Tag Archives: history

A Librarian Takes on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read A Book About Sports, Task 2

29 Mar

I am excited to report that I am still following the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge! Here I will document the second task I have completed. You can read about what I read for the first task here.

The task at the top of the Read Harder Challenge list is “Read a book about sports.” I was excited to take that one on, as I love good sports writing. I’ve written about the World Champion 1986 New York Mets, and my love for the team, on this blog.

(Yes, I prophesied in that post the Mets would win the World Series in 2016, which didn’t happen. There’s always next year! Baseball season starts again Sunday April 2.)

I planned to read a book about soccer for this particular task. Then I came across Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team that Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory by Lydia Reeder. The jacket copy describes this book as “The Boys in the Boat meets A League of Their Own…”, one of my all-time favorite movies, and the soccer book fell out of favor.

Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory, by Lydia Reeder



Dust Bowl Girls is about the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals girl’s basketball team and their Cinderella 1931-1932 season. The author of the book, Lydia Reeder, is the grandniece of the team’s coach, Sam Babb, and committed the team’s fascinating story to print using interviews with the surviving Cardinals or their descendants and friends, the athletes’ personal scrapbooks where they kept newspaper clippings and other souvenirs, and other sources.

Coach Babb recruited high school girls, many from farms in rural Oklahoma, to play for the OPC Cardinals basketball team with offers of full scholarships. These were amazing opportunities for the girls, as Oklahoma farmers were hit hard by the Great Depression and their families couldn’t afford to send them to college. It was also a tough choice for some of the girls, whose lives were centered around the farm and hadn’t spent much time away from their families.

The stories of the individual Cardinals were interesting to read. Lucille Thurman was 16 when she joined the team and often felt out of her league. Doll Harris was the team captain and a talented basketball player despite her five feet four inch stature. Lera and Vera Dunford were six feet tall, red-haired identical twins and always together. Juanita Park, who went by “Bo-Peep”, served the team as a guard and a driver–her father taught her to drive at age 11.

Dust Bowl Girls is enriched by the history of Oklahoma; depictions of life on a farm; the Great Depression and its impact on the state; and the Native American populations that live in Oklahoma. Durant, where the team was based, is the capital of the Choctaw nation.

I learned a lot about the evolution of basketball, which was a young game in 1931. The matchups were six-on-six, the ball could only be dribbled once and below the knees, and players were fixed to certain sections of the court. It was so different from how I learned to play basketball at the Bayonne PAL, and how basketball is played now.

The book documents the outrage about girls playing basketball, which was seen as a less feminine sport at the time. Some believed that a woman’s uterus would simply fall out of her body as a result of too much jumping. La Homa Lassiter, a member of the Cardinals, asked Coach Babb if playing basketball will make her less of a lady.

The chapters depicting the Cardinals at play are riveting to read, although it can be a little confusing to visualize the game play as the 1930s basketball rules are so different. Reeder captures the tension on the court when the Cardinals are down, and the joy when they win. The Cardinals faced a team that included Babe Didrickson, the most famous female athlete of that time, which were exciting games.

I enjoyed following the Cardinals season, its ups and downs, and learning about these amazing athletes. Seeing how basketball has evolved was fascinating, too. Baseball still has my heart, but I learned so much about basketball in this book.

This completes the second task of my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. My post about he third task will be up soon.

What is your favorite book about sports? Let me know in the comments.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Broadway at the Hoboken Public Library: The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and Hamilton

9 Mar

One good thing about the cold winter months is that seeing Broadway musicals is great indoor entertainment. This season, I had the opportunity to keep warm in the theaters where The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and Hamilton are performed.

Usually on this blog I compare Broadway shows I’ve seen to their movie companions (see here and here). But in the case of these shows, there are no film adaptations. (Yet? Which of these shows would translate well to the big screen? Discuss in the comments!) Instead, I will write about materials available through the library that will help recreate, or complement, the live show.

The Book of Mormon


To quote Mormon’s opening song, … “Hello!”

