November 20, 2017

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Beyond the All-American Athlete: Sports | Series Made Simple Fall 2014

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SMS1411-BK-SportsMo’ne Davis was the top story of the 2014 Little League World Series: before her team lost in an elimination game, the 13-year-old became the first girl to pitch a complete game shutout. Though sports coverage is still devoted to professional men’s sports, women and girls are making progress. Inclusiveness is a welcome trend in books for young readers. In some, females are shown suiting up for more male-focused sports like baseball and football, while in others, women taking part in sports such as motocross and snowboarding get equal billing with men. Other titles are notable for their mention of differently abled athletes and competitions, such as Paralympic basketball tourneys. Meanwhile, All-American sports that include baseball and basketball have been tremendously affected by the play of international superstars like Ichiro Suzuki and Hakeem Olajuwon. This trend can be an opportunity to tie perennially popular sports to history and social studies units, among others.

Preschool to Grade 4

Rausch, David. Major League Baseball. ISBN 9781626171336; ISBN 9781612119649.

––––. Major League Soccer. ISBN 9781626171343; ISBN 9781612119915.

––––. National Basketball Association. ISBN 9781626171350; ISBN 9781612119656.

––––. National Football League. ISBN 9781626171367; ISBN 9781612119663.

––––. National Hockey League. ISBN 9781626171374; ISBN 9781612119670.

––––. United States Tennis Association. ISBN 9781626171381; ISBN 9781612119687.

ea vol: 24p. (Major League Sports). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2014. lib. ed. $22.95. ebk. $22.95.

Gr 3-5 –With simplified vocabulary and sentences, these books introduce the basics of each sport, including history, teams, rules of play, and playoffs and championships. Exciting color photos and time lines supplement the short texts. The books’ brevity will disappoint most readers, and facts presented without context can be misleading. Under the headline “The First President,” Football notes that “Sports star Jim Thorpe was the first president of the league. He was known as ‘the greatest athlete in the world.’” While it is true that Thorpe, who was Native American, was named president of the American Professional Football Conference (predecessor to the NFL) shortly after it formed in 1922, he was a figurehead at a time when people of color, including Native American Thorpe, were barred from playing alongside whites in most pro sports. Soccer and Tennis, both with a relatively narrow focus, are somewhat more successful in their presentations.

Ringstad, Arnold. Biking. ISBN 9781 626873261.

––––. Fishing. ISBN 9781626873292.

––––. Hunting. ISBN 9781626873315.

––––. Kayaking. ISBN 9781626873322.

York, J. Camping. ISBN 9781626873278.

––––. Canoeing. ISBN 9781626873285.

––––. Hiking. ISBN 9781626873308.

––––. Rock Climbing. ISBN 9781626873339.

ea vol: 24p. (The Great Outdoors). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. 2014. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 3-5 –These appealing books feature an uncluttered design, which highlights the short, easy-to-read text. Words with definitions are set apart by different-colored font; color photos often supplement descriptions of equipment or animals. In Canoeing, a sidebar notes that many animals live in, near, or around water, such as trout, turtles, and geese. A history of each sport is provided, and there’s an emphasis on safety through planning and proper equipment. For instance, campers are advised to avoid ticks by wearing bug spray and long pants and thick socks. As they enumerate each sport’s appeal, these books also stress inclusiveness (“Athletic or not, anyone can hike. There are even trails people in wheelchairs can use.”). Attractive, useful additions.

Storden, Thom. Amazing Baseball Records. ISBN 9781491407400.

––––. Amazing Basketball Records. ISBN 9781491407417.

––––. Amazing Football Records. ISBN 9781491407431.

––––. Amazing Hockey Records. ISBN 9781491407424.

ea vol: 32p. (Epic Sports Records). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2014. lib. ed. $25.99.

Gr 3-7 –These books effectively cover individual and team records, along with post-season and “Can You Believe It?” records. The latter are unusual, noteworthy, and sometimes infamous, as in most penalties racked up in a single game, held by hockey’s Chris “Knuckles” Nilan. Relying upon simple, concise language, these titles are good choices for a range of readers. Photos are well matched, with clear labels, while “Epic Fact” insets call attention to key records. Crisp, active verbs describe Adrian Peterson’s single-game, 296-yard rushing record (“[he] rambled. He galloped. He bulldozed. He smashed.”). A glossary defines both sports-related terms such as rally or rookie as well as other words, such as tenacious. These well-crafted books should have wide appeal.

