Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hate Mail From Cheerleaders by Rick Reilly

While not technically a children's book, and speaking as a former high school boy whose reading interests included only Sports Illustrated and the USA Today sports page, Hate Mail From Cheerleaders will attract young adult readers.

I'm biased. I admit it. As a Sports Illustrated subscriber I always turned to the last page first where "The Life of Reilly" ran for 10 years. Starting June 1, 2008, I'll do the same with ESPN the Magazine, when Reilly's back-page column reappears.

In a matter of 500 words, Reilly can make you interrupt neighboring conversations with your laughter. He can make tears quietly sneak out your eyes for the first time since Brian's Song. He can make your brow furl, scowling with indignation at some ignorant oaf whose decision changed the life of a person, team, or organization. He can make you stand and cheer (in your living room) for someone finishing last.

I'd read the entire book already - one column a week, of course - but reread it happily, enjoying the additional comments and updates. These 100 columns move quickly. Readers don't need a significant time commitment to enjoy the book. The short columns and varied topics are exactly what many young adult readers need.

Reilly went through a lot for his readers. Not everyone gets hate mail on pastel paper that reads, "I hope you die" with a little heart over the i.

Read about NCAA rule-breaker coach Rick Majerus who bought a player a bagel after his father died. Infraction! Read about schools that ban dodgeball, celebrities that mangle the Star Spangled Banner at Chicago Cubs games, and Aron Ralston, a guy who cut off his own arm with a pocket knife to save his life. (Really!)

But remember, just like the cheerleaders, there'll probably be something that makes you mad. Emotions. Isn't that what makes writing (and reading) so powerful?

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