The Book of Mormon, which follows fresh-faced Mormon missionaries Elder Price and Elder Cunningham as they spread the word in Uganda, was created by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. The show was a success and won the Tony for Best Musical in 2011. Did you know that on March 24 The Book of Mormon will celebrate five years on Broadway? The Empire State Building celebrated that milestone last weekend!

I laughed myself sick at this show. No musical has ever made me laugh so hard. If you are a fan of Stone and Parker’s South Park, you will enjoy Mormon’s sophomoric (yet VERY adult) humor and smart satire. And you will laugh until your belly hurts. However, if you’re not a fan of South Park this show may not be for you.

The Original Broadway Cast Recording is available to borrow from BCCLS and through Freegal. My choice tracks are “Turn It Off”, a tongue-in-cheek song about how Mormons cope with uncomfortable situations, and the double-entendre-laden “Baptize Me”.

If you want to read the script and lyrics, you can borrow The Book of Mormon: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical. The Book of Mormon: A Testament of a Broadway Musical is a collection of stories from the cast and crew of the show leading up to the show’s opening night.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park is still on television, and the complete season DVDs are available to borrow. The soundtrack for the film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut can be streamed on Hoopla. Robert Lopez wrote music for Disney’s Frozen, including a little song called “Let It Go”, and that soundtrack is on Hoopla as well.



Wicked captures the points of view of Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West Elphaba, and their friendship as young witches. Earlier in this post I said that these musicals don’t have film adaptations–Wicked may be an exception as the show is considered a prequel to The Wizard of Oz

Finding the musical’s connections to the classic film (namely, the origins of the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow) made watching the show more fun for me.

Wicked has been on Broadway since 2003 and is an institution. Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel originated the roles of Glinda and Elphaba, respectively. I have long been a fan of Idina Menzel since she played Maureen in Rent, a soundtrack I listened to a lot in the late 1990s. (My theater geek roots run deep.)

The Wicked Original Broadway Cast recording is available to borrow on CD through BCCLS and to stream through Hoopla Digital. A piano tribute (among other varieties) of the soundtrack are on Hoopla too. My favorite songs are “Defying Gravity”, which gives me goosebumps, and “For Good”, a beautiful duet between Glinda and Elphaba about how their friendship has positively impacted them. That song reminded me of my friendships that I treasure.

Wicked and The Wizard of Oz have gotten a lot of love on this blog before, from Aimee, Lois, and Kim. Check out their posts for their thoughts and recommendations for more Oz-related material.



When my friend Trish, a high school history teacher, proposed getting tickets to Hamilton I jumped at the chance. All the hype made me curious. The musical delivered on its promises, and it was unlike anything I have ever seen on Broadway or in live theater. Seeing the show with a history teacher was helpful, as it’s been years since I studied the American Revolution and the founding of the United States, and she filled in the gaps for me. She also pointed out instances where liberties were taken with the history. Gasp!

Hamilton is the creation of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who read Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton (now on my TBR list, and perhaps yours too) and was inspired to write a rap. The rap eventually grew into a full-fledged musical that is captivating audiences, and renewing interest in America’s Founding Fathers, since it opened on Broadway last summer.

If you just can’t wait to see the show (if you’re in the NYC area, try the lottery!) and want to hear the soundtrack, it is streaming on Hoopla. The CD is also available to borrow. Tracks I recommend listening to are “Alexander Hamilton” and “My Shot”.

Debates between Hamilton and political rival Thomas Jefferson are depicted as rap battles, which I loved as someone who dreams about having a drop-the-mic moment in my life. And I have been fascinated by Thomas Jefferson since I learned that his personal library consisted of 7,000 volumes (!!!) on a wide array of topics, which he sold to the Library of Congress after it was burned down by the British in 1814. His books are still on exhibit at the LoC.

I have now become a Hamilton obsessive, and spent several unproductive hours this past weekend analyzing the lyrics to “Satisfied” (an Act I stunner) on Genius and falling down research rabbit holes about Alexander Hamilton–usually under Trish’s teacherly influence. Look for Hamilton to win ALL the Tonys this June.

Have you seen any good shows lately? Have you seen The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and/or Hamilton?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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