For the Win: Sports | Series Nonfiction

Sports books are akin to the Trojan horse. What begins as a look at volleyball can quickly become a STEM, social studies, or Common Core Standards-friendly lesson. Read on to learn about Althea Gibson’s groundbreaking legacy, the science behind gymnastics, and the amazing stats, stories, and upsets of sports history.

1604SMS-SportsWhen it comes to selecting sports nonfiction, nobody wants to pick a loser. Eager readers will sprint through every title on their favorite sport, so it is essential that every series entry has that winning touch. Many of the series that made the “sweet 15” you see here have a little something extra to make them stand out from the rest of the field: inclusion of STEAM elements, attention to Common Core standards, or a focus on diversity in athletics. Read on to see which ones you should definitely score and which you could safely miss without anyone calling foul.


Adamson, Thomas K. Big Air Snowboarding. ISBN 9781626173514; ISBN 9781681031767.

––––. Snowboarding Slopestyle. ISBN 9781626173538; ISBN 9781681031781.

Bowman, Chris. Rally Car Racing. ISBN 9781626173521; ISBN 9781681031774.

––––. Vert Skateboarding. ISBN 9781 626173545; ISBN 9781681031798.

ea vol: 24p. (Extreme Sports). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2016. lib. ed. $24.95. ebk. $24.95.

K-Gr 3 –Fantastic photos and simple, easy-to-understand facts bring extreme sports to life for young readers. Adults will be pleased to see each volume begins with a warning about the hazards of extreme sports. Children will enjoy learning about the history, gear, and innovations of each. Particularly of interest was Rally Car Racing, which is underrepresented in nonfiction for young readers. Attention to the challenging mental aspect of rally car racing shows how different the sport is from the more mainstream NASCAR racing. This series does not feature many female athletes in the text and photos. Snowboarding Slopestyle is the exception, with the narrative briefly focusing on Jamie Anderson. VERDICT Great photos and the early reader-style text make this a strong contender for shelf space.

Blaine, Richard. Cups, Bowls, and Other Football Championships. ISBN 9780778722939; ISBN 9780778723004; ISBN 9781 427117298.

Kovacs, Vic. Touchdown! The History of Football. ISBN 9780778722977; ISBN 9780778723028; ISBN 9781427117311.

Rivkin, Jennifer. Gridiron Greats: Heroes of Football. ISBN 9780778722953; ISBN 9780778723011; ISBN 9781 427117304.

Stuckey, Rachel. Be a Force on the Field: Skills, Drills, and Plays. ISBN 9780778722915; ISBN 9780778722991; ISBN 9781 427117281.

ea vol: 32p. (Football Source). glossary. index. photos. Crabtree. 2016. lib. ed. $27.60. pap. $9.95. ebk. $41.40.

Gr 4-6 –A surprising amount of topics are covered in this series about American-style football. Field touches on the basics of the game, with tips for readers looking to hone their football skills. Championships focuses on the history of the NCAA, NFL, CFL (Canadian Football League), and EFAF (European Federation of American Football) and their separate championships. Gridiron Greats and Touchdown illustrate the sport through its stars and history, respectively. Some oversimplifications gloss over the finer details (for instance, Field says penalties can be up to 15 yards but they can be more in the case of a pass interference call). VERDICT Not a blowout winner, but worthwhile if your football collection has a losing record.

Bodden, Valerie. Baseball. ISBN 9781 608186532; ISBN 9781566606844.

––––. Basketball. ISBN 9781608186549; ISBN 9781566606851.

––––. Football. ISBN 9781608186556; ISBN 9781566606868.

––––. Golf. ISBN 9781608186563; ISBN 9781566606875.

––––. Soccer. ISBN 9781608186570; ISBN 9781566606882.

––––. Volleyball. ISBN 9781608186587; ISBN 9781566606899.

ea vol: 24p. (Making the Play). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Creative Education. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. ebk. $28.50.

