CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 6. . . .October 11, 2013
Big Air. (Podium Sports Academy).
Lorna Schultz Nicholson.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2013.
142 pp., pbk., hc. & ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $7.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0531-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0530-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0532-5 (ebook).
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Sherry Faller.
Faster. Faster. I flew down the hill, hitting every jump possible and taking as much air as I could and then some. I sailed over to the half pipe and dropped off the wall. I flew up the other side, caught huge air, and flipped backwards. As soon as I landed I cruised up the other side, and caught more air. This time I did a backflip and a grab.
It felt good to fly. To be free.
Twist. Flip. Jump.
Over and over.
I could hear people below me saying, “Look at that guy!”
Big Air is a recent addition to the “Podium Sports Academy” series in which each book revolves around one of the students at the school and features that person’s specialized sport. The books are fast-paced, and the details of each sport are well-researched. Besides the focus on sports and general daily school life, the books focus on the main characters’ inner demons as they plod through their teens while dealing with soul-searching decisions and actions.
Big Air is about Jax, a boy of mixed white and Cree heritage. Even though his family lived off the reserve, he has had many opportunities to develop his personal sense as a First Nations boy. His family eventually split due to his white mother’s alcohol abuse, and he and his sister went to live with his dad. Jax’s older brother, Marc, was already demonstrating substance abuse and rebellious behaviour, and so Marc left with their mother. Jax missed his brother, but he did not miss covering for him and cleaning up after him.
Jax is a super-talented snowboarder having won a scholarship to the Podium Sports Academy and landing a sponsor that supplies him with his board and special clothing and gear. A top student, he finds time to teach younger children how to snowboard between his own practices. He and another snowboarder are billeted in the home of the Marino family who look after them very well.
It seems Jax finally has everything going right for him. He even has his first girlfriend. But one day his brother Marc shows up with some unsavoury-looking teens, looking for money, as usual. He actually wants to sell Jax’s snowboard to get some cash! Jax is torn between his attachment to his brother and his embarrassment for him. He tries to hide from his friends the fact he even has a brother, but hesitating only gets him in trouble as he encounters racism from an unexpected source. As in the other books in this series, the main character benefits from turning to trusted adults for help when life becomes scary and impossible to deal with on its own. Jax questions his own integrity and has to choose between being faithful to his brother and doing the right thing.
The series is designed to connect with teens by dramatically leading them through the possibilities their choices create and offering wholesome suggestions for successful outcomes. Author Lorna Schultz Nicholson achieves this without ever appearing to be preaching to the reader. Big Air is highly recommended for any teens, and the series should be available in all middle years school libraries.
Sherry Faller, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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