to bundle up all four of my children on cold days (talk about a high-quality blanket!!!), but that's the extent of my football'ness'. Still, I really enjoyed this book and believe that it will make especially football fans' hearts beat faster.

Illustrations brighten and take a bold stance on every single page. This is such a plus, especially since the text is more fact ridden. The pictures not only help readers 'see' the physical changes to football during the past 100 years, but offer a wonderful break to the heavier text. Even more reluctant readers will enjoy this one, since they can flip through the pages and enjoy it as much visually as literally.

The text is historical and holds facts such as names, dates, and events. The author, however, did a nice job at keeping it pretty lively, so that the information doesn't bog down. Especially football fans will be able to sink into the scenes and enjoy the pure sport atmosphere while learning much more about football's history. The text is heavier and I'd personally recommend it more for ages ten and up. Even adults are sure to enjoy this one...which makes it an especially great book to pick up and enjoy cross-generationally.

Considering how much middle graders enjoy sport books (these appear to be one of their favorites to check out of school libraries), I can recommend this one and give it two big thumbs up.

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