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Guts and a Few Strokes practice with coach
"That's practice for today, so dry off and go home"

Illustrator Alicia Betancourt, 13 for Guts and a Few Strokes by Eve Asher, 10
Published March/April 2002.

A note from William Rubel

I am going to keep my comments short his week as I don't want to detract from Editor Emma Wood's call for reviews of classic books, below. What I’d like to say today is that being a reader and being a writer go hand-in-hand. While it isn’t true that all readers are writers, it is true that all writers are readers.

In the last two months, our colleague Sarah Ainsworth has posted approximately thirty book reviews by our young reviewers. This is nearly three times the number of book reviews we used to publish in an entire year! Many thanks to Sarah, and an especial thanks to all of you who are now regularly sending us reviews. We love to be able to publish your thoughts to share with other readers!

We also love to see the comments that people are leaving in the book review section. Anna Rowell, reviewer of the graphic novel Young Beowulf: the Bloodbound Oath has received a comment and a thank you from the author himself (thank you, Alexis Farjado!), while one of our teacher readers, Sue Granzella, is taking up our reviewers' recommendation of Save me a Seat. Well done, reviewers Sarina Banker and Nandini Krishnan!

As Emma is talking about classics, I would  also like to refer you to the three reviews of classics that have just been posted to the website: The Iliad, reviewed by Che Amaral. A Midsummer Night’s Dream reviewed by Justin Park, and Oliver Twist reviewed by Vivaan Kartik. One of the signs that these are 'classics' is that I don't need to tell you who wrote them. If you haven't read them yet and want to know more, their reviews are a great place to start.

Until next week


A call for reviews of the classics from Editor Emma

As you know, the team at Stone Soup has been hard at work bringing our new digital-only book reviews section to life on the website. We hope you will visit it and be inspired to read more books!

As we worked on this we realized that there are lots of reviews missing. Many of the classic books that lit up my childhood—and continue to inspire and change kids around the world—simply do not have a Stone Soup review. Harry PotterThe Hunger GamesThe Wind in the Willows, Charlotte's Web, and The Golden Compass—among many, many more—are missing from our archives. We can't believe it!

Do you have a classic that you love? Or one you've been meaning to read? Or maybe you just need to fill out your summer reading list!

Whatever the case, consider taking a look at our list of classic books in need of reviewing. We would love to hear your thoughtful, intelligent, enthusiastic, or even negative takes on any and all of these books.  We would also love to hear from you if you think there are classic books missing from this list and missing from our website, even if you don't want to review them yourself. We are sure that someone will!

A friend of mine who edits book reviews and writes them for a living told me that the best book reviews read like a smart conversation between the writer and their closest friend. I hope you will keep that in mind as you begin working on your reviews.

When you're ready, click the Submit button in this Newsletter or at our website to send them to us.

Happy reading and writing!



Guts and a Few Strokes girls talking
"Hey, you guys, we oughta show Brown what we're made of!"

From Stone Soup
March/April 2002

Guts and a Few Strokes

Written by Eve Asher, 10
Illustrated by Alicia Betancourt, 13

Stroke. Stroke. Breathe left. Straight legs, follow through with the arms. These are usually my thoughts while swimming the hundred-meter freestyle. For those of you who don’t know, that’s two laps. I can do it in about a minute and twenty seconds, sometimes more, sometimes less. Oh, and my name is Sophia, been swimming for five years in that very pool, been on the team for three years. Had I been going more slowly and looking ahead, I would have noticed that the seemingly endless deep blue of the chlorinated water was lightening into white. I would have noticed that I could no longer see the stems of sunlight poking through the water like sprouts poking through the air. This time, all I noticed was the green line on the bottom of the pool which would mean I would do a flip turn and start on another length if I wasn’t on my last one. I knew what to expect. I felt the warm sunlit wall under my hand. Done!

You know, when I’m underwater, I can’t hear or see the rest of the world. I’ve escaped to what I call Blueland. In Blueland, I don’t have a meet in two days, I’m not stressing over fraction homework, I’m not watching whatever I eat because I’m allergic to peanuts, I’m just floating in blue and relaxing. Everything fades away into the blue.

But, unfortunately, I’m not in Blueland now and I wasn’t then. Coach Morris called us together. “Did you notice how Sophia’s arms came out of the water straight? That’s following through. Keep that in mind. Remember, not only do swimmers with correct strokes go faster, they also don’t get disqualified. That’s practice for today, so dry off and go home.” Every practice ended with “dry off and go home.” It signaled us to disperse, which we did. Always.

“That’s practice for today, so dry off and go home”

Later, while gossiping in the locker room, Maggie, whom we trusted to know the most about the pool (no one knew why), gave us startling news. “The pool’s getting a new manager and they might fire Coach Morris,” she said, amazingly calm. Out came a scream from all of us of, “What!” We were all in pure shock. The more I thought about it, the more I wished I didn’t know.

Lo and behold, the next day at practice there was a young man with smooth blond hair and eerily blank green eyes. He, as we later found out, I don’t remember how, was the new coach, Coach Brown. I could barely hold back tears. Coach Morris had been the coach as long as I could remember, and now he was leaving, and some blondie was taking his place. This blondie better be good, I thought. If he’s not, he’s going down!

“Now,” he smiled, revealing teeth that were so white and perfect they scared me. “It’s tryouts all over again. Now, Coach Morris would choose you if you had the potential to get good. I will choose you if you are good and have the potential to get better. A length of each, freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, no rest, go!” he shouted.

It was a snap, except for backstroke, of course. Toward the middle, I pulled a muscle, and it hurt. Butterfly hurt more, but I could rest it after. I just endured, like I do far too often.

Just before Coach Brown announced who made the team, something struck me as odd. He had decided right then. You’d think he’d need some time to think, but not Brown. Brown knew in an instant who the “better swimmers” were. My best friend Amy and I crossed our fingers. Here goes nothing!

“Peter!” he read. What was going on? Peter couldn’t even manage to practice five days a week.

“Harold!” he read. Coach Brown must be crazy. Harold bent his legs when he did the backstroke, every single time. Sheesh!

“David!” he read. That I could understand. David had the best butterfly on the team.

“Ian!” he read. By now I’d noticed the lack of girls. .../more

Stone Soup's Advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky.


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