K-Gr 3 –Sports meets science in this informative series. Scientific explanations of physics in sports are explored, including the “sweet spot” on a baseball bat that gives the most force to a hit. An experiment at the end of each title gives kids a chance to deepen their understanding of the concepts discussed in the text. While the STEM treatment is timely, the information wraps up too quickly for children to get more than a tenuous grip of the concepts. It’s true that professional athletes benefit greatly from understanding the science of their sports, but at this age level, the readers are still in the process of learning how to play the games, let alone apply physics to the pastimes. The many full-page photographs and illustrations have their work cut out for them. VERDICT A surefire hit with teachers, this could find fans in public libraries with a little bit of coaching from parents and librarians.

Campbell, Dave. Most Notorious Curses of All Time. ISBN 9781624039928; ISBN 9781680772739.

Graves, Will. Oddest Superstitions of All Time. ISBN 9781624039935; ISBN 9781680772746.

Trusdell, Brian. Most Dominant Dynasties of All Time. ISBN 9781624039911; ISBN 9781680772722.

Williams, Doug. Most Amazing Sports Moments of All Time. ISBN 9781624039904; ISBN 9781680772715.

Wilner, Barry. Biggest Upsets of All Time. ISBN 9781624039881; ISBN 9781680772692.

––––. Greatest Coaches of All Time. ISBN 9781624039898; ISBN 9781680772708.

ea vol: 48p. (Legendary World of Sports). further reading. glossary. photos. ABDO. 2016. lib. ed. $22.95. ebk. $35.95.

Gr 4-6 –The history of various sports are explored with surprising depth in this kid-friendly series. With catchy, headline-style chapter titles and photos throughout, the mix of current and historical facts will appeal to trivia fans. Honorable mentions at the end of each volume show snippets of other amazing stories readers can research on their own. Fact-filled bubbles dot the ends of some chapters, sometimes expanding on the story that has just been told and other times focusing on a completely different topic. While this can make for an odd matchup, it’s not too distracting as to be unreadable. By far the most interesting books in the series are The Most Notorious Curses and The Oddest Superstitions. Students will love the fun, sometimes freaky facts they’ll find in those two winners. VERDICT A real steal for readers who love sports trivia.

Colich, Abby. Danica Patrick. ISBN 9781491479711; ISBN 9781491485675.

––––. Maya Moore. ISBN 9781491479728; ISBN 9781491485682.

Dunn, Mary R. Candace Parker. ISBN 9781491479759; ISBN 9781491485712.

––––. Michelle Wie. ISBN 9781491479766; ISBN 9781491485729.

Porter, Esther. Abby Wambach. ISBN 9781491479742; ISBN 9781491485705.

––––. Serena Williams. ISBN 9781491479735; ISBN 9781491485699.

ea vol: 24p. (Women in Sports). chron. further reading. gloss. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $19.49. pap. $6.95.

K-Gr 3 –In this collection, women sports stars are given the spotlight they deserve. Each book offers a simple overview of an athlete’s early life and professional career. A time line along the bottom of each spread shows the progress the athlete has made in her life to become the force she is. Sidebars with fun facts pepper the pages alongside colorful photographs. Readers will learn that Michelle Wie’s father was often her caddy in her amateur days and that Abby Wambach has scored more career goals than any other soccer player, male or female. Critical thinking Common Core questions at the end of each volume engage young readers in a deeper reading of the text. It’s refreshing to see books about women athletes that focus on their feats, not on their appearance or personal lives. VERDICT An excellent first purchase.

Ervin, Phil. Basketball Trivia. ISBN 9781680780024; ISBN 9781680772777.

Gitlin, Marty. Olympic Trivia. ISBN 9781680780055; ISBN 9781680772807.

Howell, Brian. Baseball Trivia. ISBN 9781680780017; ISBN 9781680772760.

Marthaler, Jon. Soccer Trivia. ISBN 9781680780062; ISBN 9781680772814.

Mason, Tyler. Football Trivia. ISBN 9781680780031; ISBN 9781680772784.

