February 2020, Fiction, Graphic Novel

The Avant-Guards, Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin

The Avant-Guards, Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin. September 3, 2019. BOOM! Box, 112 p. ISBN: 9781684153671.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

From Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer, Goldie Vance) comes an ensemble comedy series that understands that it’s the person you are off the court that matters most.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Transfer student Charlie is content to not get too involved at her new college, but determined, aspiring actor Liv will stop at nothing to get her to join her start-up basketball team, the Avant-Guards, even if it means she has to recruit the rest of the team members to subtly—or not so subtly—persuade her. Despite her reservations, Charlie finally agrees, and the team is surprised to learn at their first game that, hey, they’re not that bad! Amid all the basketball action, Usdin drops in plenty of backstory for the other team members and cultivates warm personalities through their comical interactions. Hayes and Nalty’s dynamic artwork in bright colors matches the cheerful tone and does a fantastic job of depicting the teammates, who are refreshingly diverse in skin tone and body shape. The figure designs nicely play up the personalities of the characters as well, and the basketball scenes are drawn with clear-cut action. This lighthearted ensemble story with a glimmer of romance is ideal for fans of John Allison’s Giant Days comics or Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! (2018).

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2019)
What happens when a basketball team is determined to recruit a bona fide loner? Charlie Bravo (she’s heard all the jokes) is a recent transfer to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics. She’s determined to keep to herself and focus on her film studies—until Liv sets her sights on getting Charlie to join her newly minted basketball team. Liv is a determined walking motivational poster who loves leading teams. She recruits the rest of her ragtag basketball crew to convince Charlie—each in their own unique fashion—just before the first game. Ashley, Nicole, Jay, and Tiffany eventually wear her down with their numerous attempts, not only welcoming her to their team, but also into their circle of friendship. Plagued by memories of her last university, Charlie finds that her new team might just be what she needs to love basketball again—and to find love. The author has crafted a cast of endearing individuals who together form an unlikely friendship group that is an unstoppable combination on and off the court. Humor coupled with the fast pace makes for an energetic story. The bright colors, pop-out panels, expressive facial expressions, and dynamic lines express joyful excitement. The highly diverse cast is multiracial with varying gender expression and sexual orientation. Readers who love humorous friendship stories and adorably awkward lesbian flirting will enjoy every moment. (Graphic novel. 15-adult)

About the Author

Carly Usdin is an award-winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her first feature, Suicide Kale, won the Audience Award for Best First Feature at Outfest 2016. After playing over 30 festivals worldwide the film is now available on iTunes and Amazon Prime. In 2017 Carly served as showrunner and director for the scripted series Threads, produced by New Form for Verizon’s go90 platform. The 20-episode horror and comedy anthology series brought to life outrageous stories from internet forums like Reddit. Carly is also the creator and writer of two comic book series for BOOM! Studios: Heavy Vinyl and The Avant-Guards. Heavy Vinyl was nominated for a 2018 Prism award, honoring the best in LGBTQAI+ comics.

Her website is carlyusdin.com.

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February 2020, Nonfiction

Games of Deception by Andrew Maraniss

Games of Deception: The True Story of the First US Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany by Andrew Maraniss. November 5, 2019. Philomel Books, 217 p. ISBN: 9780525514633.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

On a scorching hot day in July 1936, thousands of people cheered as the U.S. Olympic teams boarded the S.S. Manhattan, bound for Berlin. Among the athletes were the 14 players representing the first-ever U.S. Olympic basketball team. As thousands of supporters waved American flags on the docks, it was easy to miss the one courageous man holding a BOYCOTT NAZI GERMANY sign. But it was too late for a boycott now; the ship had already left the harbor.

1936 was a turbulent time in world history. Adolf Hitler had gained power in Germany three years earlier. Jewish people and political opponents of the Nazis were the targets of vicious mistreatment, yet were unaware of the horrors that awaited them in the coming years. But the Olympians on board the S.S. Manhattan and other international visitors wouldn’t see any signs of trouble in Berlin. Streets were swept, storefronts were painted, and every German citizen greeted them with a smile. Like a movie set, it was all just a facade, meant to distract from the terrible things happening behind the scenes.

This is the incredible true story of basketball, from its invention by James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891, to the sport’s Olympic debut in Berlin and the eclectic mix of people, events and propaganda on both sides of the Atlantic that made it all possible. Includes photos throughout, a Who’s-Who of the 1936 Olympics, bibliography, and index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Grades 7-10. Basketball—which, after its invention in 1891 Springfield, MA, quickly became beloved worldwide—was not an Olympic sport until it debuted at the 1936 games in Berlin. The story of how it came to be showcased as an exhibition in front of the Nazi hierarchy makes for an interesting saga, especially since journalist Maraniss doesn’t gloss over the various controversies behind the event’s conception, including the role played by U.S. racism and antisemitism. American teams of the 1930s were segregated, so no African Americans would be running up and down the court in Germany, even as the Olympics were dominated by track star Jesse Owens. Avery Brundage, the American Olympic Committee president, was untroubled by efforts to boycott the games and spoke glowingly of their Nazi hosts. Even so, ironies abounded: the American team included players as well as a founder of Jewish background. Maraniss weaves these various stories into that of basketball’s inventor, James Naismith, who helped hand out medals in Berlin. The milieu of the games, the way the Nazis covered up their human-rights transgressions while showing readiness for war, makes a fascinating tale for history lovers, and the heavy use of historic photographs will draw readers in. Given its widely appealing combination of sports and history, this is a must for all library collections.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2019)
Political events surrounding the 1936 Olympics intersect with the evolution of basketball in this outstanding history. The first game of basketball was played in 1891 without nets or dribbling. Created by James Naismith as an indoor winter activity that would support Muscular Christianity, early participants from the YMCA training program in Springfield, Massachusetts, soon spread the new game worldwide. When basketball was added as a sport in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Hitler saw it as an opportunity to showcase German might and athletic superiority. Meanwhile, American basketball players were holding fundraisers to help with travel costs while many Americans were calling for a boycott of the games altogether. Maraniss (Strong Inside, 2016, etc.) includes little-known facts about basketball, brutal information about Nazi Germany, and the harsh realities of blatant racism in the U.S. and Germany alike. The U.S. basketball team was all white; despite feeling conflicted by rampant anti-Semitism on both sides of the Atlantic, one Jewish player still chose to compete. Written with the captivating voice of a color commentator and the sobriety of a historian, Maraniss peppers readers with anecdotes, statistics, and play-by-play action, shining a spotlight on names found only in the footnotes of history while making it painfully clear that racism affected both politics and sport, tarnishing, a bit, each gold medal and the five Olympic rings. An insightful, gripping account of basketball and bias. (afterword, Olympic basketball data, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Andrew Maraniss studied history at Vanderbilt University and as a recipient of the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice sportswriting scholarship, earned the school’s Alexander Award for excellence in journalism. He then worked for five years in Vanderbilt’s athletic department as the associate director of media relations, dealing primarily with the men’s basketball team. The son of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author David Maraniss and trailblazing environmentalist Linda Maraniss, Andrew was born in Madison, Wisconsin, grew up in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas and now lives in Brentwood, Tennessee, with his wife Alison, and their two young children.

His website is www.andrewmaraniss.com.

Around the Web

Games of Deception on Amazon

Games of Deception on Barnes and Noble

Games of Deception on Goodreads

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Games of Deception Publisher Page