________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 39. . . .June 7, 2013


Weird Zone: Sports: The Strangest, Funniest, and Most Daringest Events From the World of Athletics and Beyond.

Maria Birmingham. Illustrated by Jamie Bennett.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2013.
128 pp., pbk., hc. & ePdf, $13.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-926973-61-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-926973-60-9 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-926973-70-8 (ePdf).

Subject Heading:
Sports-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Betsy Fraser.

*** /4



Why carve a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern when you can turn it into a mode of transportation instead? At the Pumpkin Paddling Regatta that’s held every October in Windsor, Nova Scotia, racers sail across a lake in monster-sized gourds. For the competition, which got growing in 1999, hundreds of locals spend the days before the big event hollowing out giant pumpkins that weigh about 272 kg (600 lb.). On the big day, racers climb into the cockpit of their PVCs – that’s personal vegetable crafts—and start paddling.


Pumpkin racing, described above, is just one of the 50 unique and bizarre athletic endeavours in which dedicated participants compete around the world. Maria Burningham has outdone herself in finding sports with outlandish rules, deviations, or in which the competitors just make it as hard as possible to play. The events are divided into five different categories: the first category is Going Solo, which presents individual challenges such as Toe Wrestling or Chessboxing; this is followed by Team Sports which includes two different sports that integrate trampolines for added difficulty; Racing sports are next, which generally involve racing with an improbable implement or for an extended period of time; the final two categories involve adding either water or cold to the sport.

      The format of the book makes it ideal for browsing and suitable for reluctant readers. Each sport is given a double-page spread, with a photograph and explanation on the left-hand side, and several pertinent facts about the sport, as well as how it has been modified, occasional historical or statistical information, on the right. For example, the Street Luging page gives several examples of vocabulary, along with a reason for why the board is necessary, and information about how a street race differs from a mountain race, and how the pros “roll with it.” This quick, colourful format will make this an appealing book for students interested in the outlandish, and given the silly nature of some of these pursuits, it should have a much wider audience than just students who are, themselves, athletically inclined. Librarians considering this title for outreach will appreciate a final addition at the end of each section with trivia such as strange moments in sports and odd sports records.

      The only downside to the book is that there is no index, or indication about where to find more information about the sports themselves, as the only backmatter is a listing of the photo credits. Nevertheless, Weird Zone: Sports will be a welcome addition to school and public libraries where attractive, colourful books for reluctant readers are desired.


Betsy Fraser is a Selector at the Calgary Public Library in Calgary, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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