Hitler's Germany -- an Olympic Perspective
The Summer Olympics will take place again in July 2020, and all eyes will turn to Tokyo, Japan as they host the world and spotlight their country and their culture. The United States will send twelve of its best basketball players to compete in the games, and the U.S. will, undoubtedly, be the favorites to take home a gold medal. About six months before the Opening Ceremonies, Andrew Maraniss's new book about the first ever Olympic basketball competition will come out. GAMES OF DECEPTION: THE TRUE STORY OF THE FIRST U.S. OLYMPIC BASKETBALL TEAM AT THE 1936 OLYMPICS IN HITLER'S GERMANY will pique interest in the Olympics for a new generation of basketball fans who may not know about the history of the games, and how young the sport of basketball actually is--not to mention the details of this incredible time in history.
GAMES OF DECEPTION chronicles the fascinating journey of the first United Stated Olympic basketball team. The book starts as the team members are boarding the ship that will take them to Nazi Germany for the 1936 Olympics, but it also highlights the invention of basketball by James Naismith in 1891 and the backgrounds of the teams and players that composed the U.S. team. GAMES OF DECEPTION also examines the politics of that time--as any book set in 1936 must. Some of the lessons learned from the build up to World War II seem particularly timely today, and I'm thankful that Maraniss is putting these lessons out into the world and in a context that young readers can understand.
Reading the book, it's obvious how enthralled the author is with the 1936 Olympic games--and not just the sporting aspect. Maraniss has done thorough research, and as a result he has countless anecdotes about political figures, athletes, and everyday people from that time. Jesse Owens is mentioned, of course, but GAMES OF DECEPTION does a terrific job of shining a spotlight on more obscure Olympians as well as the figures who shaped the games at that time. There were moments during which I was concerned the book would veer too far off course in its wide-ranging exploration of the broader historical subjects, but Maraniss ultimately brought things back around to the basketball team each time, for which I'm thankful--because what an amazing story!
GAMES OF DECEPTION will be an excellent addition to a middle school classroom, and the book can serve as a starting point for curricula revolving around the Olympics, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and the intersection of sports and politics. I thought I was well read on all of those topics, and I still managed to learn a lot from this book, so my sincere thanks to the author and publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
A great addition to a middle grades classroom