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Three thousand years ago in Greece, athletes competed against each other, testing their strength in games called the Olympics. In 394 A.D. the Olympics were halted by decree of the Roman emperor, Theodosius I, and the walls of the Olympic enclosure were leveled.

Although occasional games were tried, it was not until 1896 that there was a successful attempt at reviving the games. On April 6, 1896, exactly 1,502 years after the games had been stopped, King George I of Greece looked around at the 50,000 spectators in the new Panathenaic Stadium and declared, "I hereby proclaim the opening of the First International Olympic Games in Athens."There were seven sports represented by 311 men and no women. Only eight nations (Greece, Great Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Switzerland and the United States) were represented.

In this year's centennial celebration, the Summer Games in Atlanta will involve 15,000 athletes, coaches and officials from about 200 nations competing in 30 events.

Every four years the essence of these ancient contests still exists with competitors who are driven by the motto of "Citius - Althius - Fortius" meaning "Faster - Higher - Stronger."

From the time that the first Olympic champion Corobus was crowned with a wreath woven from olive leaves (from the legendary tree that Hercules planted near the Temple of Zeus) until this era's gold-medal winners - Scott Hamilton, the Dream Team, Mary Lou Retton and others - the pageantry and sport produces story after story.

Some of these stories are not of gold medals (which were first presented in 1908) but of those who entered and didn't return with a medallion, only the pride of competing. These are the swimmers, jumpers and equestrian riders who "tried" and came home successful because they represented their countries. Runners, divers, jumpers and boaters spend thousands of hours training to "try" for the gold. In any biography of these sports figures, the common notion is that it was worth the effort.

Utah, too, is celebrating a centennial this year. And what better way to honor these two centennials than by spending your summer reading? Books about sports, books about Utah, books about any other subject you want. And while you may not receive any gold medals, you will experience all the joys of the printed page.

And you can challenge yourself to read faster, stronger, better.

As another way to celebrate Utah's centennial, we are asking our young readers to share with us their favorite book titles. We will then compile a list of "100 Centennial Choices of Utah Children" - the 100 all-time favorite books, as reflected by choices made in 1996. (Who knows? Maybe in 2096, someone will do the same.)

This is how it will work. Submit up to three titles of your favorite books on the attached ballot. Add an original drawing or a photo of yourself, if you choose. And we will accumulate the favorite 100 titles from the children of the state. You can submit as many ballots as you like. It could be a fun activity to share with your friends or classmates or family members. Ballots must be received by August 15.

We will compile the "Centennial Choice" list and hope to print it in September, with as many photos and drawings as possible.

Following are some recommended titles for your summer enjoyment. Maybe some of these titles will show up on your favorites list.

Books about the Olympics

Read about the Olympic Games, from the ancient Greek festivals to modern international spectacle.

"The Story of the Olympics" D. Anderson with a forward by Carl Lewis.

"Olympics!" B.G. Hennessy, pictures by M. Chesworth.

"Pop-Up Olympics" R. Crowthers.

Books about Utah

While there are some novels with the setting in Utah - such as John Fitzgerald's "The Great Brain" series and "Dragon's Gate," the story of the Intercontinental Railroad, by Laurence Yep - there are two new picture books about the state:

"Utah" (One of "Hello U.S.A" series) K. Sirvaitis.

"This is the Place! Crossroads of Utah's Past" Pat and Will Bagley.

(For other books about Utah contact:

Information Services

Utah State Library Division

2150 S.300 West, #16

Salt Lake City, UT 84115

Nature books and kits

Here are some books that will give guidance on summer nature projects. There are even kits for collecting and watching bugs and insects and identifying birds.

"Nature in a Nutshell for Kids" A. Potter (100 activities to do in 10 minutes or less).

"The Kids' Nature Book" B. Milord.

"The Peterson Field Guide to Insects."

"Audubon's Birds of America."

"Backyard Birds of Summer" C. Lerner.

"Butterflies and Moths" B. Taylor

"Children's Guide to Birds" J. Johnson

"Trees and Forests" (from the Voyages of Discovery series).

Outside camping and cooking

So you want to go away to camp? Do you know what to take and what to expect from the camp director?

Or do you think a new recipe sounds fun? Here are some titles to help you get there.

"The Camp Survival Handbook" C. Eisenberg.

"Kids' Camp" C. Carlson.

"Cooking on a Stick" (Campfire Recipes for Kids) L. White.

"The Outdoor Adventure Handbook" H. McManners.

"The Peanut Butter Cookbook for Kids" C. Ralph and G. Gompf.

"The Kids' Around the World Cookbook" K. Robbins.

"From Soup to Nuts: Multicultural Cooking Activities and Recipes."

Paper airplanes and other sporty things to try

There are lots of ways to make paper planes, and lots of ways to have contests with them. Try some of these and other books about spring and summer sports.

"The World Record Paper Airplane Book" C. Blackburn and L. Lammers.

"The Paper Airplane Book" S. Simon.

"Rocket Science" (50 flying, floating, flipping, spinning gadgets that kids create themselves) R. Weise.

"Best Jumbo Paper Aircraft" M. Morris.

"Zoom! The Complete Paper Airplane Kid!" J. Hartelius.

"Batboy: An Inside Look at Spring Training" J. Anderson.

"Kites: Twelve Easy-to-Make High Fliers" N. Dixon.

"Hopscotch: Around the World: Nineteen Ways to Play the Game" M. Lankford.

Travel and mapping

When you travel, does it seem like you'll never get to where you're going? Here are some hints:

"Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit."

"Are We There Yet?" S. Simon.

"50 Nifty Travel Games."

"Car Travel Games."

"Me on the Map" J. Sweeney

Some ideas when "there's nothing to do!"

Do you need an idea for that long day when there's nothing else to do? These two are among my favorites:

"Mommy, I'm Bored: 127 Fun-Filled and Educational Games Your Child Can Play Alone" C. MacGregor.

"Sleepover! For the Coolest Night of Your Life" (from the "Books and Stuff" series).