Myers, Dan. Hockey Trivia. ISBN 9781680780048; ISBN 9781680772791.

ea vol: 48p. (Sports Trivia). glossary. index. photos. ABDO. 2016. lib. ed. $22.95. ebk. $35.95.

Gr 4-6 –Amateur sports buffs will learn something new from this series. The question-and-answer format provides trivia tidbits that get harder from one chapter to the next. The facts are fun and many will be unknown to the intended audience, so it’s easy to imagine students committing them to memory to wow friends and family. Some inaccuracies are small (Football calls Green Bay Packers player John Kuhn a running back—he’s really a fullback). Larger issues arise in the trivia quizzes at the end of each title. Many of the quiz questions are answered by previous chapters, but in each book, at least one trivia question is new information, like in the case of Basketball with an uncovered question about LeBron James’s high school sports career. Students conditioned to answer questions about what they read will not be pleased. VERDICT Sadly not up to par.

Lusted, Marcia Amidon. Cheer Skills and Drills. ISBN 9781624039829; ISBN 9781680772630.

––––. Cheer Tryouts and Training. ISBN 9781624039843; ISBN 9781680772654.

––––. Spirit-Raising Cheers and Chants. ISBN 9781624039867; ISBN 9781680772678.

Marciniak, Kristin. Cheer Tools and Gear. ISBN 9781624039836; ISBN 9781680772647.

Mooney, Carla. Cheer Careers. ISBN 9781624039812; ISBN 9781680772623.

Onsgard, Bethany. Competitive Cheerleading. ISBN 9781624039850; ISBN 9781680772661.

ea vol: 32p. (Cheerleading). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. 2016. lib. ed. $18.95. ebk. $31.95.

Gr 4-6 –Readers eager to learn more about cheering will enjoy the colorful photos and basic information presented in these titles. Under the guidance of content consultant Pauline Zernott, spirit director and coach at Louisiana State University, many aspects of cheerleading are considered. By far the most beneficial to aspiring cheerleaders will be Cheer Skills and Drills, with descriptions of performing basic cheers, Spirit-Raising Cheers and Chants, where readers will learn how to write and perform cheers and chants, and Competitive Cheerleading, filled with basic information and routine rules for competitive cheer squads. The remaining books could be overlooked, especially Cheer Careers, as the actual professional options are realistically limited. Cheer Tryouts and Training functions mostly as an ego booster for girls interested in trying out. VERDICT These are fresh titles for older collections but no new ground is being broken here.

Nagelhout, Ryan. 20 Fun Facts About Auto Racing. ISBN 9781482439717; ISBN 9781482439632; ISBN 9781482439724.

––––. 20 Fun Facts About Baseball. ISBN 9781482439670; ISBN 9781482439656; ISBN 9781482439687.

––––. 20 Fun Facts About Basketball. ISBN 9781482439731; ISBN 9781482439694; ISBN 9781482440065.

––––. 20 Fun Facts About Football. ISBN 9781482439762; ISBN 9781482439748; ISBN 9781482439779.

––––. 20 Fun Facts About Hockey. ISBN 9781482439809; ISBN 9781482439786; ISBN 9781482440072.

––––. 20 Fun Facts About Soccer. ISBN 9781482439823; ISBN 9781482440089; ISBN 9781482439830.

ea vol: 32p. (Fun Fact File: Sports!). glossary. index. photos. Gareth Stevens. 2016. lib. ed. $25.25. pap. $10.50. ebk. $25.25.

Gr 2-4 –Bright colors and fast facts make this series a quick pick for reluctant readers. Each title is packed with 20 facts about a specific sport. What makes these books excel over others is their scope—oftentimes, entries focus so narrowly on the professional American version of a sport, but these don’t fall victim to that trap. Football, for example, includes facts about the CFL as well as the NFL. When possible, inclusion of female athletes is done with grace, although this is by no means a comprehensive examination of women’s leagues. Soccer includes the recent Women’s World Cup win by team USA, and Basketball highlights Diana Taurasi, who won four consecutive WNBA scoring titles. These works will appeal to international sports fans and anyone looking to learn a little more about one of the pastimes. VERDICT Not necessarily a first purchase, but it will see plenty of circulation from sports fans.

