The Summer Olympics in Athens begin Friday, and this book is the perfect way to get ready.

There are amazing pictures of astonishing athletic feats. There are records and medal totals. But the book also tells you a lot about why the Olympics are so special and, at times, so controversial. There's a chapter devoted to female athletes that begins with a quotation from the man responsible for the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin. He said, "I feel the Olympics must be reserved for men."

The pictures in this book are truly stunning. There are black American track stars raising their fists in protest of racism at the 1968 Summer Games. There's a picture of a masked terrorist at the 1972 Summer Games. There's a photo of a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea finishing in a time more than double that of the winners. He had learned to swim just nine months earlier. He swam not to win a medal but for the honor of competing in the Olympic Games.

For younger readers: "Ancient Greece and the Olympics" by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce is a Magic Tree House research guide that is full of fun facts about the history of the ancient games.