As fast as I can by Penny Tangey

cover image University of Queensland Press, 2020. ISBN: 9780702262814.
(Ages: 10+) Highly recommended. In Part One of As Fast As I Can the reader is introduced to Vivian Hassler, a Year 5 sport obsessed student at Wallaby Flat Primary School. She and her best friend Olivia are determined to go to the 2032 Olympics. The problem for Vivian is that she does not know what she is good at yet. She tries a number of activities including gymnastics, soccer and swimming but does not show any outstanding talent in them. At the annual school Sports Day Vivian does not place highly in the Track and Field events but Olivia is always in the top two placings until the cross country event where Vivian excels and wins the race. Bad sportsmanship from Olivia surfaces and their friendship is challenged. Vivian shows she has a real talent for Cross Country and wins the Regional Cross Country Final. So begins her obsession with long distance running. Throughout Part One the reader can relate to the day to day classroom life of a primary school aged student - the class bully who always has something snide to say, the new student trying to fit in, the Health Curriculum with a visit from the Health Education Van plus the likes and dislikes of different subjects and teachers. Part Two of the story looks at the serious issue of the long QT Syndrome. Vivian's mother has been unaware that her fainting spells are a result of this syndrome and once diagnosed, the implications for Vivian and her family are felt deeply. The impact on Vivian of the illness is life changing and she must learn resilience and compromise.
This book would be a perfect class novel to be read aloud and discussed with students from Year 5 upwards. There is the opportunity for class discussion around body image and healthy lifestyle as well as some very interesting and relevant Olympic Games facts spread throughout the story. Even though the Olympic Games have been postponed until 2021, this would be a perfect resource for teachers and librarians to share with their students. Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Family, School, Relationships, Olympic Games, Being Healthy, Genetic Illness, Sportsmanship, Resilience.
Kathryn Beilby