Mr F has recently been reading the Gym Stars books, by Jane Lawes. He really got into reading for fun during lockdown, and as a keen reader myself, I love that he can now enjoy relaxing with a book.
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We bought our copies at a car boot sale last year, but they are easily available at large bookstores or online.
In the first of the Gym Stars books, Summertime and Somersaults, Tara dreams of joining a gymnastics club. Her wishes come true when the local club, Silverdale, hosts a week long summer camp which she is able to take part in. Tara’s talent is spotted by one of the coaches, and she is asked to join the club permanently after the end of the camp. The book follows Tara as she begins her journey to becoming a ‘proper’ gymnast. The author, Jane Lawes, describes in a simple way experiences such as warming up in a group, and learning skills like walkovers, that will be so recognisable to many of her readers.
Mr F raced through the first book of the series, and went straight onto book two, Friendships and Backflips, which follows Tara as she prepares to take part in a big competition, balancing her training with school and friendships. Again, Lawes takes an experience that is familiar to many young gymnasts, and writes about it in an engaging way.
Mr F is now reading the final book, Handsprings and Homework, and is torn between wanting to read it all at once to find out what happens; or reading only a chapter a day, to make it last longer!
The Gym Stars stories are an easy, enjoyable read, with recurring characters in all three books. Although they follow on from each other chronologically, each book could also be read as a standalone title; characters refer back to episodes from previous stories, so the reader always knows what’s going on. I think that confident readers from around age seven to eight could manage the Gym Stars books alone, but a slightly younger child could also enjoy having them read aloud by a parent or caregiver.
The covers of the books are very feminine in design, with cursive writing, images of girls in leotards, and ribbons of colour across the front. In the editions we bought, pink features as a main colour in two of the three titles. These things, combined with the fact that main characters of the series are all girls, may be off-putting for some boy gymnasts.
However, as the Gym Stars series is about acrobatic gymnastics, rather than artistic, Mr F was not deterred by this. He knows that both boys and girls can take part in acro- and after watching BBC Gym Stars, he’d love to have a go at it himself, too! For him, it didn’t matter that Tara watches other gymnasts using the beam and bars; or that she wants a beautiful sparkly leotard in book one, it was a book about the sport he loves, so he enjoyed it anyway!
Jane Lawes does regularly mention that there is a ‘men’s four’ group training in Tara’s gym, and although they aren’t main characters (they don’t even get given names), I think this helped to ensure that Mr F didn’t feel alienated from the characters when reading the story. Although Tara and her friends are all girls, the inclusions of the boys in the gym makes it clear that acro gymnastics is a sport for both boys and girls.
Overall, if your gymnast loves to read, I’d definitely recommend giving the Gym Stars books a go.
What other gymnastics-themed books have your children enjoyed? Let me know in the comments!
To buy the Gym Stars books separately from Amazon, click these links: