Review Blog

Jul 02 2012

The Drum: The Games: The extraordinary history of the modern Olympics by Carole Wilkinson

cover image

Walker Books, 2012. ISBN 9781742032221.
Recommended. This book is a new edition of a 2008 publication - just in time to cater for Olympic fever in the build-up to the 2012 London Olympics. The author, Carole Wilkinson is an established and highly skilled author of both fiction books eg the Dragonkeeper series and non-fiction books eg Fromelles.
The summer Olympic Games is the subject of this book. The focus is very much on human interest stories, but also included are historical facts, high profile events and results eg. :

The black power salute at the 200 metres track medal presentation ceremony in 1968;
The bruising affair between Russia and Hungary in their water polo match in 1956;
The absence of the Olympic Games in 1940 and 1944 as Hitler rampaged across Europe;
An 11 hour 40 minute Greco-Roman wrestling match in 1912;
A marathon in which the winner hitched a ride by car for part of the race and the runner-up was given small doses of strychnine and brandy as stimulants throughout the race in 1904;
Golf and croquet played only once in 1900.

This paperback offering of 150 pages has small black and white photographs, and in each chapter fast fact boxes and tables. The tables enumerate the participating countries, sports offered, male athletes, female athletes and final medal tally. There are extensive quotes from Olympic athletes, officials and spectators as diverse as Jesse Owens in 1936 and Princess Mary of England in 1908. Frequent sub-headings, which break up the text, make this book useful for research purposes or attractive for a good read.
The book includes Contents, Map of host cities, Acknowledgements/References and an Index, which has been well-designed. It includes the participating countries with each such entry listing the athletes discussed in alphabetical order.
I enjoy Carole Wilkinson's writing style - personable, clear, concise and precise. She is able to draw attention to quirky facts and tales in a very natural manner. Her writing moves along at a good pace; it is easy and pleasurable to read. This book should have wide appeal to young people.
Margaret Strickland

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