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Let the Games Begin!

Share As the Summer Olympics get underway in Sydney, Australia, some 4.5 billion people will tune in from all over the world. To help students understand and appreciate this important event, Education World looks at three new books about the Olympics.

In 1896, the first modern Olympic games were held in Athens, Greece, 15 centuries after the cessation of the ancient Grecian games. This month, Sydney, Australia, hosts the 27th Summer Olympics. To help children prepare for the big event, Education World recommends the following books, each appropriate for a different age group:


Book Cover Image For a practical, all-purpose companion to the 2000 Summer Games -- for older children and adults -- try Olympic Summer Games 2000 (Puffin Books), by Meredith Costain. This deceptively small volume contains loads of facts and figures, from brief histories of both the ancient and modern Olympics to the names of all the gold medal winners from the 1996 Summer Games. Each competitive event has its own one to two-page spread, which includes a description, the 1996 winner, and a place to record the 2000 winner. A special two-sided foldout page contains two particularly interesting sections: a world map showing the location of past Olympiads and brief facts about each of them and colorful pictures of the various venues in Sydney.

Filled with lists, charts, and photographs, this comprehensive book is an indispensable aid for anyone interested in following the Olympics.


Book Cover Image Children reading at about third- to fifth-grade level will enjoy The Summer Olympics (Children's Press). Written by Bob Knotts, The Summer Olympics is a basic primer about the Olympic Games. The text touches briefly on a variety of topics, including the history of the games, the ideals the Olympics embody, different types of competitions, and the names of some of the winners in previous games. Throughout the book, Knotts focuses on the spirit of healthy competition, the ideals of international commonality and goodwill, and the concept that all competitors, by the virtue of performing at their personal bests, are winners, even if they don't walk away with medals.

The print is large and easy to read, and almost every page is broken up with photographs, both black-and-white and color. A two-page spread alphabetically lists all the Summer Olympic events and the years in which each first appeared in the modern Olympics. There is a brief bibliography, a list of related Web sites and organizations, an index, and a short glossary. With an emphasis on the positive aspects of competition and international cooperation, The Summer Olympics is an excellent young person's introduction to the Olympics.


Book Cover Image If it seems that there is a dearth of suitable Olympic material for young children, Elympics (Philomel Books) helps fill the void nicely. This fanciful picture book by X. J. Kennedy highlights the Olympic games -- in a world populated by elephants! In simple, four-line verses, Kennedy introduces the reader to his cast of characters, including such contenders as Tristan, the triathlon champion; Trixie, the graceful gymnast; and poor Elmo, who loses his chance to win the ski jump because he had eaten too large a dinner beforehand.

Each two-page spread features one Olympic event -- and one contender, appealingly illustrated by Graham Percy. The elephants are to be youthful, cuddly, and definitely non-threatening. The combination of the lilting, easy-to-read poems and colorful illustrations makes Elympics a great introduction to the Olympics for younger children.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate any book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly:

  • Olympic Summer Games 2000, written and compiled by Meredith Costain, is published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.
  • The Summer Olympics, written by Robert Knots, is published by, Children's Press, a division of Grolier Publishing Co., Inc., Sherman Turnpike, Danbury, CT 06816.
  • Elympics, written by X. J. Kennedy and illustrated by Graham Percy, is published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.

Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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