Let the Games Begin

The Books

 

The Boys in the Boat 1

 

The Boys in the Boat

Author: Daniel James Brown

Genre: Nonfiction; Biography; History; Sports

Publisher: Penguin Books

Published: June 4, 2013

Number of Pages: 404

 

The 1936 Summer Olympics were held August 1-16 in Berlin, Germany. Adolf Hitler and other Nazi officials saw the games as an opportunity to prove the superiority of the Aryan race. Although Germany did ultimately earn the highest number of medals during the games, there were some notable upsets including the incredible 4 gold medals won by American Jesse Owens. Another blow to German moral was dealt by the American eight-oared rowing boat from the University of Washington. Despite a poor start, the crew rallied to take the gold medal in the event.

This book examines the journeys of the nine boys in the boat from lower-middle-class families to a spot on the world stage.

 

Harry Potter 4

 

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

Author: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury (UK); Scholastic (US)

Published: July 8, 2000

Number of Pages: 734

 

Harry Potter has learned a lot in his first few years of wizarding school. He has learned how to knock out a fully-grown mountain troll and how to get past a three-headed dog. He has learned that snapped wands are likely to backfire, that you should never trust anything if you can’t see where it keeps its brain, and that sometimes trees hit back. Also, don’t follow the spiders, especially if they’re headed into the forbidden forest. Harry has learned what happens when a dementor gets too close and the identity of the man who betrayed his parents. He has learned to rely on his two best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger who have stood by him through it all.

With this new school year, however, Harry Potter will face an entirely new set of challenges and obstacles—this time with an audience.

 

The Ties That Bind

 

Though one book is a biography about a historical event and the other is a fantasy novel, they actually share some important elements. Both books examine international relationships and events through the lens of high-level sports and challenges. At the same time, these books don’t focus on the big, important, people in charge, but rather at the young people growing up and coming into their own in the midst of world-changing circumstances.

 

In The Boys in the Boat, we learn about Joe Rantz and 8 other young men who eventually make up the eight-oared crew representing the United States of America at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The sons of farmers, loggers, and shipyard workers, these boys work to pay their way through college as well as fighting to earn a place on the varsity boat at the University of Washington. Their next challenge is to win the Olympic trials against such institutions as Princeton and Yale with their sons of wealthy bankers and lawyers and politicians, which they do. Then it’s on to Germany to take on the world.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is thrust, once again, into the spotlight—despite his best efforts to just survive. With the advent of England hosting the Quidditch World Cup, Harry finally starts to realize that the Wizarding World indeed consists of the whole world. He comes across wizards, witches, children, and creatures from countries far and wide. At the start of the new term at Hogwarts, this new understanding is strengthened when Professor Dumbledore announces that the Triwizard Tournament will soon begin. The Tournament consists of 3 challenges faced by champions from 3 international schools of magic.

Like the members of the University of Washington rowing crew, Harry is a boy doing his best to get an education despite the challenges life has presented. Along the way, these young people find themselves competing for glory against other very skilled adversaries. On top of that, neither of these competitions are just games. The eight-oared crew from Washington represents the American spirit and way of life amidst the grandeur and ceremony of Hitler’s Berlin Olympics. Harry Potter is mysteriously slipped into a dangerous set of challenges that could lead to his death—or something worse. Much more than simply winning a game, these young men are symbols of much bigger conflicts going on in the world around them.

Up Next

 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Merged covers for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Twenty Thousands Leagues Under the Sea

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