Grades 5 & Up

Baker, Jayne & Adam B. Hofstetter. An Insider’s Guide to Softball. ISBN 9781477785874.

Campbell, Forest G. An Insider’s Guide to Basketball. ISBN 9781477785812.

Cooperson, Jeremy & Brian Wingate. An Insider’s Guide to Soccer. ISBN 9781477785911.

Mcintyre, Abigael & Sandra Giddens. An Insider’s Guide to Volleyball. ISBN 9781477785959.

Stanley, Glen F. & Jason Porterfield An Insider’s Guide to Baseball. ISBN 9781477785775.

Van Pelt, Don & Brian Wingate. An Insider’s Guide to Football. ISBN 9781477785850.

ea vol: 48p. (Sports Tips, Techniques, and Strategies). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. Rosen Young Adult. 2014. lib. ed. $29.95.

Gr 5-8 –These readable overviews make good use of photos, graphics, and inserts to introduce the rules and history of each game, along with playing tips. Basketball skills such as pivoting and playing defense are clearly and concisely explained through text and photos. There’s also focus on fitness and inclusiveness. Girls and young women are shown playing and working out; an inset titled “Anyone Can Play Football” (in Football) notes that female teams now play at all levels. Volleyball includes a brief mention of athletes in wheelchairs competing at a sports camp, as well as a photo. Baseball offers a short discussion of steroids usage and its impact on the game, while Soccer notes Pele’s impact on the sport’s popularity. These are well-written, attractively designed books, and it’s especially nice to see coverage of softball and volleyball.

Bowker, Paul. Playing Pro Football. ISBN 9781467738446. LC 2013046647.

Gitlin, Marty. Playing Pro Basketball. ISBN 9781467738453. LC 2013042394.

Hawkins, Jeff. Playing Pro Hockey. ISBN 9781467738477. LC 2013048332.

Howell, Brian. Playing Pro Baseball. ISBN 9781467738460. LC 2013048604.

ea vol: 64p. (Playing Pro Sports). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Lerner. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 4-7 –Top-notch writing, colorful photos and sidebars, fact boxes, and diagrams combine to make this series a standout. Many readers dream of athletic stardom: these books offer an overview of the less glamorous side: what players must do to reach the professional level of sports, athletes’ daily routines, and how they avoid injuries. With their busy schedules of games and travel, pro-basketball players frequently take naps to catch up on much-needed rest, while football players need more than just sleep to recover from the toll exacted by game day, which one former linebacker likened to being “in several car crashes.” Sleep, diet, and a year-round fitness regimen are essential for players. Descriptions of training exercises are also included, such as the “crossover lunge” practiced by many hockey players and Gold Grove second baseman Brandon Phillips’ fielding exercises. A great series that sheds light on the reality of life in professional sports.

Braun, Eric. Football’s Greatest Receivers. ISBN 9781491407608.

––––. Football’s Greatest Running Backs. ISBN 9781491407592.

Doeden, Matt. Football’s Greatest Defenders. ISBN 9781491407615.

––––. Football’s Greatest Quarterbacks. ISBN 9781491407585.

ea vol: 32p. (Football’s Greatest). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2014. lib. ed. $27.32.

Gr 4-7 –Each book in this “best-of” football series introduces 13 current players. Some, such as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, are already superstars. Others are just starting out, like Andrew Luck, of the Indianapolis Colts, and Russell Wilson, who led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl win in his second season. These are fact-based yet admiring sketches; for instance, in Receivers, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson is described as “[having] it all: size, strength, speed, great hands, and off-the-chart athleticism.” Each brief player profile is supplemented by color photos, stats, and insets defining a few terms or words. The vague definitions are unhelpful: draft is defined as “the system by which NFL teams select new players” and franchise simply as “team.” These short profiles will attract browsers, though the series fails to distinguish itself from others on this popular topic.

