by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. We Bostonians pretty much thought the world revolved around our smallish city. In those days, we were pretty provincial. At least in my immediate circle, we didn’t feel as if our little town was a big player on a national stage. Plus we had all we needed right at home.
Boston was (and is and probably always will be!) a huge sports city. Our idols growing up were:
Carl Yastrzemski (we called him Yaz), Rico Petrocelli, and Jim Rice.
The New England Patriots, who were originally the Boston Patriots from 1960 to 1970. They briefly became the Bay State Patriots in 1971, and then became the New England Patriots that we Bostonians know and love (and who inspire both rabid jealousy and huge admiration) when they moved to Foxborough that same year.
A bit later in the ’80s, Doug Flutie put on a No. 22 jersey and changed the face of New England college football. He put Boston College on the map in a whole new way, and drove massive numbers of BC football fans to park in front of our house, which was about a half-mile away from BC Stadium (now Alumni Stadium).
When I was a kid, all these sports teams seemed local and fun. Now—like a lot of what’s happened in Boston—they are major international franchises.
My dad loves to say that Boston really only cares about its sports teams. And regardless of what is going on in the world—wars, natural disasters, election results—the Boston newspapers will worry in their headlines: Does Tom Brady Have a Cold?
But Boston is more than sports, for sure. It is home to an incredible community of colleges and universities: the aforementioned Boston College, Harvard (where both my parents went as undergrads and my sister attended medical school…I know, they are all geniuses), MIT, Simmons (where my mother got her master’s degree in social work), Babson, Boston University, Brandeis, UMass, Emerson, Northeastern, Tufts, Wellesley, and so many more (about 50 in total!).
Boston is a major center of medical innovation and home to research institutions like the Mass General Hospital, the Boston Clinical Research Institute, and the Lown Institute, which was founded by Bernard Lown. Bernard, our impressive and really nice next-door neighbor while we were growing up, developed the defibrillator and accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 on behalf of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
We—and the Lowns—lived near Heartbreak Hill, so every Patriots’ Day, we would walk over to Commonwealth Avenue and hand out oranges and water to the Boston Marathon runners. In those days, anyone could run in the marathon—and the runners were grateful for our handouts so close to the finish line. These days, you have to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon, and these elite runners most likely would not take fruit and water from grubby neighborhood kids.
We took school field trips to walk the Freedom Trail. We went down to the Boston Fish Market and watched the fishing boats bring in their catches. We went to Georges Island and beat—I mean crawled—our way through the Callahan Tunnel to get to the sleepy one-terminal Logan Airport. We were excited that, at the time, the John Hancock Center was the tallest building in the country.
We ate lobster at Pier 4 on special occasions. And went all the way downtown to the Dover Street Deli (the street has since been renamed East Berkeley), or to Locke-Ober or Ken’s Steak House for big family dinners. All those eateries are now closed, but the memories are indelible.
We saw plays that opened in the Music Hall (now named the Wang Theater) before they went to Broadway—since Bostonians were more puritanical, productions were sometimes “banned in Boston.” And, best of all, we got to go to Louis Strymish’s New England Mobile Book Fair each year and pick out all the books we wanted to celebrate moving up to the next grade in elementary school.
Today, Boston is a much bigger, more cosmopolitan city than it was when I was growing up. And while many of the institutions of my childhood are gone, there are so many bright new things in their place. The waterfront is incredibly developed; the new Ted Williams Tunnel means you can get to Logan Airport (now with four terminals) in 20 minutes flat from Newton, where I grew up; the New England Patriots are NFL dominators; Boston is considered the research and development center of the world. And many of the incredible cultural attractions, such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Harbor, and Faneuil Hall, have just gotten bigger and better.
But while a lot has changed in Boston over the decades, one thing has thankfully remained the same all these years. Native son Jerry Pallotta, author of the 12-million-copies-in-print bestselling Who Would Win? series, is still the born-and-bred Bostonian who is most successful at getting kids—in Boston and all around the world—to read.
