On Your Mark, Get Set, Gold! An Irreverent Guide to the Sports of the Summer Games – by Scott Allen, illustrated by Antoine Corbineau


 On Your Mark, Get Set, Gold! An Irreverent Guide to the Sports of the Summer Games – by Scott Allen, illustrated by Antoine Corbineau, Nosy Crow, 9781536213980, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Oversized hardcover

What did you like about the book?  Ah, the good old days, before Covid-19 and quarantine, when we were all looking forward to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. That’s obviously what this book was meant to celebrate, and if you get it now, kids will have time to get up-to-speed before the re-scheduled event in 2021. A nicely organized table of contents opens the book, along with a brief history of the Games (ancient, modern and Paralympics are all covered) and a timeline of the games since 1896. A two-page spread is devoted to each sport and the presentation is infographic in nature, with bright colors, slick illustrations and pop-outs. Kids can learn a bit about the skills, training and equipment needed, the rules and lingo, the chances of becoming a champion (on a scale of slim to great), and a bit of history. 

I definitely learned a lot from reading this book about sports I knew nothing about (handball and boccia), those I didn’t even know were in the Olympics (golf and modern pentathlon), and, of course, those that everyone’s already heard of (basketball and track). The presentation is very appealing and, as the title promises, slightly irreverent. For shooting, you get to dress like a cyborg and badminton is described as very squeaky. The illustrations are inclusive, including examples of men and women playing sports and lots of differently abled athletes participating in Paralympic events, such as archery and swimming. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? I wish there had been more attention paid to helping me understand which sports were in the Olympics and which were Paralympics. Some kind of key might have been helpful? I was a little chagrined by the inclusion of the “chances of becoming a champion” scale in some of the sports. For example, no matter how good a girl is at baseball or Greco-Roman wrestling, her chances of becoming a champion are nil because it’s a male-only sport and vice-versa for boys and softball, rhythmic gymnastics and artistic swimming. And let’s face it, a barrier for most people becoming Olympic-caliber is access and privilege. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Students in grades 1-5 who love sports and want to learn more about the Olympics. It’s lots of fun to read through all the elements on the page and the graphics are first rate.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? 796.48

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: July 24, 2020

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