Burlingame, Jeff. How to Camp Like a Pro. ISBN 9781622852390.

––––. How to Canoe and Kayak Like a Pro. ISBN 9781622852444.

––––. How to Freshwater Fish Like a Pro. ISBN 9781622852246.

––––. How to Hike Like a Pro. ISBN 9781622851386.

ea vol: 48p. (Outdoor Sports Skills). Enslow. 2014. lib. ed. $14.95.

Gr 4 Up –These short books offer plenty of interesting and kid-friendly facts, including directions for how to rescue someone who falls in the water using the “Reach-Throw-Row-Go” method. Colorful photos, along with sidebars, enliven the text. Unfortunately, these books are often marred by awkward writing, as in “Choosing to leave one’s house to recreate and sleep outdoors is the essence of camping.” Though each title offers a table of contents, organization is also poor. There’s an emphasis on safety and preparedness, including necessary equipment and supplies, but the text is bogged down with repetitive, wordy descriptions. Bowlines and sheet bend knots are useful for boaters, but the instructions without illustrations or graphics are confusing and vague. “The Great Outdoors” (Child’s World, 2015) and “Adventures in the Great Outdoors” (Windmill, 2014) are better, though written for younger readers. These are marginal selections where the topics are popular.

Challen, Paul. What Does a Defensive Back Do? ISBN 9781477769904.

––––. What Does a Linebacker Do? ISBN 9781477770061.

––––. What Does a Lineman Do? ISBN 9781477769980.

––––. What Does a Quarterback Do? ISBN 9781477769867.

––––. What Does a Receiver Do? ISBN 9781477770023.

––––. What Does a Running Back Do? ISBN 9781477769942.

ea vol: 32p. (Football Smarts). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. 2014. lib. ed. $25.25.

Gr 4-8 –Not only will these well-crafted guides give future football players a concise overview of each team position, but they’re good resources for report writers as well. Each title makes good use of graphics, with well-labeled charts and photos. Terms such as line of scrimmage are defined, and accompanying photos also add further explanation. In simple, straightforward language, each book sets out the basic strategy and goals of different positions. Insets offer interesting facts (“NFL teams look for cornerbacks who can run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, weigh 180 to 190 pounds, and stand 6 feet (1.8 m) tall or taller”). Volumes conclude with a chapter on good sportsmanship (“Handshakes after the game, helping opponents up off the ground, and following the rules of the game all go a long way towards building respect”). Strong offerings.

Chandler, Matt. Side-by-Side Baseball Stars: Comparing Pro Baseball’s Greatest Players. ISBN 9781476561677.

Forest, Christopher. Side-by-Side Basketball Stars: Comparing Pro Basketball’s Greatest Players. ISBN 9781476561646.

Frederick, Shane. Side-by-Side Football Stars: Comparing Pro Football’s Greatest Players. ISBN 9781476561653.

––––. Side-by-Side Hockey Stars: Comparing Pro Hockey’s Greatest Players. ISBN 9781476561660.

ea vol: 48p. (Side-by-Side Sports). further reading. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2014. lib. ed. $27.32.

Gr 5-8 –These appealing, well-crafted books compare great players, usually superstars of the past, with current athletes. Each figure is described through a key game or statistic, along with high points of his overall career; lifetime stats and a color photo are also provided. Basketball’s match-ups include two notable rivalries: 1980s superstars Larry Bird vs. Earvin “Magic” Johnson and current rivals Kevin Durant vs. Carmelo Anthony. Baseball compares the best batters, fielders, and pitchers, along with home-run champs Babe Ruth vs. Hank Aaron. Each book concludes with “Coach’s/Manager’s Call,” where the author weighs in with his opinion in each match-up. For instance, in comparing Ruth and Aaron, the author opts for Aaron. Each book finishes with three “Critical Thinking Using the Common Core” questions, which encourage readers to draw their own conclusions and support them with evidence from the text. Strong, attractive selections.

Hamilton, John. BMX. ISBN 9781624034398; ISBN 9781629682822.

––––. Go-Kart Racing. ISBN 9781624034404; ISBN 9781629682839.

––––. Inline Skating. ISBN 9781624034411; ISBN 9781629682846.

