My love of football began early in high school when my then favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, were rivals of the Dallas Cowboys who were my friend, Cheri’s, main football squeeze.  I won’t date myself by mentioning who the quarterbacks were, but they both were really good!  I also enjoyed going to high school football games.  Although I attended an all-girls school, our brother school had a team, and my friends and I knew some of the players and cheerleaders.  Don’t ask me if they were any good – it was mostly a social event where the action was as much in the stands as on the field! 

Not only do I like watching football, but my enjoyment of the sport extends to books as well. There are plenty of them out there that feature teens, and here are a couple I’ve read in the past month.

I love a goMuckers book jacketod underdog story, and the Muckers in Sandra Neil Wallace’s novel sure fit that description. It’s 1950 and the mines in Hatley, Arizona are running out of ore.  Layoffs are happening right and left and, as a result, the high school is closing down. This is the Hatley Muckers’ final opportunity to win the Northern title, go to the state championship and bring football glory back to the town.  Quarterback Red O’Sullivan and wingback Cruz Villaneuva are going to work their guts out to make it happen.Dairy Queen book jacket

Because I’m a female who likes football, I was really pleased when Dairy Queen came out a number of years ago.  I’ve been meaning to read it forever and finally got around to it in October.  D.J. is a girl in a family of boys – a family that loves, loves, loves football and has produced some darn good players.  Things are in a bit of an upheaval though, and D.J. is left to manage the family’s dairy farm one summer when her father is injured.  When Brian, the quarterback from the rival high school shows up to help out, D.J. is  miffed. Brian seems lazy and cocky and much more trouble than he’s worth. It turns out that Brian needs her help as much as she needs his though – help in the form of training for the next football season.  And exactly how is THAT going to work?

For more stories of teens on the gridiron, check out this list.

arctic tern

I always thought that bird watching would be boring until I actually did it!  I can't recall exactly how many birds I saw on my first official try, but I do remember being impressed by the beauty and variety of shorebirds on view in winter down around Tillamook Bay.  I was so completely charmed by the sweet little buffleheads as they bobbed around that I almost forgot the freezing temperatures!  Then there was the visit in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in spring where I was blown away by the beautiful American White Pelicans and got a close-up look at a rough-legged hawk making a meal of a duck.  On another visit to the same area, I got a rare and long look at some juvenile golden eagles as they were snacking on something. 

My latest avian adventure happened last spring in Britain when I went to the Farne Islands and was dive-bombed by an Arctic tern!  Fortunately, I had a hat on and had been warned that this might happen. I wish I had started my bird-watching ventures when I was a lot younger. if I actually kept a life list, it certainly would have been more complete had I started observing birds when I was five.  Fortunately for today's youth, there are lots of fun, fact-filled books to help get them excited about birds.  Check out this list for some ideas!

I am not a hoarder!  So okay, my work desk might have goat’s paths and the 9 x 9 storage unit down the hall from my condo could use a good clear out, but still, I can let go of things!  In the new book Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act, I learned that hoarders really can’t give up anything. I, therefore, am merely a clutter bug and only at work.  My living quarters are actually quite neat.  Each room and piece of furniture can be used for its original purpose, and clothing, books, and craft supplies are not stacked up on every surface. 

This was so not true for Barry Yourgrau, the author of Mess.  His girlfriend, Cosima, was horrified when she finally arrived on his apartment doorstep some Mess book jacketyears after he had taken it over from her and gave him an ultimatum:  Clean it up or we’re breaking up!  Now Barry had a sweet gig – he worked in his own apartment, but actually lived at Cosima’s much nicer place where she regularly cooked gourmet meals for him.  Additionally, they traveled all over the world to foodie events for Cosima’s career.  He had plenty of reasons to clean up his act, but would he be motivated enough to actually get it done?

Follow Barry as he does his “researches” that include lots of reading, talking with organizing professionals and a psychiatrist, and visiting one of the most famous hoarders of all time. It’s the most fun book on organization (or lack of it) that I’ve ever read!

Here’s a list of further resources on clutter and hoarding, most of which Yourgrau refers to in Mess.

Awkward book jacketAh, back to school! The crisp fall days, football on Friday nights, challenging classes, and the absolute terror of starting at a new school! I switched from public to private school in 8th grade and, fortunately for me, the students were really friendly and welcoming.  I bonded with a couple of girls right away over soccer and disco, and even though our main teacher was a bit intimidating, I managed to get along with her despite being sent to the library for talking to a pal during a boring film.

Penelope (aka Peppi) has a pretty rough start when she begins classes at a new middle school.  On the first morning of the first day, she manages to trip in the hallway and scatter books and papers everywhere.  When Jaime, a kind, but nerdy boy, attempts to help her and the mean kids laugh at them, she screams at him to leave her alone.  She almost instantly regrets her action, but can't seem to find a way to apologize and avoids him like the proverbial plague.  Peppi finds friends among the Art Club and things are going pretty well, but then - horror of horrors - the science teacher assigns Jaime to be her tutor!  What's a girl to do?  Skip the sessions and flunk science or just face the music?  Maybe art can meet science and have something positive emerge.  You'll have to read Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova to find out.

Are you heading back to class or just wanting to relive those days? If so, check out these graphic novels about the school experience...they've got to be more fun than a calculus textbook!

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler book jacketAnyone who is a fan of Star Trek will be familiar with the phrase “Resistance is futile.”  It’s the Borg’s mantra that basically means you just need to give up and become assimilated.  Don’t even think about fighting against the mighty collective as it’s no use.  You’ll surrender in the end, become a cyborg and be worse off for the struggle.  I probably would have caved, but Knud Pedersen wouldn’t have given up without a fight.  When the Danish king and government decided to give in quietly to the Nazis rather than have their country become war-torn, Knud and some fellow Danish youth decided they needed to take some action.  They took their inspiration from the Norwegians who were fighting back and the British RAF pilots and formed a resistance club.  They stole weapons, sabotaged vehicles and did damage to Nazi-occupied buildings.  Most of them were just teenagers, but they showed an immense amount of courage in standing up to the Germans who were occupying their country during WWII.  Phillip Hoose tells their compelling true story in The boys who challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club.

For more true stories of resistance, check out this list.