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Game Changers: Sports Series Nonfiction

If you’re looking to pad your stats and build a sports nonfiction dream team, we’ve got your back. We’ll walk you through the prospects so you can make smart picks to benefit your roster.

A high-quality athlete can have a tremendous impact on his or her team’s success. Your LeBrons, your Bradys, your Gretzkys—those are players who elevate their entire teams, encouraging everyone to push a little more and work a little harder for the greater good. But without the support of their team, those A-list players would be lost. Similarly, a few outstanding series can have a major impact on your nonfiction collection. The more winners you can select, the bigger the rewards for your patrons and your circulation. If you’re looking to pad your stats and build a sports nonfiction dream team, we’ve got your back. Some of the series below are in a league of their own, while others just won’t quite make the cut. We’ll walk you through the prospects so you can make smart picks to benefit your roster. Let’s get the ball rolling!

 

ELEMENTARY

Abdo, Kenny. History of Baseball. ISBN 9781532127373.
––––. History of Basketball. ISBN 9781532127380.
––––. History of Football. ISBN 9781532127397.
––––. History of Golf. ISBN 9781532127403.
––––. History of Gymnastics. ISBN 9781532127410.
––––. History of Soccer. ISBN 9781532127427.
ea vol: 24p. (History of Sports). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO/Fly. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.07.
Gr 2 Up –Get ready to sprint through the history of sports in this speedy series. With heavily simplified information, Abdo ­briefly outlines how each game is played and paints a quick picture of its history before launching into fun facts about powerhouse players and recent championship-winning teams. Ample photos and small text blocks in a sizable font make it reasonably good for readalouds. The brevity means that some important information gets left out, like the segregation of baseball. Still, for many of the sports, both male and female professional athletes are included in the “Big Show” highlights of dominant athletes. It could be a fine early reader series, but the vocabulary doesn’t support its use by beginning readers. Instead, it would work best as an introductory text in a sports-themed storytime or classroom unit. VERDICT Despite lots of pictures to lure readers, this series is little more than a benchwarmer.

Dufresne, Emilie. Basketball. ISBN 9781534530072; ISBN 9781534530980.
––––.Field Hockey. ISBN 9781534530096; ISBN 9781534531000.
––––.Soccer. ISBN 9781534530065; ISBN 9781534530973.
––––. Tennis. ISBN 9781534530119; ISBN 9781534531024.
––––.Track and Field. ISBN 9781534530089; ISBN 9781534530997.
––––. Volleyball. ISBN 9781534530102; ISBN 9781534531017.
ea vol: 32p. (Play Like a Girl). diag. glossary. index. photos. Greenhaven/KidHaven. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.25. pap. $10.50.
Gr 2-5 –Each book follows a similar format, starting with variations on the sport, such as wheelchair basketball and slamball for basketball. Lingo is defined to help readers better acclimate to a new game. The size and specifications of fields or courts are delineated, and field positions are discussed. In the case of basketball, each position’s offensive and defensive goals are described. The clever layouts include bullet points and sidebars to keep readers’ attention. Though the use of illustrations instead of photographs for the “Hall of Fame” is puzzling, it doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the books. Unfortunately, we’ve not yet moved past the point where gendered books about sports are necessary. This series would have benefited greatly from a little more information about Title IX and the gender pay gap, but on the whole, it’s engaging and helpful. VERDICT Recommended first-round picks.

