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Super Book Boy reviews Next Round by John Spray for Kids’ Book Buzz

Posted on July 14th, 2016 by pajamapress

This may be the most exciting video we have seen all month. It’s good to know that there is a Super Book Boy out there watching over the most exciting new reads!

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Transcription:

“Hello everyone, I am Super Book Boy, and today I have a new book for you. This book is called Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold by John Spray. This book is about a Canadian athlete named Arthur Biyarslanov who, after he broke his leg during soccer practice, tried out boxing. Arthur is from Chechnya, and was only three years old during the first Chechen war. He and his family had to escape from Chechnya as refugees to find a better place to live. This is a true story, and also a very exciting one. My favourite character in this book is… Arthur, of course! And my favourite part of this book is when Arthur faced Zsolt, another boxing champion, for the first time. That was a really exciting part. So will Arthur defeat Zsolt in the book? Read the book, and you’ll find out!

I give this book FIVE STARS ‘cause it was entertaining the whole entire time. I recommend this book to kids who want to be athletes and boxers when they’re older, and kids who like action stories and sports.

For now, that’s all from Super Book Boy. Hi-yah! Hi-yah! [punching motions]”

Next Round by John Spray, “holds a lot of appeal for young sports fans”—School Library Journal

Posted on June 17th, 2016 by pajamapress

NextRound_Website“Gr 4-8–An intense opening scene: on one side of a bridge, hardened Russian soldiers, on the other, a young Arthur Biyarslanov with his family and 120 other Chechen refugees, hoping to cross through Dagestan to reach Azerbaijan. This biography follows the future Pan-Am Gold Medalist and Olympic hopeful as he fled Chechnya; sought refuge in Baku, Azerbaijan; and finally settled in Toronto, Canada. A gifted athlete, Biyarslanov helped to settle this tumultuous childhood by focusing on sports—first soccer, then boxing. This title has the same emphasis, telling the stories of his athletic achievements in simple, easy to read prose. Spray does well to provide context for young Biyarslanov’s reputation as the “Chechen Wolf,” a fearless fighter (his at-times aggressive behavior is attributed to his father’s death, his experience with the Russian soldiers, and being forced into poverty). Larger, outside conflicts (such as why he, his family, and others were forced to leave Chechnya) are glossed over. Ending chapters explore Biyarslanov’s rivalry with Zsolt Daranyi Jr., his decision to pursue boxing full-time, and his performance in the Pan-Am Games, with a look toward the upcoming Olympics and the future. VERDICT This selection holds a lot of appeal for young sports fans, and its accessible and straightforward storytelling will make it especially tempting to reluctant readers.”

Quill & Quire reviews Next Round

Posted on June 7th, 2016 by pajamapress

NextRound_Website“John Spray – benefactor of the eponymous award – tells the story of 20-year-old boxer Arthur Biyarslanov, who overcame a turbulent childhood, fleeing war-torn Chechnya when he was three, spending years as a refugee in Azerbaijan before arriving in Canada when he was nine, learning two new languages along the way. Now one of the top amateur boxers in his class in the world, Biyarslanov won gold for Canada at the 2015 Pan Am Games (the first Canadian boxer to do so in 40 years), and earned a place at the 2016 Olympics.”

Next Round receives its first review from Kirkus Reviews

Posted on June 1st, 2016 by pajamapress

NextRound_Website“Spray captures little glimpses of Arthur’s young life—stealing fruit from the tree of his next-door neighbor and the old lady who gives him a talisman (a dog biscuit) to ward off jinni—as well as the sadness, lack of language, deprivation, and fear. The story here is of Arthur’s gradual rise in the world of sports, first in Azerbaijan and then after the family moved to Toronto, Canada. Spray conjures the strange settings refugees and immigrants find themselves in. “Hey little man, whatchoo lookin’ at anyhow?” asks a tall Jamaican teenage neighbor when Arthur lands in Toronto’s St. James Town projects. “I am no to English,” Arthur replies. “All be cool. I be no English too…is no big thang.” (Dialogue is not specifically sourced, but a teeny note on the copyright page indicates that Spray relies on extensive interviews.) Arthur is a whiz at soccer but chooses boxing, where he is even whizzier, rising from his first real bout at 12 to the Canadian Olympic team. Readers will marvel at Biyarslanov’s resilience and pluck. (Biography. 10-14)”—Kirkus Reviews

Click here to read the full review.