Jerry’s roots to Boston go way back. He grew up in Scituate, Massachusetts, took the trolley (now called the T) downtown to attend BC High, and was part of a big Boston family filled with Red Sox fans.
His dad was such a loyal Red Sox fan and such an important regular at baseball games that Fenway Park built a special seat for him—a “double wide” that provided him some additional room to sit and cheer on his beloved team.
As a kid, Jerry and his 72 cousins(!) would frequent the sands of Peggotty Beach, where Jerry first found his love of the sea. Those seaside days became the inspiration for many of his books, such as The Ocean Alphabet Book and Ocean Cousins.
Recently, Jerry returned to Peggotty Beach to encourage kids to help rebuild the beach “like ants” while promoting one of the titles in his epic, bestselling series: Who Would Win? Green Ants vs. Army Ants. Jerry explains the connection:
“When I was studying the ants, I couldn’t believe what they could build [with] one grain at a time—just millions of ants moving tons of sand.
“All the sand that was here [at Peggotty Beach] was blown into the parking lot. I want to get hundreds of kids this summer to get a little bucket…and bring all that sand back to the beach, and we’ll rebuild this beach ‘like ants.’”
I have known Jerry for decades.
Well, maybe not that many decades, but a long time. Jerry Pallotta and I met when he was publishing his alphabet books with Charlesbridge Publishing, and we bought the rights to The Icky Bug Alphabet Book to sell in the Scholastic Book Clubs flyers.
After years of creating alphabet books and a series of Hershey Chocolate math books, Jerry had the brainstorm to create a new series. Based on his direct exposure to kids (he does more than 100 school visits per year), Jerry was totally convinced that they would love to read books where creatures battled each other, and where they would have to figure out who would win. Since 2014, Jerry has been creating Who Would Win? books at an astounding pace of about one every six months. And now he’s writing Ultimate Rumble editions, which are tournaments in which 16 awesome animals compete to be the champion of a specific ecosystem or species.
The Who Would Win? books are brought to life by Rob Bolster, an incomparable illustrator whose work has appeared in newspaper and magazine advertisements and many books for young readers. (And like Jerry, Rob also lives in Massachusetts!)
Now we are excited to offer Who Would Win? Ultimate Ocean Rumble as the Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week!
“I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read nonfiction books about animals fighting.…I think children in Grade 3 should read this book because the words are not difficult to read and understand. Read this book to find out which animal conquers all.” —Drew F. (age 8) from spaghettibookclub.org
“My kids loved to see the different kinds [of sharks]—it’s amazing!…After I introduce one of the Who Would Win? books [to my students], they become a hot commodity in my classroom.” —Andrea Bambace, first grade teacher
Underwater creatures battle to become the champion of the ocean in Who Would Win? Ultimate Ocean Rumble. Each face-off presents readers with exciting facts about the creatures (did you know the sand tiger shark has rough teeth-like things called denticles on its skin?!) and puts them head-to-head in an imaginary “rumble.”
After reading Who Would Win? Ultimate Ocean Rumble, Scholastic Book Clubs Creative Director and sea lover David Vozar was inspired to imagine what it would be like if all the creatures that scared him faced off in a rumble of their own:
This week, we put together a lot of exciting content on the blog to help teachers, kids, and all readers get the most out of Ultimate Ocean Rumble:
1. Dance with the Book Boys as they host a rumble (or should we say, rumba?) dance-off of their own (with special guest Jerry Pallotta!).
2. Learn interesting fun facts with a downloadable activity in Cooked Up from a Book.
3. Meet Jerry Pallotta in an exclusive Behind the Scenes interview.
4. Discover why teacher Andrea Bambace says in Book Talks that Ultimate Ocean Rumble is a favorite among her first graders.
I hope you enjoy Who Would Win? Ultimate Ocean Rumble and that it’s a great entry point for readers into some truly fascinating nonfiction.
PS: If your students are hooked on the Who Would Win? series, then make sure they don’t miss the latest installment: Who Would Win? Ultimate Dinosaur Rumble. It’s every bit as exciting and epic as the title sounds!
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs