Watch this month’s Olympics with a copy of Swifter, Higher, Stronger: A Photographic History of the Summer Olympics (National Geographic, $18.95, ages 7 and up) on hand. Sue Macy profiles an assortment of inspiring heroes, from Jesse Owens and Babe Didrikson to Muhammad Ali, Mark Spitz, Mary Lou Retton, and all those tiny whirling gymnasts we love. Macy, one athletic author herself, presents a complete history, including stories of how the games have survived wars, terrorism and controversies of many kinds. Over 150 you-are-there photographs in this handsomely designed edition will make you want to compete, and stats lovers will appreciate an entire almanac at the end.
Wouldn’t it be impressive if every child watching the Olympics in Athens understood something about ancient Greece? This country, after all, gave birth to these athletic rites – as well as many ideas cherished throughout history – democracy, for example.