Arthur Biyarslanov discusses his Next Round

Posted on May 30th, 2016 by pajamapress

Arthur Biyarslanov came to Canada as a child after fleeing the second Chechen war with his family, now at the age of twenty-one, the “Chechen Wolf” is a champion amateur boxer who won gold for Canada in the Pan Am Games. It’s a busy time for Arthur; he is currently training for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and is looking forward to the release of his upcoming biography, Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold by John Spray. He dropped by the office earlier, and I sat down with him to chat about the many exciting things he’s got on the go.

Arthur&John_website2

Arthur and John holding copies of the freshly printed Next Round at the Pajama Press offices.

S. You’re going to be representing Canada in the 2016 Summer Olympics. What are you most looking forward to about that?

A. I’m very excited because it’s my goal, and I always wanted to get to the Olympics. What I also want to do now is win another medal for Canada because it’s been so long. I always go for winning gold. I don’t like silver or bronze, so I’m going to try everything I can to get another gold medal and hear the national anthem for Canada. It’s my way of giving back. That’s what I want to do.

S. How long has it been since we’ve won in boxing?

A. The last person to win a gold medal was Lennox Lewis (Sugar Ray Leonard) in 1988.

S. Oh wow, that was before we were born.

A. It’s been many years. It’ll be nice to hear the national anthem again.

S. Will it be your first time visiting Brazil?

A. Yeah.

S. Excited?

A. Yeah, really excited.

S. What sort of training are you doing to prepare for the Olympics?

A. I’m training every day. I don’t work or anything; my job is just training. I train two or three times a day. I have two different coaches, a strength conditioning coach and a boxing coach. I work with them every day, six days a week and Sundays are my day off.

S. When you say you’re training two to three times a day, how many hours at a time are we talking about?

A. It depends what type of training, whether I’m going light or hard. It’s usually around 1 to 2 hours each session.

S. And that’s manageable, or is it very difficult?

A. I always have to take naps in between to re-energize for my next bout of training. I don’t really get much time to do anything. I just train, sleep, train, sleep.

S. If I decided I wanted to start boxing, what’s your best tip for me?

A. The hard part is staying in boxing. When I first started I didn’t want to box, I wanted to do other things. So I would say, be dedicated to what you do because when you start off, you’re obviously not going to be good. It’s going to take time to get better. You’re going to get frustrated, you’re going to hate it, but you’ll only get better and better each time you go. So just stay in the gym.

S. What inspires you to stay with it?

A. It’s how far I came, from nothing to something. I never thought I’d be a boxer. I always loved soccer. I started boxing, and I was very bad. I didn’t know how to box at all. Now I’m winning nationals, I’m winning international tournaments. I get a great feeling after every win. I get to travel to different countries and it’s very nice. It keeps me going.

S. Let’s talk about your book for a little bit. What was your favourite part of having a biography written about you?

A. It’s awesome. People always ask me about my background. I don’t like thinking about the past, so I make my answers very short. But this book shows every detail of my story, and that’s what I like most about it. It tells you about my childhood, how I grew up and how I switched from one sport to another. All the main points are in it.

S. You were a soccer player before you did boxing. What made you make the switch?

A. My brother forced me to (laughs). I didn’t want to be a boxer, but I was forced into it and then I kept winning.

S.
John Spray is the writer you collaborated with to produce Next Round. What was fun about working with him?

A. We went to a baseball game a few months back, and it was really nice. We got front-row seats and it was a great time. John’s a really good guy and I’m glad I met him.

S. John was an amateur boxer himself, for a while.

A. He told me a bunch of stories about when he used to fight. It was great knowing someone who has been in the same position as me as a boxer, and who understood what it was like to be in the ring.

S. He was definitely a good choice to write Next Round. What do you hope people will like most about the book?

A. The pictures. There are a lot of pictures from when I was young. It’s crazy how young I look, from being an innocent looking kid to becoming a boxer. I didn’t look like a boxer then, I had long hair and I looked like a cute little kid. I love that it shows the transition.

S. I’ve seen pictures of you just after fights too, and those are also great photos.

A. Yeah, those pictures are awesome.

S. So, you did come to Canada as a refugee. What would you tell other young refugees who might be coming into the country now?

A. Take advantage of it, because you get offered a lot of opportunities here like sports, education, freedoms. Life, I’d say, is a lot better here than in most of the countries in the world, so enjoy it to the max and take all the opportunities you can get!

Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold by John Spray is the juvenile biography chronicling Arthur’s journey to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It will be available on June 15th, and officially published 15th, just in time for the Olympics. Order your copy today.