A Passion for Victory: The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times by Benson Bobrick (Knopf Books for Young Readers, June 2012) is a highly readable history for children about the international phenomenon of the Olympics through the ages. Beginning in ancient Greece by looking at archeological as well as historic records, Mr. Bobrick conveys the significance of the athletic events from cultural and political standpoints. From Greece to Rome to the first modern Olympics, I was fascinated to learn about how athletic competitions impacted the international scene through history.
The Olympics are meant to reach beyond political strife, but I was not surprised to learn about the conflicts that have arisen in the early years of the modern Olympics. After all, those years were filled with two different World Wars. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the ways the communities have come together in modern times and the extent with which the Olympics have spread in just 100 years. I learned a lot of previously unknown facts, like that in early modern times the Olympics were meant for those who were not professional athletes. I loved learning about some of the world’s greatest athletes. I was most interested to learn about Jesse Owens and his comments on how those in Germany respected him while the United States still had policies of discrimination.
If anything bothered me, it was the abrupt ending of the book. A Passion for Victory, as the subtitle indicates, only covers the early modern Olympics. As such, it stopped detailing the Olympics after World War II, and I was disappointed to not get more of a history of the Olympics since then. In general, though, I really enjoyed reading the historical overviews. The fact that I wanted more to read indicates that Mr. Bobrick did something right! It was a nice book to get me in the mood for the upcoming Summer Olympics.
Note: I read a digital review copy from the publisher for review consideration via netgalley.com.