Fishman, Jon M. Baseball’s G.O.A.T.: Babe Ruth, Mike Trout, and More. ISBN 9781541555983.
––––. Hockey’s G.O.A.T.: Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, and More. ISBN 9781541555990.
––––.Soccer’s G.O.A.T.: Pele, Lionel Messi, and More. ISBN 9781541556003.
Levit, Joe. Auto Racing’s G.O.A.T.: Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, and More. ISBN 9781541556034.
––––. Basketball’s G.O.A.T.: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and More. ISBN 9781541556010.
––––. Football’s G.O.A.T.: Jim Brown, Tom Brady, and More. ISBN 9781541556027.
ea vol: 32p. (Sports’ Greatest of All Time (Lerner Sports)). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 2-5 –Who’s the G.O.A.T.? This series ranks the best players of all time and challenges readers to use their analytical skills to debate the list and create a top 10 of their own. The books include newer and older athletes, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Alfredo di Stéfano in Soccer’s G.O.A.T. And they don’t shy away from controversy, including mention of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs) and segregation in Baseball’s G.O.A.T. Both Soccer and Basketball commingle male and female players, acknowledging stars like Marta and Diana Taurasi alongside Pelé and Wilt Chamberlain. The biggest beef readers will have with these books is the exclusion of some huge stars, like soccer’s Neymar and baseball’s José Altuve. Also, parents may bristle at LeBron James outranking Michael Jordan, but the author offers compelling arguments along the way. VERDICT A great exploration of educated opinion writing.

Gagne, Tammy. Learning How to Play Dodgeball. ISBN 9781680204285.
––––.Learning How to Play Kickball. ISBN 9781680204322.
––––. Learning How to Play Pickleball. ISBN 9781680204346.
––––.Learning How to Play Wiffle Ball. ISBN 9781680204384.
ea vol: 24p. (Summer Camp Sports). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mitchell Lane/Little Mitchie. Sept. 2019. Tr. $25.70.
Gr 2-5 –Classic camp games are described with a narrative frame in this picture book-esque series. In each title, children are introduced to characters who are typically just learning about a new sport as they acclimate to day camp. Learning How to Play Dodgeball, for example, has a mother and older son explaining the history and gameplay aspects of dodgeball to a younger brother who is expressing doubt and anxiety about attending camp. It’s an odd delivery, especially when overly didactic language is passed off as dialogue. Learning How to Play Kickball sandwiches a story about a new kid at camp around the rules of kickball. The blend of narrative nonfiction, basic information, and mediocre writing won’t make it an exciting experience for either reader or listener. VERDICT It’s hard to know what the focus of this series is. Pass on this one.

Graves, Will. Patrick Kane: Hockey Superstar. ISBN 9781634940993.
Nicks, Erin. Johnny Gaudreau: Hockey Superstar. ISBN 9781634940986.
Price, Karen. Connor McDavid: Hockey Superstar. ISBN 9781634941037.
––––.Nathan MacKinnon: Hockey Superstar. ISBN 9781634941013.
Williamson, Ryan. Auston Matthews: Hockey Superstar. ISBN 9781634941020.
––––.David Pastrnak: Hockey Superstar. ISBN 9781634941044.
––––.John Tavares: Hockey Superstar. ISBN 9781634941051.
––––. Nikita Kucherov: Hockey Superstar. ISBN 9781634941006.
ea vol: 32p. (PrimeTime). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. North Star/Press Box. Sept. 2019. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-5 –Brief biographies will get readers up close and personal with their favorite hockey stars. Though the page count is low, the books are packed with information. Connor McDavid was only the third player ever to get “exceptional player” status and play junior hockey a year early at age 15. Auston Matthews chose to play professionally in Sweden instead of waiting to be old enough to be drafted into the U.S. National Junior League. Patrick Kane didn’t make the under-17 national team the first two times he tried out because coaches thought he was too small, but that didn’t stop him from helping the Chicago Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Though not all of the players have brought their team such a prestigious award, the play-by-plays in each book are fast-paced and fun. VERDICT A well-written sureshot for hockey fans.

