________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number . . . .March 17, 2017


Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold.

John Spray.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, 2016.
103 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77278-001-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77278-003-1 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Biyarslanov, Arthur, 1995- -Juvenile literature.
Boxers (Sports)-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-4 / Age 8-9.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

** /4



In a very intense game with the score tied at 6, Arthur dove for a ball and crashed, hard, into the artificial turf. He immediately felt a horrible pain in his right arm, but there was no way he was going to come off the field- the match meant too much to him and he wanted that trophy. When he held out his right hand with his left across his body, the pain seemed to lessen and he continued his win-or-die type of play. It was the only way he knew how to compete and with only minutes left in the game, he found the back of the net and the Dragans pulled off a 7-6 upset win.


Next Round is the story of Arthur Biyarslanov, a young man born in Chechnya in the Caucasus, who, after first moving with his family to Azerbaijan, ended up living in Toronto. Arthur is an all-round athlete who is good in many sports, including basketball, volleyball and track, but his favourite sports are soccer and boxing where he is better than most young athletes. He is such a good boxer that he won a gold medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games.

     The title of the book refers to Arthur’s career as boxer, why he chose it instead of soccer, a sport in which he excels, and the people who helped him prepare for competition. The first half deals with the family’s journey from Chechnya to Azerbaijan and then Toronto plus Arthur’s excellence as a soccer player. The second is about their life in Toronto, the problems of adjusting to a new country and Arthur’s introduction to boxing, his training and fights.

     Next Round has an Index and a Glossary with both soccer and boxing terms. There are 12 chapters of 10 pages or less each. There are many black and white photographs spread throughout the book and a large collection of coloured photographs in the middle. In addition there is a small map showing the location of Chechnya, Dagestan and Azerbaijan. This will mean little, or nothing, to young children who have probably never heard of these countries, and, while the Russian city of Stavropol is shown, Russia, itself, is not. This is pity because the children may have heard of Russia, and, if it was on the map, they would then better know where these three countries in the Caucasus are located. This would have been a good learning experience.

     The beginning of the book is exciting because, when Arthur and his family were fleeing Chechnya during the Second Chechen War (1999-2009), Russian soldiers shot at them when they reached the Dagestan border killing 35 Chechens. This happened because one young Russian soldier began to fire for no reason, and then other, more experienced, soldiers began firing into the crowd. At this point, the Chechens became refugees similar to the Syrians who are now fleeing their country because of war.

     This account would mean more to readers if some background to the war was given and why Arthur and his family were fleeing. What were conditions like in Chechnya to make them flee? Some explanation as to why the family came to Toronto, which to them would have been an unknown city, is also important. In addition, since people living in the Caucasus are not affluent, who paid for their journey? Without this information, the story is incomplete, almost meaningless.

     Author John Spray was an amateur boxer and is described as a “boxing fanatic.” He is now the President of Mantis Investigation Agency and gives a $5,000.00 prize annually to a Canadian author of a mystery written for young readers from 8 to 18. Next Round is his first book. The intended audience will have no trouble understanding Next Round.

Recommended with Reservations.

Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college professor, lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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