Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance Book Poster Image
Uplifting memoir of teen Olympic medalist, ex-foster kid.

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Kids say

age 7+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Provides a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to become a world-class gymnast and how the competitive-gymnastics world works.

Positive Messages

Underscores the power of perseverance, the importance of carefully weighing and taking responsibility for your decisions, and the power of friendship.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Simone Biles shows incredible courage, honesty, and transparency. She doesn't shy away from describing the tough times when she didn't act or perform up to expectations. Simone's grandparents, sister, coaches, and fellow gymnasts all are positive role models, as well.

Violence

A fight between kids in which a kid is pushed and another is pushed to the ground in response; no one is injured. A student with behavioral issues tries to stab another student and chases her through the school. The student is unhurt, and the perpetrator isn't punished.The same disturbed individual practices self-mutilation, scratching himself deeply with a pencil until he bleeds.

Sex

A typical celebrity crush; when Simone meets him, he kisses her on the cheek. 

Language

A disgruntled competitor credits Simone's race as the reason she wins and speaks of "painting her skin black" so she can win, too. 

Consumerism

Brands such as Visa and Secret are part of the titles of the different competitive events, and other brands, such as Cheetah Girls, are mentioned in store/merchandise references.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mentions that an adult parent has a drug problem, fails multiple drug tests, and loses custody of her children. The adult is not shown using drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles' memoir Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance takes on a few tough topics, including body image, ADHD, dealing with a drug-addicted parent, foster care, adoption, the death of a grandparent, and the high-stress world of competitive gymnastics. There's a racial incident and a small fight between kids in which no one gets hurt.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bySparky2426 November 13, 2018

Pretty good

Not one of my favorites but was a really good book to encourage (mostly little girls) to overcome fears and conquer a sport

What's the story?

Before COURAGE TO SOAR: A BODY IN MOTION, A LIFE IN BALANCE came out, Simone Biles seemed like an overnight success who exploded on the scene with acrobatics that stunned the world and earned her gold medals at the Olympics. But as we learn, the story of her rise to fame and glory started with her as a scared little girl being taken away, along with her brothers and sisters, from her drug-addicted mother's home; adjusting to a new family life; and traversing the complex, high-pressure world of competitive gymnastics. Her experiences and trials, along with her Catholic faith and supportive family and friends, helped her push for gold.

Is it any good?

This bubbly, upbeat, first-person narrative gets inside the mind of a world-class gymnast in a way no interview can. In Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance, Biles describes the uncertainty and fear of living with her mother and being placed in foster care, the adjustment to living with her grandparents, how she fell in love with gymnastics, her big breaks, and her heartbreaking missteps in an endearing, distinctly teen voice. She doesn't hold back in revealing her struggle to balance normal teen emotions and desires -- to go to high school, to blow off practice -- with her drive to succeed. She also offers an interesting perspective on how her home life and Catholic faith provided foundational support for her throughout her career. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance show's the media's portrayal of female athletes. How did Simone get though her brush with negative body image?

  • How does Simone handle setbacks? Have you experienced a disappointing setback? What did you do to recover? Who helps you when you need support?

  • Simone's story shows the importance of winning and losing gracefully. How do you practice good sportsmanship?

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