Hellebuyck, Adam & Laura Deimel. Cricket World Cup. ISBN 9781534147492.
––––.FIFA World Cup. ISBN 9781534147478.
––––.NBA Finals. ISBN 9781534147485.
––––. Olympics. ISBN 9781534147539.
––––.Rugby World Cup. ISBN 9781534147515.
––––.Special Olympics. ISBN 9781534147546.
––––.Tennis Grand Slam. ISBN 9781534147508.
––––. Tour de France. ISBN 9781534147522.
ea vol: 32p. (Global Citizens: Sports). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 4-7 –In this series, the history of each event is described with clear text. With the focus of the series on global citizenry, a chapter in each volume emphasizes the role sports have played in world history. The rules of each game and sportsmanship expectations are also outlined. Some of the sports that are more popular internationally, like cricket and rugby, will have the most new information for U.S. readers. Perhaps best of all is Special Olympics. While other sports spend millions, even billions, on their championship events, the Special Olympics are run almost entirely by volunteers and as such, it is the only nonprofit organization in the series. Jam-packed with information and easily readable, the text is supported with informational sidebars and prompts that encourage readers to do more research. ­VERDICT These thorough overviews of special sporting events, written by a pair of teachers, are absolutely perfect for report-writing students. Truly exceptional.

Huddleston, Emma. MLB Hot Streaks. ISBN 9781503832299.
––––. NBA Hot Streaks. ISBN 9781503832275.
––––. Soccer Hot Streaks. ISBN 9781503832343.
Kortemeier, Todd. College Football Hot Streaks. ISBN 9781503832312.
Williamson, Ryan. College Basketball Hot Streaks. ISBN 9781503832329.
––––. NFL Hot Streaks. ISBN 9781503832282.
––––. NHL Hot Streaks. ISBN 9781503832305.
––––. Olympic Hot Streaks. ISBN 9781503832336.
ea vol: 32p. (Hot Streaks). further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites.
The Child’s World. Aug. 2019. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 3-5 –Sports history’s biggest hot streaks and longest held records come to life with vivid writing in this compelling series. Readers will learn about Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Orel Hershiser’s 59 consecutive scoreless innings, and the 2017 Cleveland Indians’ 22-game winning streak in MLB Hot Streaks. Most of the other books in the series are less about “streaks” than they are about incredible, hard-to-beat records, like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in NBA Hot Streaks, Hope Solo’s record 102 career shutouts in Soccer Hot Streaks, and undefeated seasons from soccer’s Arsenal, the NCAA football team the Miami Hurricanes, and the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Olympics Hot Streaks includes Michael Phelps’s record-breaking eight gold medals won at a single Olympics. Reflection questions at the end of each book allow readers to react to what they’ve read. VERDICT Everyone wins when this series is on the shelf.

Mikoley, Kate. Demolition Derby. ISBN 9781538240809; ISBN 9781538240786.
––––. Dirt Track Racing. ISBN 9781538240847; ISBN 9781538240823.
––––. Lawn Mower Racing. ISBN 9781538240885; ISBN 9781538240861.
––––. Monster Trucks. ISBN 9781538240922; ISBN 9781538240908.
––––. Off-Road Racing. ISBN 9781538240960; ISBN 9781538240946.
––––. Truck and Tractor Pulls. ISBN 9781538241004; ISBN 9781538240984.
ea vol: 32p. (Motorsports Maniacs). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2019. Tr. $26.60. pap. $10.50.
Gr 2-5 –Gearheads, rejoice! This exciting series describes the rules of the road…or off-road, in some cases. With brief but thorough descriptions of the sports and their rules, the books often include sidebars about variations, like combine demolition derby, where large tractors are used in lieu of beat-up cars. Though some of the topics are well known, like the Monster Jam brand in Monster Trucks, books like Lawn Mower Racing might contain entirely new information. Off-Road Racing includes history and rules for big international races, like the Baja 1000 and the Dakar Rally. Readers who’ve wondered how athletes get into these extreme motorsports will appreciate the description of getting started and what goes into modifying vehicles to be able to compete. The text and images blend well together, presenting just enough informaton that won’t overwhelm developing readers. VERDICT A monster crowd pleaser.