––––. Motocross. ISBN 9781624034428; ISBN 9781629682853.

––––. Skateboarding. ISBN 9781624034435; ISBN 9781629682860.

––––. Snowboarding. ISBN 9781624034442; ISBN 9781629682877.

ea vol: 32p. (Action Sports). glossary. index. photos. ABDO. 2014. lib. ed. $27.07. ebk. $27.07.

Gr 4-6 –Exciting shots of speeding vehicles and athletes performing gravity-defying tricks will attract readers to these well-crafted books. With one or two paragraphs per page, the volumes use well-labeled photos and fact boxes to provide overview of each sport. In-Line Skating relates that the sport developed as a way for hockey players to practice on paved roads during the summer off-season and includes a photo of gold medal-winning coach Herb Brooks with a group of skaters. Women and girls compete just as avidly as their male counterparts in these challenging sports, as seen in the photo of champion motocross racer Chiara Fontanesi. Glossaries help readers distinguish between whoops (hills on BMX racetracks) and rollers (hills on snowboard cross tracks). Browsers drawn by the colorful photos will come away with a surprising amount of information from these well-written introductions.

Hemstock, Annie Wendt. Bow Hunting. ISBN 9781477767153.

––––. Hunting Gear. ISBN 9781477767306.

––––. Hunting Laws and Safety. ISBN 9781477767252.

––––. Hunting with Rifles. ISBN 9781477767108.

––––. Hunting with Shotguns. ISBN 9781477767054.

––––. Know Your Quarry. ISBN 9781477767207.

ea vol: 32p. (Open Season). glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. 2014. lib. ed. $25.25.

Gr 5-8 –With borders and backgrounds in camouflage colors of green, gold, brown, and black, these books have a distinctive look. Well-matched color photos, insets, and sidebars supplement readable text. Young hunters are urged to learn about wildlife, practice and follow hunting laws, and err on the side of caution. Readers learn that blaze orange is worn by safety-minded hunters and, in some cases, their hunting dogs. It is noted that laws help animal populations stay healthy. The books emphasize safety and sportsmanship, stating that some “believe that hunting with a bow is more sporting than with a gun because an animal has a better chance to get away.” The sport’s dangers are enumerated, and the books also emphasize hunting’s traditional aspects, which include feeling like a part of the natural world. This series will be welcomed in areas where hunting is a popular pastime.

Hill, Z. B. Players & the Game Around the World. ISBN 9781422231104; ISBN 9781422288009.

Indovino, Shaina. Blake Griffin. ISBN 9781422231029; ISBN 9781422287927.

––––. Dwight Howard. ISBN 9781422231050; ISBN 9781422287958.

––––. Kevin Durant. ISBN 9781422231074; ISBN 9781422287972.

––––. Kobe Bryant. ISBN 9781422231081; ISBN 9781422287989.

––––. LeBron James. ISBN 9781422231098; ISBN 9781422287996.

Jackson, Aurelia. Carmelo Anthony. ISBN 9781422231036; ISBN 9781422287934.

––––. Chris Paul. ISBN 9781422231043; ISBN 9781422287941.

––––. Dwyane Wade. ISBN 9781422231067; ISBN 9781422287965.

––––. Rajon Rondo. ISBN 9781422231111; ISBN 9781422288016.

ea vol: 48p. (Superstars in the World of Basketball). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mason Crest. 2014. Tr. $20.95. ebk. $26.95.

Gr 5 Up –These biographies offer admiring portraits of contemporary hoops stars. Kobe Bryant is the oldest, while most of the other players are in their 20s. The books limn childhoods and personal lives and highlight their college and pro careers. With simplified sentences and vocabulary, the writing is repetitive and unmemorable. Color photos, sidebars with ideas for further research, and appendixes are welcome but fail to expand the books’ appeal. Players and the Game Around the World differs from the rest in that it traces basketball’s history and spread worldwide, noting that in the early 20th century, black athletes were not allowed to play alongside white players. The book goes on to detail the sport’s popularity in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and concludes with thumbnail sketches of international superstars including Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon. Though there are no stand-outs here, Players and the Game Around the World is noteworthy for its coverage of integration within the sport and its attention to the international aspects of the game.

