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list price: $9.95
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category: Children's Nonfiction
published: Aug 2018
publisher: Pajama Press Inc.

Next Round

A Young Athlete's Journey to Gold

by John Spray

tagged: sports & recreation, emigration & immigration, homelessness & poverty, olympics

At the age of three, Arthur Biyarslanov fled with his family from the war-ravaged frontier of Chechnya. Narrowly escaping bullets and a bomb that destroyed the car in front of his family, Arthur and his brother ran to the border and forded a freezing river to safety. He became a refugee first in Azerbaijan, and ultimately in Canada.

In spite of these difficult experiences, and the trials that confront any child refugee in strange lands, Arthur thrived on the discipline and camaraderie of sport, taking up first competitive soccer and then boxing. Years of dedication and discipline have made him into a champion boxer at age 20, winning the first Pan Am Games gold medal in boxing for Canada in 40 years in 2015 and qualifying for the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Written from extensive interviews with Arthur and his family, Next Round is the story of Arthur's journey from frightened little boy to confident soccer player and eventually to a world-class amateur boxer.

About the Author

John Spray grew up in the Midwest and spent years as a successful amateur boxer, gym rat and boxing fanatic. He has been a Private Investigator in Toronto for forty years and is the owner and founder of Mantis Investigation. John also sponsors the annual John Spray Mystery Award for excellence in mystery writing for children.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
10 to 14
5 to 9
  • Short-listed, Golden Oak Award
  • Commended, Best Books for Kids & Teens selection
  • Commended, CBC Books' "15 Books for Young Readers during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games"
  • Commended, Resource Links "The Year's Best"
Editorial Reviews

John Spray...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.

— Quill & Quire

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.

— School Library Journal

Opening with the Biyarslanov family's flight from Chechnya in a sequence that could be straight out of a movie, the book draws the reader's attention almost immediately....A sure hit for readers looking for a sports biography or a story of triumphing over difficulties.

— Booklist

This is a book by John Spray on Arthur Biyarslanov and it's about the next round, ironically....This book chronicles the story of him coming from Chechnya via Azerbaijan and to Halifax in 2005 where the family was met by the refugee relocation committee of the UN, put up for 5 days there and ultimately on to Toronto. A decade later, a gold medallist at the Pan American Games and now the 21 year old has designs on a championship here in Rio.

— Ron MacLean, CBC Television

Readers will marvel at Biyarslanov's resilience and pluck.

— Kirkus Reviews

John Spray writes an engaging story that pulls us in from the first page...Readers will find themselves cheering for Arthur as he faces one obstacle after another and will enjoy the personal photos that give us an even closer glimpse into the life of this young, ambitious athlete. The book also contains a glossary of soccer and boxing terms...[A] must read for youngsters who are looking for inspiration...

— Canadian Children's Book News

…it's John Spray's writing that will capture Arthur Biyarslanov's story better than any colour commentator could ever hope to relay as the boxer reaches for gold at this year's Olympics. John Spray…tells Biyarslanov's story as the harrowing action story that it is. From witnessing at age three the massacre by Russian soldiers of Chechens desperately attempting to flee for Azerbaijan, to the family's escape across the cold water of the Yujniy Gerzel River into Dagestan and Arthur's regular conflicts with the frightening old Azerbaijani woman whose fruit tree he climbs and his contentious boxing relationship with Zsolt…a gripping story whose next chapter is still untold.

— CanLit for LittleCanadians

Author John Spray is no stranger to either writing or boxing.

— Resource Links

[Next Round is] a good read, approximately 104 pages in total. It's got very sharp black and white pictures with a brilliant, colour photo-essay in the middle...It tells you a lot about Arthur, who's very charismatic, but also a quiet kind of guy who works extremely hard…As we all know, there's not much coverage of Canadian athletes, much less Canadian boxers, so I think this book is a brilliant, brilliant play…good on you John Spray, good on you Arthur Biyarslanov…This book is a great promotional item and a fantastic idea.

— Dameon Okposio, The DO Boxing Show

As we look forward to the opening of the Summer Olympics I wanted to share this story of one of our young athletes, whose journey has been a most difficult one...John Spray writes the story of the Chechen Wolf, a young Muslim refugee from Chechnya, whose grit and determination won him a gold medal in the 2015 Pan Am Games as a member of Canada's boxing team. It was Canada's first gold medal in boxing in forty years. In interviews with Arthur Biyarslanov, Mr. Spray heard stories of his early life, their escape from Russia, the family's life in a refugee camp in Azerbaijan, and finally a new life in Canada...all before he was nine years old.

— Sal's Fiction Addiction

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