Rumsch, BreAnn & Mike Petrik. Good Sports Don’t Give Up. ISBN 9781684104000.
––––. Good Sports Play Fair. ISBN 9781684104017.
––––. Good Sports Use Teamwork. ISBN 9781684104024.
––––. Good Sports, Win or Lose. ISBN 9781684104031.
ea vol: 24p. (Good Sports). further reading. glossary. illus. Capstone/Cantata Learning. Aug. 2019. Tr. $33.99.
PreS-Gr 2 –Sportsmanship books that support social and emotional development are always in demand, and this series delivers rhyming songs for the picture book crowd. Each title in the series states and reiterates the importance of being a good team player: never giving up, playing fair, and avoiding being a sore winner or loser. The simple concepts and repetition help adults impart these basic concepts. The songs can be accessed online and have a poppy Schoolhouse Rock feel. The illustrations include a refreshing mix of diverse children, including a young girl in a hijab and a boy with a visible hearing aid, as well as kids of diverse ethnic backgrounds. The text is supported by critical thinking questions and a parent guide, which offers suggestions to strengthen understanding for young ­listeners. VERDICT A sweet sportsmanship addition to your easy nonfiction shelves.


 

UPPER ELEMENTARY TO MIDDLE SCHOOL

Clark, Aimee. STEM in Baseball & Softball. ISBN 9781422243312.
Havelka, Jacqueline. STEM in Auto Racing. ISBN 9781422243305.
––––. STEM in Basketball. ISBN 9781422243329.
––––. STEM in Extreme Sports. ISBN 9781422243336.
––––. STEM in Football. ISBN 9781422243343.
––––. STEM in Gymnastics. ISBN 9781422243350.
––––. STEM in Soccer. ISBN 9781422243374.
––––. STEM in Track & Field. ISBN 9781422243381.
Luke, Andrew. STEM in Ice Hockey. ISBN 9781422243367.
ea vol: 80p. (Connecting STEM and Sports). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mason Crest. Sept. 2019. Tr. $32.95.
Gr 3-6 –The impact of scientific analysis on sports is put under the microscope in this STEM-focused series. Each volume offers advice for perfecting different aspects of its respective game. STEM in Baseball not only explains the physics of pitching and hitting, but also breaks down statistics and the engineering of equipment and tech that reduce human error and injury. Though some sports seem more natural for this breakdown, like football with its life-saving equipment, others may surprise readers. Gymnastics is entirely about the geometry and physics of the human body. Basketball, with its minimal equipment, has much to consider, including all the forces that act on the ball alone. Extreme sports, like skydiving and parkour, have illuminating descriptions that might encourage readers to give them a try. QR codes link to videos, and research suggestions help deepen reader comprehension. VERDICT Very useful for report writing.

Parker, Donald. Chris Paul. ISBN 9781422243466.
––––. Giannis Antetokounmpo. ISBN 9781422244111.
––––. James Harden. ISBN 9781422243473.
––––. Kevin Durant. ISBN 9781422243480.
––––. LeBron James. ISBN 9781422243497.
––––. Paul George. ISBN 9781422243503.
––––. Russell Westbrook. ISBN 9781422243510.
––––. Stephen Curry. ISBN 9781422243527.
ea vol: 80p. (Hardwood Greats: Pro Basketball’s Best Players). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mason Crest. Sept. 2019. Tr. $32.95.
Gr 3-6 –These biographies of the NBA’s biggest current stars will give report writers much to appreciate. Each book outlines its player’s upbringing, early career, draft selection into professional basketball, and greatest career moments thus far. To illustrate their superiority over their competitors, statistics and comparison charts are interspersed throughout chapters, giving the books a fair balance of narrative and stats. Neither LeBron James nor Giannis Antetokounmpo played at the collegiate level before being drafted into the NBA; readers will see why, as they’re two of the most explosive stars of their time. The players’ notable quotes are broken down by their originality (as opposed to being pure clichés), and explainers add context to the sound bites. The charitable work of the players is discussed, as are the controversies (hello, LeBron’s “Decision”). QR codes throughout link readers to videos, bringing big plays to life. Text-dependent questions and further research suggestions add a layer of comprehension. While not page-turners, these books are solidly written research fodder. VERDICT Fair basketball biographies that will likely circulate with regularity.

