April 24, 2014

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On the Radar Teen: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sports Books that Slam Dunk the Competition

With the kick-off of a new school year comes the kick-off of football season. Sports activities fill our students’ days and nights with competition and energy. Thankfully, there are great new sports-themed books (football and more) to grab their attention even in the midst of strong opponents. You’ll note that all of these authors are big names in YA lit, which will help grab the attention of your tween and teen readers.

GREEN, Tim. Unstoppable. Harper, 2012. ISBN 9780062089564. JLG Level: SM : Sports Middle & HS (Grades 7–11)

Unstoppable On the Radar Teen: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sports Books that Slam Dunk the CompetitionThirteen-year-old Harrison has had a hard time in foster care. The Constables, his current foster family, are known for taming wild orphans. Their mistreatment of them is suspiciously ignored. After an accident kills Mr. Constable and Harrison is found beaten and bruised, he’s taken into a new home with a loving family. Life seems to be taking a better turn for Harrison. In spite of his lack of training, he’s a great player on his foster father’s middle school football team. However, not everyone is thrilled with the new star’s success. After an attack from the team bully, Harrison’s knee begins to bother him. What he learns after his MRI could have crushed his spirit, but Harrison is unstoppable.

LUPICA, Mike. True Legend. Philomel, 2012. ISBN 9780399252273. JLG Level: SM : Sports Middle & HS (Grades 7–11)

True legend On the Radar Teen: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sports Books that Slam Dunk the CompetitionDrew “True” Robinson knows he’s good at basketball. With his one-and-done in the near future, True gets a head start on the privileges of fame when a wealthy benefactor helps him transfer to a private school on the West Coast. One night Drew discovers an amazingly talented “old guy” playing hoops in a local park. Not sure that he isn’t seeing a ghost, he goes back to look for the guy. What follows is a cautionary tale: don’t let the hype and glamour of fortune and fame go to your head. Full of basketball action that keeps the message from getting heavy handed, Lupica delivers another slam-dunk sports novel.

SCIESZKA, Jon. (editor) Guys Read: The Sports Pages. Walden Pond, 2012. ISBN 9780061963780. JLG Level: SM: Sports Middle & HS (Grades 7–11)

Sport pages On the Radar Teen: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sports Books that Slam Dunk the CompetitionFollowing Funny Business and Thriller, Volume 3: The Sports Pages continues the formula in the “Guys Read” series of introducing 10 authors and illustrators by genre. Ten short stories are included in this volume that covers baseball, basketball, hockey, football, racers, and more. Your students may say, “Just because a guy likes sports, doesn’t mean a guy likes to read about sports.” Just give them this book. “Guy Read” favorites like Gordon Korman and Mike Lupica appear alongside real athletes like Dustin Brown and James Brown. It’s another winner for editor Jon Scieszka—and for all the guys (and girls) who’ll get to read it.

SOLO, Hope. Hope Solo: My Story. Collins, 2012. ISBN 9780062220653. JLG Level: SM : Sports Middle & HS (Grades 7–11)

Hope solo On the Radar Teen: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sports Books that Slam Dunk the CompetitionThis is the only biography on the list, and it’s written by soccer star and Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo. Adapted for young readers from the adult edition, Solo tells the story of her childhood to the promise of the 2012 Summer Olympics. From injury to bad form, Solo is honest about her successes and her failures. She learns from her mistakes and keeps moving forward. As is often the case with a successful athlete, trials and tribulations riddle her past. Hope’s mom worked at Hanford Laboratory, testing plutonium samples, while her father stayed home following his release from prison. When Solo’s grandfather learned that her dad had used his checkbook to write checks to himself, that was the last straw. He left their family and they had to move because her father never paid the mortgage. Money struggles continued, threatening Solo’s ability to participate in sports, but scholarships helped her fight to succeed.

Readers will empathize with Solo’s struggles as her father (now homeless and drifting in and out of her life) is accused of murder. They will cheer for her defense of the goal. Shake their heads at the benching during the World Cup. And smile at the telling of her season on Dancing with the Stars. For soccer fans and those who are looking for a role model that doesn’t quit, look no further.

VOLPONI, Paul. The Final Four. Viking, 2012. ISBN 9780670012640. JLG Level: SM : Sports Middle & HS (Grades 7–11)

Final Four On the Radar Teen: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Sports Books that Slam Dunk the CompetitionAlready receiving four starred reviews, a JLG selection, and a Booklist Top 10 Sports Books for Youth 2012, The Final Four hardly needs shots from the free throw line to win the game. This must-have story brings together four characters with different backgrounds to one great sporting event. Volponi drew his characters from real sports players, using real-life experiences.

Alternating chapters, written in the voices of the four players, take the reader through the big game. Using newspaper articles, journals, and transcripts from radio broadcasts, The Final Four delivers an action-packed, character-driven tale.
Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.



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