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Drama High

by Michael Sokolove

Friday Night Lights meets Glee-the incredible and true story of an extraordinary drama teacher who has changed the lives of thousands of students and inspired a town. Why would the multimillionaire producer of Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon take his limo from Manhattan to the struggling former steel town of Levittown, Pennsylvania, to see a high school production of Les Misérables? To see the show performed by the astoundingly successful theater company at Harry S Truman High School, run by its legendary director, Lou Volpe. Broadway turns to Truman High when trying out controversial shows like Rent and Spring Awakening before they move on to high school theater programs across the nation. Volpe's students from this blue-collar town go on to become Emmy-winning producers, entertainment executives, newscasters, and community-theater founders. Michael Sokolove, a Levittown native and former student of Volpe's, chronicles the drama director's last school years and follows a group of student actors as they work through riveting dramas both on and off the stage. This is a story of an economically depressed but proud town finding hope in a gifted teacher and the magic of theater. .

Players First

by John Calipari Michael Sokolove

"If you are a college basketball fan like I am, you'll understand why I've long admired John Calipari's leadership style. While no coach treasures a win more than John, this terrific book reveals his greater purpose--to lead his young players to better lives, and then challenge them to give back to others." --President William J. Clinton In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball's most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory. At its core, Calipari's coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players--what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them and making promises that he always keeps, no matter what. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone. The result is an extraordinary leadership challenge: every year Coach Cal gets a handful of eighteen-year-old kids who have been in a bubble for the previous four years at least, filled with hype about their own greatness, and they come to Kentucky feeling sure that they will play for their coach only for seven months before they go on to greater glory. Every year, he has to reinvent his team. After his 2012 NCAA championship, it was particularly dramatic; he lost his first six players in the first round, meaning that someone who couldn't even start for Kentucky was a first-round draft pick. The overall record at Kentucky, and for his career, puts Calipari in the pantheon of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Bold, funny, and truthful, like Coach Calipari himself, Players First is truly the first deep reckoning with the meaning of his experiences and the gifts of insight they offer.

The Ticket Out

by Michael Sokolove

The year was 1979 and the fifteen teenagers on the Crenshaw High Cougars were the most talented team in the history of high school baseball. Most of the team were drafted into professional baseball. Two of them, Darryl Strawberry and Chris Brown, would reunite as teammates on a National League All-Star roster. But Michael Sokolove's The Ticket Out is more a story of promise denied than of dreams fulfilled.

The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw

by Michael Sokolove

The year was 1979 and the fifteen teenagers on the Crenshaw High Cougars were the most talented team in the history of high school baseball. They were pure ballplayers, sluggers and sweet fielders who played with unbridled joy and breathtaking skill. The national press converged on Crenshaw. So many scouts gravitated to their games that they took up most of the seats in the bleachers. Even the Crenshaw ballfield was a sight to behold -- groomed by the players themselves, picked clean of every pebble, it was the finest diamond in all of inner-city Los Angeles. On the outfield fences, the gates to the outside stayed locked against the danger and distraction of the streets. Baseball, for these boys, was hope itself. They had grown up with the notion that it could somehow set things right -- a vague, unexpressed, but persistent hope that even if life was rigged, baseball might be fair. And for a while it seemed they were right. Incredibly, most of of this team -- even several of the boys who sat on the bench -- were drafted into professional baseball. Two of them, Darryl Strawberry and Chris Brown, would reunite as teammates on a National League All-Star roster. But Michael Sokolove's The Ticket Out is more a story of promise denied than of dreams fulfilled. Because in Sokolove's brilliantly reported poignant and powerful tale, the lives of these gifted athletes intersect with the realities of being poor, urban, and black in America. What happened to these young men is a harsh reminder of the ways inspiration turns to frustration when the bats and balls are stowed and the crowd's applause dies down. Just as Friday Night Lights portrayed the impact of high school sports on the life of a Texas community, and There Are No Children Here examined the viselike grip of poverty on minority youngsters, The Ticket Out presents an unforgettable tale of families grasping for opportunities, of athletes praying for one chance to make it big, of all of us hoping that the will to succeed can triumph over the demons haunting our city streets.

Warrior Girls

by Michael Sokolove

Amy Steadman was destined to become one of the great women's soccer players of her generation. "The best of the best," Parade magazine called her as she left high school and headed off to the University of North Carolina. Instead, by age twenty, Amy had undergone five surgeries on her right knee. She had to give up the sport she loved. She walked with a stiff gait, like an elderly woman, and found it painful to get out of bed in the morning. Warrior Girls exposes the downside of the women's sports revolution that has evolved since Title IX: an injury epidemic that is easily ignored because we worry that it will threaten our daughters' hard-won opportunities on the field. From teenage girls playing local soccer, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, and other sports to women competing at the elite level, female athletes are suffering serious injuries at alarming rates. The numbers are frightening and irrefutable. Young female athletes tear their ACLs, the stabilizing ligament in the knee, at rates as high as eight times greater than their male counterparts. Women's collegiate soccer players suffer concussions at the same rate as college football players. From head to toe, female athletes suffer higher rates of injury, and many of them play through constant pain. Michael Sokolove gives us the most up-to-date research on girls and sports injuries. He takes us into the homes and hearts of female athletes, into operating theaters where orthopedic surgeons reconstruct shredded knees, and onto the practice field of famed University of North Carolina soccer coach Anson Dorrance. Exhaustively researched and strongly argued, Warrior Girls is an urgent wake-up call for parents and coaches. Sokolove connects the culture of youth sports -- the demands for girls to specialize in a single sport by age ten or younger, and to play it year-round -- directly to the injury epidemic. Devoted to the ideal of team, and deeply bonded with teammates, these tough girls don't want to leave the field even when confronted with serious injury and chronic pain. Warrior Girls shows how girls can train better and smarter to decrease their risks. It makes clear that parents must come together and demand changes to a sports culture that manufactures injuries. Well-documented, opinionated, and controversial, Warrior Girls shows that all girls can safeguard themselves on the field without sacrificing their hard-won right to be there.

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