Savage, Jeff. Fitness Routines of Drew Brees. ISBN 9781680204612.
––––. Fitness Routines of LeBron James. ISBN 9781680204674.
––––. Fitness Routines of Lindsey Vonn. ISBN 9781680204711.
––––. Fitness Routines of Michael Phelps. ISBN 9781680204698.
––––. Fitness Routines of Roger Federer. ISBN 9781680204650.
––––. Fitness Routines of Serena Williams. ISBN 9781680204735.
––––. Fitness Routines of Simone Biles. ISBN 9781680204599.
––––. Fitness Routines of Tom Brady. ISBN 9781680204636.
ea vol: 32p. (Fitness Routines of Superstar Athletes). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mitchell Lane. Sept. 2019. Tr. $27.50.
Gr 3-6 –Though these books may look little, they’re packed with plenty of information. A short biography of each athlete is followed by their body statistics, as well as a description of their typical training routine and diet. Readers who know how hard professional athletes have to train to be the best won’t be surprised to see that Drew Brees never takes days off from his workouts. Tom Brady is so fanatical about his nutrition that he has a personal chef and has specific foods he never eats. Michael Phelps has a famously robust diet to be able to fuel his high-powered workouts. Female athletes like Lindsey Vonn, Serena Williams, and Simone Biles not only work hard but put up with harsh criticism of their bodies. Readers will be inspired to work as hard on their goals as their favorite athletes do on theirs. VERDICT A unique spin on the athlete biography. Worth the purchase.

Smith, Elliott. Creeking and Other Extreme Kayaking. ISBN 9781543573237.
––––. Enduro and Other Extreme Mountain Biking. ISBN 9781543573244.
––––. Free Soloing and Other Extreme Rock Climbing. ISBN 9781543573251.
––––. Slacklining and Other Extreme Rope Sports. ISBN 9781543573220.
ea vol: 32p. (Natural Thrills). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2019. Tr. $28.65.
Gr 3-8 –Readers will be inspired to live life to the fullest with this series that embraces extreme sports. Creeking describes a variety of river sports, like whitewater rafting, packrafting, playboating, and slalom kayaking. Enduro discusses the excitement and danger of enduro, downhill, freeriding, and cross-country biking. The slacklining volume imparts the difference between slacklining and tightrope, along with a host of variations on the sport. All of the sports require specialized gear, like the various needed ropes, shoes, and crash pads for climbing. Young readers may be frustrated that the tips for getting started boil down to “start small” and “learn from someone experienced,” but the author values safety above all else. With colorful photos to support the text, the series gives readers much to look forward to if they follow the author’s advice. VERDICT An exciting addition to middle grade nonfiction collections.

 

MIDDLE TO HIGH SCHOOL

Besley, Adrian. Zlatan Ibrahimovi. ISBN 9781725340251; ISBN 9781725340244.
Callow, Nick. Neymar. ISBN 9781725340312; ISBN 9781725340305.
Perez, Mike. Lionel Messi. ISBN 9781725340282; ISBN 9781725340275.
Spragg, Iain. Cristiano Ronaldo. ISBN 9781725340343; ISBN 9781725340336.
ea vol: 64p. (Soccer Superstars). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/Rosen Young Adult. Aug. 2019. Tr. $34.45. pap. $.
Gr 6-9 –Surprisingly thorough biographies outline the entire lives thus far of today’s biggest soccer superstars. Each book details the struggles and successes that led them on their paths to superstardom. With play-by-play descriptions of significant games, details on their career-defining goals, and insight from teammates and coaches, readers will learn more about their favorite athletes than ever before. Each book is slightly unique in its layout. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is known for his weird, witty quotes, so his book includes a section of some of his bizarre sayings. Neymar stans are called Neymarzetes and you can bet they are living for his debut as a recording artist called “Neymusico.” Readers who love to learn about athletes’ personal lives as well as their professional accomplishments will find much to enjoy here. Each book ends with a quiz to test reader comprehension. VERDICT These are four of the biggest stars in soccer. Invest in them all.