Turnbull, Stephanie. Canoeing and Kayaking. ISBN 9781625883827; ISBN 9781625885463.

––––. Caving. ISBN 9781625883834; ISBN 9781625885470.

––––. Hiking. ISBN 9781625883841; ISBN 9781625885487.

––––. Mountain Biking. ISBN 9781625883858; ISBN 9781625885494.

––––. Rock Climbing. ISBN 9781625883865; ISBN 9781625885500.

––––. Skiing and Snowboarding. ISBN 9781625883872; ISBN 9781625885517.

ea vol: 24p. (Adventure Sports). diag. gloss. index. photos. websites. Smart Apple. 2016. lib. ed. $18.95. ebk. $27.10.

Gr 4-6 –Readers will easily be able to picture themselves enjoying the fun, dangerous hobbies in this series. Each book includes beginner advice as well as warnings about the dangers of attempting the sports without proper training. “Emergency!” sections in each book give tips for what to do when things go wrong. This series bonuses as natural science texts. For example, in Caving the science behind cave formations is explained. Inclusion of terminology and visual guides for tying some necessary climbing knots makes Rock Climbing very helpful for beginners. Some information is conflicting (Hiking says you can survive two to three days without water, Rock Climbing says three to four), and occasional Briticisms (like torch instead of flashlight) might confuse young American readers, but those are very small misses in what is otherwise a real hit. VERDICT A worthy purchase, especially if your collection is light on adventure.

Middle to High School

Amstutz, Lisa J. The Science Behind Track and Field. ISBN 9781491481585; ISBN 9781491481622.

Carmichael, L.E. The Science Behind Gymnastics. ISBN 9781491481592; ISBN 9781491481639.

Lanser, Amanda. The Science Behind Swimming, Diving, and other Water Sports. ISBN 9781491481578; ISBN 9781491481615.

Watson, Stephanie. The Science Behind Soccer, Volleyball, Cycling, and other Popular Sports. ISBN 9781491481608; ISBN 9781491481646.

ea vol: 32p. (Science of the Summer Olympics). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $20.49. pap. $7.95.

Gr 5-8 –Photos abound in this STEM-ready Summer Olympics series. Critical thinking questions at the end of each volume give them that one-two Common Core punch. The many textual asides on the photo-laden pages include ample information for burgeoning athletes who really want to know how physics plays into sports. Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, the crux of the most commonly known physics concepts, feature heavily in every book. The titles that focus on a specific sport or arena (Swimming) are stronger than the potpourri style of Soccer. All in all, these are great interdisciplinary reads. VERDICT A recommended first purchase for libraries looking to engage sports lovers in STEM topics.

Aretha, David. 12 Reasons To Love the Detroit Tigers. ISBN 9781632352118; ISBN 9781621432630.

Gitlin, Marty. 12 Reasons To Love the Los Angeles Dodgers. ISBN 9781632352132; ISBN 9781621432654.

––––. 12 Reasons To Love the St. Louis Cardinals. ISBN 9781632352170; ISBN 9781621432692.

Kortemeier, Todd. 12 Reasons To Love the Chicago Cubs. ISBN 9781632352101; ISBN 9781621432623.

––––. 12 Reasons To Love the Pittsburgh Pirates. ISBN 9781632352156; ISBN 9781621432678.

Kronstadt, Jonathan. 12 Reasons To Love the Atlanta Braves. ISBN 9781632352071; ISBN 9781621432593.

Smolka, Bo. 12 Reasons To Love the Baltimore Orioles. ISBN 9781632352088; ISBN 9781621432609.

––––. 12 Reasons To Love the Washington Nationals. ISBN 9781632352187; ISBN 9781621432708.

Tustison, Matt. 12 Reasons To Love the Boston Red Sox. ISBN 9781632352095; ISBN 9781621432616.

Williams, Doug. 12 Reasons To Love the Los Angeles Angels. ISBN 9781632352125; ISBN 9781621432647.