Wood, Alix. Wacky and Dangerous. ISBN 9781482414950.

––––. Wacky in the Water. ISBN 9781 482414967.

––––. Wacky Moments in Sports. ISBN 9781 482414974.

––––. Wacky Races. ISBN 9781482414981.

––––. Wacky Team Sports. ISBN 9781 482414998.

––––. Wacky Throwing Sports. ISBN 9781 482415018.

ea vol: 32p. (Wacky World of Sports). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 5-8 –This dynamically designed—and aptly named—set takes a light-hearted look at intriguing, zany, and sometimes hazardous sports and games around the world. Wacky Team Sports includes elephant polo from Nepal, swamp soccer played in Iceland, Finland, and Scotland; and Botaoshi Pole Battle from Japan. A small globe pinpoints the origin of each sport. The delightful cover of Wacky Races shows a mascot race; readers will also learn about outhouse racing, pancake racing, and an Australian “boat regatta” held on a dry river bed. Wacky and Dangerous includes BASE jumping, rodeo, and running with the bulls; plus unusual sports like extreme ironing, and chasing rounds of cheese down a steep hill. A disclaimer in each volume warns readers that these sports can be dangerous and should not be attempted without the supervision of a trained adult expert. This well-crafted series should have wide appeal.

Wyner, Zach. Buffalo Bills. ISBN 9781 489607942.

––––. Carolina Panthers. ISBN 9781489607980.

––––. Chicago Bears. ISBN 9781489608024.

––––. Cincinnati Bengals. ISBN 9781 489608062.

––––. Cleveland Browns. ISBN 9781489608109.

––––. Dallas Cowboys. ISBN 9781489608147.

––––. Denver Broncos. ISBN 9781489608185.

––––. Detroit Lions. ISBN 9781489608222.

––––. Green Bay Packers. ISBN 9781 489608260.

––––. Houston Texans. ISBN 9781489608307.

ea vol: 32p. (Inside the NFL). glossary. index. photos. Weigl. 2014. lib. ed. $28.55.

Gr 4-6 –Fans and casual browsers alike will glean something from these books, which offer a variety of facts. Along with standard overviews of history, coaches, and players, these books cover the stadiums, uniforms and helmets, and mascots. Parts of the text read like promotional material, as when Chicago Bears notes that its many Hall of Fame players “forged the team’s reputation through blood, sweat, and sacrifice.” Each book offers excellent graphics, a glossary, and trivia quiz, and at the end of each, young readers are encouraged to write a biography of their favorite player using a concept web. Unfortunately, the quality of writing is uneven. Green Bay Packers erroneously states that in the famous 1967 Playoff Game, or “ice bowl” played in sub-zero temperatures at Lambeau Field, the Packers defeated the New York Giants, when in fact their opponents were the Dallas Cowboys. Overal, the series doesn’t stand out from others on the topic. The books will be best appreciated by local fans; purchase as needed.


Two series stand out for their intriguing approach to sports. Lerner’s well-written “Playing Pro Sports” series offers young fans a glimpse of what it takes to arrive and play at the pro level, players’ daily routines, and how they avoid injury by keeping fit, while Gareth Stevens’s sharply crafted “Wacky World of Sports” offers a global array of zany, creative, and sometimes dangerous pursuits. Browsers drawn by these appealing topics will find plenty of thought-provoking ideas; teachers can also use these to connect with social studies and history units.

Capstone’s “Side-by-Side Sports” presents insightful comparisons of great players and encourages critical reading and thinking. Rosen Young Adult’s “The Insider’s Guides” series are comprehensive, well-organized introductions different sports; all are excellent, though the titles on softball and volleyball are especially appreciated. ABDO’s “Action Sports” is written with struggling readers in mind: combining simple yet effective language with exciting color graphics, it conveys the highlights and excitement of these sports. Outstanding book design and attractive photos reveal the wonders of the natural world in Child’s World’s “The Great Outdoors,” an admirable series for younger readers.

Powerkids’s “Open Season” and “Football Smarts” both use straightforward language, good graphics and other aids to provide clear overviews of their topics. Browsers and report writers will find these engaging and helpful.

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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