Best, Michael T. Excelling in Hockey. ISBN 9781682827017.
Bode, Heather L. Excelling in Basketball. ISBN 9781682826973.
Duke, Shirley. Excelling in Baseball. ISBN 9781682826959.
McKinney, Donna B. Excelling in Soccer. ISBN 9781682827031.
Scheff, Matt. Excelling in Football. ISBN 9781682826997.
ea vol: 80p. (Teen Guide to Sports). further reading. index. notes. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Aug. 2019. Tr. $30.95.
Gr 6 Up –Though each book focuses on a different sport, this series includes a lot of crossover advice that can benefit any young athlete. Each title expresses the importance of training, practice, nutrition, and rest. Conditioning exercises are recommended for strength and endurance; the majority of the suggested moves focus on body weight resistance and require minimal equipment. Explanations are given for why each exercise is important. For example, chin-ups are great for building a hockey player’s upper body and strengthening their grip for better stick handling. Though illustrations of the exercise moves in particular would be useful, resourceful readers will just Google moves they don’t understand. Nutrition basics, common injuries, and game-day preparation are covered at length, as are the different levels of competition. VERDICT The writing is clear though not particularly exciting, and absent a personal coach, these will help young athletes train in the off-season. An additional purchase.

Huddleston, Emma. Serena Williams: Tennis Icon. ISBN 9781532119910.
Kortemeier, Todd. Kylian Mbappe: World Soccer Sensation. ISBN 9781532119903.
Monson, James. Patrick Mahomes: NFL Sensation. ISBN 9781532119897.
Murray, Laura K. LeBron James: NBA Champion. ISBN 9781532119880.
Sandalow, Brian. José Altuve: Baseball Superstar. ISBN 9781532119873.
Williams, Doug. Tiger Woods: Golf Legend. ISBN 9781532119927.
ea vol: 112p. (Star Athletes). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. ABDO/Essential Library. Aug. 2019. Tr. $37.07.
Gr 6 Up –These thorough biographies run from each subject’s birth to the present day, sharing their unique paths to greatness. Some of the books are slightly more robust, if only because the athletes have had longer to establish their careers. For soccer star Kylian Mbappe and football quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the authors focus heavily on their significant games. Serena Williams, LeBron James, and José Altuve all have stellar careers and philanthropic hearts, with Williams traveling often to Africa, James creating his I Promise school in Akron, and Altuve’s Astros helping Habitat for Humanity after Houston’s devastating hurricane. Sidebars add fascinating tidbits to the life stories, like how “Tiger-proofing” Masters courses by making them longer actually gave Woods even more of an advantage over his peers. Source notes support the text with ample citations in the back matter. VERDICT A highly readable and inspirational series.


Whereas the younger set usually gets the bulk of the good reads, this season we have a host of awesome options for middle and high school readers. Readers will learn about some of their favorite athlete icons in “Sports’ Greatest of All Time” (­Lerner), “PrimeTime” (North Star/Press Box), “Soccer Superstars” (Rosen/Rosen Young Adult), “Hardwood Greats” (Mason Crest), and “Star Athletes” (ABDO/Fly). The focus on conditioning and nutrition in “­Fitness ­Routines of the Superstar Athletes” (Mitchell Lane) is sure to inspire readers to greatness. “Play Like a Girl” (­Greenhaven/KidHaven) shows how to be at the top of your game, just like the ­winners of “Global ­Citizens: Sports” (Cherry Lake). “­Motorsport ­Maniacs” (­Gareth Stevens), and “Natural Thrills” (­Capstone) examine some truly amazing ­extreme sports. “­Connecting STEM and Sports” (­Mason Crest) shows that brains and brawn go hand in hand. No matter your collection’s needs, there are suitable starters and substitutes in that lineup.

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