––––. 12 Reasons To Love the New York Yankees. ISBN 9781632352149; ISBN 9781621432661.

––––. 12 Reasons To Love the San Francisco Giants. ISBN 9781632352163; ISBN 9781621432685.

ea vol: 32p. (The MLB Fan’s Guide). chron. further reading. glossary. photos. Amicus. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. ebk. $28.50.

Gr 5-8 –The excitement of baseball unfolds through the historical highlights of individual teams in this engaging series. There is enough of an inclusion of stats and figures to give baseball fanatics a vivid view of the lifespan of each team. “Think About It” sections at the end of most chapters inspire speculative thinking. The books might seem a little disjointed, as they don’t follow definite time lines, instead hopping from modern to historical persons (though there is a “Key Dates” time line at the end of each book). Young readers who are really huge fans won’t mind this, even if adults find it a little wonky. A large amount of informational asides can break up the narrative of the stories told in each section. In general, the information is more in-depth than many other books about the featured teams one might pull off the shelf. VERDICT Definitely buy the ones for big-name teams and teams with local appeal.

Bailey, Budd. Jackie Robinson: Breaking Baseball’s Color Barrier. ISBN 9781502610560; ISBN 9781502610577.

Boehme, Gerry. Roberto Clemente: The Pride of Puerto Rico. ISBN 9781502610584; ISBN 9781502610591.

Graham, Tim. Muhammad Ali: Conscientious Objector. ISBN 9781502610515; ISBN 9781502610522.

Shoup, Kate. Billie Jean King: The Battle of the Sexes and Title IX. ISBN 9781502610539; ISBN 9781502610546.

Stanmyre, Jackie. Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe: Breaking Down Tennis’s Color Barrier. ISBN 9781502610379; ISBN 9781502610553.

––––. Jesse Owens: Facing Down Hitler. ISBN 9781502610492; ISBN 9781502610508.

ea vol: 112p. (Game-Changing Athletes). chron. glossary. photos. Cavendish Square. 2016. lib. ed. $42.79. ebk. $42.79.

Gr 7 Up –Primary source quotes and archival photos make this series a great resource for research writers, aspiring athletes, and readers interested in reading true stories of overcoming adversity. Each book in this electric series serves as a well-rounded biography of one or more athletes while showing very clearly how the subjects changed their sport while fighting against public perceptions about their race and gender. The text appropriately examines the struggles groundbreaking athletes like Althea Gibson and Billie Jean King endured just to be able to play. VERDICT A necessary first purchase for teen nonfiction collections.

Braun, Eric. Baseball Stats and the Stories Behind Them: What Every Fan Needs To Know. ISBN 9781491482155; ISBN 9781491485842.

––––. Basketball Stats and the Stories Behind Them: What Every Fan Needs To Know. ISBN 9781491482162; ISBN 9781 491485859.

Frederick, Shane. Football Stats and the Stories Behind Them: What Every Fan Needs To Know. ISBN 9781491482148; ISBN 9781491485835.

––––. Hockey Stats and the Stories Behind Them: What Every Fan Needs To Know. ISBN 9781491482179; ISBN 9781491485866.

ea vol: 48p. (Sports Stats and Stories). chart. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2016. lib. ed. $23.49. ebk. $7.95.

Gr 5-8 –Each book in this engaging series describes and explains the uses of statistics in sports games. Stories of current and classic players help readers understand why these statistics are so important. The titles also look at season and career total records set in their respective sports, many of which are truly awe inspiring. The range of the photos and data will have sports-stats nerds geeking out big-time. This series has the potential to enhance readers’ understanding and appreciation of the topic sports. The math behind the often confounding statistics involved in baseball, once clarified, has the ability to turn fairweather fans into rabid hardball lovers. VERDICT This series blows away the competition.

Kortemeier, Todd. Inside the Daytona 500. ISBN 9781634074353; ISBN 9781503806313.

––––. Inside the NBA Finals. ISBN 9781634074360; ISBN 9781503806290.

––––. Inside the Olympics. ISBN 9781634074377; ISBN 9781503806306.

