Monthly Archives: August 2019

Book Review – The Story of the Olympics

Title: The Story of the Olympics

Written and Illustrated by:  Richard Brassey

Published by: Orion Books

The Story of the Olympics

This book is written in graphic novel style and is part of Richard Brassey’s The Story of… series, which includes such titles as: The Story of England, The Story of Scotland, The Story of London, The Story of World War One and The Story of the World Cup.

The Story of the Olympics is certainly a new slant on an old subject. It is full of the most amazing, obscure facts. Things I most certainly never knew before and never even thought to ask. Some of these facts would make great starting points for a wide range of speaking and listening activities in the classroom or even in a discussion with your child, especially the information he gives about how politics have interfered with the games.

The book compares the ancient and modern Olympics in an exciting and informative way – a favourite with teachers who are covering the Olympics as part of their topic on Ancient Greece. The bright and adventurous pictures capture the imagination and keep you turning the pages to discover the fascinating snippets of information about each of the Olympic Games and the winners, throughout history from 1908 and goes as far as the 2016 games held in Rio de Janeiro. The information is conveyed in a chatty, humorous way which will keep the attention of even the most reluctant reader.

I particularly like the way it starts with the Olympic truce and the Olympic ideal, two things which are often neglected in other books about the Olympics. This is certainly a book to keep your eye on if teaching about the Olympics or the Greeks or even World War Two, especially with Tokyo 2020 looming next year.

Investigate Viewpoint

No matter what the viewpoint you need to think:

Is that my character speaking, or is it me?

If you change a text into the present tense it could become more immediate and subtly changes the feel of the story. Try it yourself and then compare this to a more traditional narrator style viewpoint, like Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.

Alice2

In an action-packed writing scene, it is easier to use third person, as there is not so much reflection and interpretation to stop the flow of the action. The reflection requires prior knowledge of what is going on and tells the reader how they should feel about this. We need to avoid telling the reader what to think.

A tighter viewpoint helps the reader to see and feel the action. The actions needs to go at the speed of the character – seeing what they see, in the order it happens. Strangely, the third person, even if it is written in the past tense gives the experience of reading it as it happens. In intense danger scenes, a tighter viewpoint adds more tension but, you can pull back this tension in other scenes to let the reader reflect.

Student Reading a Book

With viewpoint I think it is better not to be overtly original but, to let your story do the talking. A lot of YA books are written in first person. When writing in the first person and present tense you have to consider how much the reader is supposed to know at any one time.

The omniscient narrator, such as the Victorian, ‘My dear reader’, can work in a different way but it distances the reader. The omniscient narrator where you don’t even change scenes to change viewpoint might suit a big saga but I think it is distracting in a children’s book. When using the omniscient narrator, it is important to make sure the character is mentioned before you change viewpoint.

A character narrating back-story can slow the pace. When adding back-story, the writer needs to seriously consider if it is really needed. In my opinion, it is better to take out this narrator intrusion. It slows the tension and you may find you do not need all the detail. Ask yourself:

Why you are putting it in?

It is good to experiment with viewpoint within a story as it is such a large part of the story as a whole. But remember it is often better to read a book and not remember what person it is written in – it is the essence of the story that is remembered – the viewpoint is so entwined and so good it disappears.