––––. Inside the Super Bowl. ISBN 9781634074384; ISBN 9781503806276.

––––. Inside the World Cup. ISBN 9781634074391; ISBN 9781503806320.

––––. Inside the World Series. ISBN 9781634074407; ISBN 9781503806283.

ea vol: 32p. (Inside Look at Sports Events). further reading. glossary. index. The Child’s World. 2016. lib. ed. $28.50. ebk. $28.50.

Gr 5-8 –This immersive series will make students experts at major sporting events in no time. Each volume is prefaced by effectively answering the five W’s (who, what, where, when, why) in a “Fast Facts” section. The volumes are slim, but they pack a lot of information. As these titles can occasionally be a bit dry, this set is for ardent readers who want to focus on learning minute details on the series topics. The text employs multiple perspectives (typically from the sports creator, a fan, an on-field observer, and an athlete) with lots of primary source quotes. World Cup disappointingly makes little mention of the women’s league, a real missed opportunity considering that the U.S. Women’s national team won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. VERDICT Very informative with good notes for research purposes, but not the most exciting or gender-inclusive books on the roster.

Scheff, Matt. Amazing NFL Stories: 12 Highlights from NFL History. ISBN 9781632351517; ISBN 9781621432432.

––––. Classic NFL Games: 12 Thrillers from NFL History. ISBN 9781632351548; ISBN 9781621432463.

––––. Fierce NFL Rivalries: 12 Super-Charged Matchups. ISBN 9781632351524; ISBN 9781621432449.

––––. Stunning NFL Upsets: 12 Shockers from NFL History. ISBN 9781632351531; ISBN 9781621432456.

Silverman, Drew. The Super Bowl: 12 Reasons to Love the NFL’s Big Game. ISBN 9781632351579; ISBN 9781621432494.

––––. Today’s NFL: 12 Reasons Fans Follow the Game. ISBN 9781632351586; ISBN 9781621432500.

Tustison, Matt. Awesome NFL Records: 12 Hard-to-Reach Marks. ISBN 9781632351562; ISBN 9781621432487.

––––. Super Quarterbacks: 12 Great Leaders from NFL History. ISBN 9781632351555; ISBN 9781621432470.

ea vol: 32p. (The NFL at a Glance). further reading. glossary. photos. Amicus. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. ebk. $28.50.

Gr 5-8 –Packed with the stuff of legends, this series, covering classic and current NFL topics, makes an exciting choice for young football fans. Titles covering the classics—Amazing NFL Stories, Classic NFL Games—overlap with a few other books in the series, namely Stunning NFL Upsets and The Super Bowl, but avid fans won’t mind, as the information always feels fresh. Fierce NFL Rivalries will be a big hit, as it digs into the history of teams that just can’t seem to get along, like the rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. The play-by-play books (Amazing NFL Stories, Classic NFL Games, and Stunning NFL Upsets) are filled with engaging, fast-paced sportswriting. The “Think About It” asides at the end of most chapters get the Common Core speculative-thinking juices flowing. VERDICT A worthwhile purchase if you need a winning middle grade sports nonfiction series.

Billie Jean King said, “Champions keep playing until they get it right.” Top-tier sports nonfiction should engage readers on many levels, through its inclusion of stats and facts and its overall readability. Capstone scored high points with many of its series. “Women in Sports” gives early reading sports lovers inspirational figures to follow in current female stars. “Science of the Summer Olympics” offers an interdisciplinary science aspect to the always popular Olympics (and with them coming in August 2016, this series is certainly timely). “Sports Stats and Stories” shows clearly how math figures into stats in a way that’s accessible and supremely interesting. Bellwether’s “Extreme Sports” and Smart Apple Media’s “Adventure Sports” effectively show the alternative side to traditional sports and athleticism. ABDO’s “The Legendary World of Sports” is a trivia must-have. Cavendish’s “Game-Changing Athletes” rounds out this all-star team with a brilliant look at the athletes who paved the path for diversity in American sports. Three cheers for this season’s picks!

Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

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