Honestly, Goals | Sports Series Nonfiction

Looking for new ways to make your sports nonfiction collection the G.O.A.T.? We’ve busted through over 100 fresh-off-the-presses nonfiction titles to be your personal Bob Uecker, delivering play-by-plays for some of the best books in the game. 

 

Looking for new ways to make your sports nonfiction collection the G.O.A.T.? The most important thing to keep in mind is that the turnover in this category is high. Injuries and old age can hamstring an athlete’s career and rule changes can add completely new elements to gameplay that can make older books obsolete. Books about teams and players are outdated almost immediately—just think about the wild COVID-19 seasons that touched every sport in 2020! We’ve busted through over 100 fresh-off-the-presses nonfiction titles to be your personal Bob Uecker, delivering play-by-plays for some of the best books in the game. Whether you’re looking for all-encompassing team historical tomes, player bios, or brief intros for burgeoning athletes, there’s a little something for everybody. And hey, maybe you’re looking for something more extreme? Read on to see which series made our MVP (most valuable publication) list and which ones you should recruit for your library!

 

Elementary

Bolt Simons, Lisa M. Simone Biles: Gymnastics Legend. ISBN 9781496695253.
Carlson Berne, Emma. Brenna Huckaby: Paralympic Snowboarding Champ. ISBN 9781496695291.
Chandler, Matt. Chad Kerley: BMX’s Breakout Star. ISBN 9781496695277.
––––. Coco Gauff: Tennis Champion. ISBN 9781496695246.
––––. Declan Farmer: Paralympic Hockey Star. ISBN 9781496695307.
––––. Mike Trout: Baseball’s MVP. ISBN 9781496695284.
––––. Nyjah Huston: Skateboard Superstar. ISBN 9781496695260.
––––. Zion Williamson: Basketball’s Rising Star. ISBN 9781496695314.
ea vol: 32p. (Sports Illustrated Kids Stars of Sports). Capstone. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 3-5 –These sports biographies are as stellar as the stars about whom they’re written. Showcasing an array of diverse athletes, each book covers not only their athletic careers, but their early lives and hopes for the future as well. Readers will be inspired by all the obstacles these athletes have overcome, including Brenna Huckaby and Declan Farmer’s surgeries and subsequent adaptation to prosthetic limbs and Simone Biles’s early years spent in the foster care system. Most of the athletes, including BMX rider Chad Kerley, skateboarder Nyjah Huston, MLB player Mike Trout, NBA star Zion Williamson, and tennis pro Coco Gauff, have been training and competing since they were children, but readers will quickly notice the joy and enthusiasm they each maintain for their sport. Quotes from each athlete are included, giving readers a sense of personal connection with their sports heroes. VERDICT Well-written, inspiring, and informative, this series is a first purchase for most libraries.

Clausen-Grace, Nicki & Jeff Grace. Boston Celtics. ISBN 9781623102883.
––––. Chicago Bulls. ISBN 9781623102890.
––––. Golden State Warriors. ISBN 9781623102906.
––––. Houston Rockets. ISBN 9781623102913.
––––. Los Angeles Lakers. ISBN 9781623102920.
––––. Miami Heat. ISBN 9781623102937.
––––. New York Knicks. ISBN 9781623102944.
––––. Philadelphia 76ers. ISBN 9781623102951.
ea vol: 32p. (Team Stats—Basketball Edition). Black Rabbit/Bolt. Jan. 2021. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 3-5 –The history, greatest moments, and superstars of some of the NBA’s biggest teams are featured in this engaging series. Readers will learn that the Boston Celtics have the most NBA championship wins (17), followed closely by the Los Angeles Lakers with 16 wins (as of the 2018-19 season). Great moments in the teams’ histories are described, like three of the six Chicago Bulls championships Michael Jordan helped win in the 1990s. After a rundown of the teams’ most notable players, like Shaquille O’Neal (Miami Heat) and Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers), each book ends with a time line of its team. With bolded glossary terms and callouts, the “fast facts” writing style combines with infographic sections to satisfy reluctant readers. Facts and statistics for all are current as of the 2018-19 NBA season, excluding the 2019-20 pandemic bubble season. VERDICT An exciting series for NBA fanatics that’s not comprehensive, but darn fun anyway. An additional purchase.

Doeden, Matt. Hockey’s Wickedest Goals! ISBN 9781496695345.
Pryor, Shawn. Baseball’s Craziest Catches! ISBN 9781496695840.
––––. Basketball’s Most Ridonkulous Dunks! ISBN 9781496695338.
––––. Football’s Sickest Sacks! ISBN 9781496695321.
ea vol: 32p. (Sports Illustrated Kids Prime Time Plays). Capstone. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 3-5Sports Illustrated Kids absolutely blasts it out of the park with this fun, energetic series. Hockey fans will rejoice while reading about many amazing moments, including the 1980 Team USA Miracle on Ice win and Andrei Svechnikov’s “lacrosse-style” puck scoop surprise goal. Moments new and old are included in each, like third baseman Anthony Rendon’s diving full-body stretch catch in a 2019 NLCS game and “The Catch,” Willie Mays’s showstopping moment in the 1954 World Series. Bolded vocabulary words and phrases point readers to the glossary. Basketball and Football not only feature similar jaw-dropping moments, they spend time describing specific athletes who revolutionized the art of dunking and sacking, respectively. Doeden and Pryor’s mastery and knowledge shine through with engaging play-by-plays that pull readers into the action and excitement of some of sports’ biggest moments. VERDICT You’d be ridonkulous not to buy this whole series!

Downs, Kieran. Karate. ISBN 9781644874257.
––––. Lacrosse. ISBN 9781644874264.
––––. Softball. ISBN 9781644874271.
––––. Volleyball. ISBN 9781644874288.
ea vol: 24p. (Let’s Play Sports!). Bellwether/Blastoff! Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $25.95.
Gr 1-3 –Seeking a simplified introduction to popular sports for emerging readers? This series is a solid choice. Karate describes some of the basic moves that students learn in their dojos and shares photos of kids competing in kata events and kumite matches. Lacrosse showcases the rules of the game, the skills needed for different positions, the necessary gear, and the layout of the field. Readers of Softball will see its many similarities to its popular sibling, baseball, learning all about batting, fielding, base running, and essential gear. Volleyball shares descriptions of the different positions and some basic rules as well as explaining the gear and court layout. The inclusive photos highlight BIPOC athletes of different genders as well as differently abled athletes throughout the series. With bolded glossary terms and clean, brightly colored layouts, this series is eye-catching and informative. VERDICT It’s a win-win! Recommended for general purchase.

Farley, Taylor. Little Stars Ballet. ISBN 9781427129734.
––––. Little Stars Baseball. ISBN 9781427129741.
––––. Little Stars BMX Bikes. ISBN 9781427129758.
––––. Little Stars Fishing. ISBN 9781427129772.
––––. Little Stars Golf. ISBN 9781427129789.
––––. Little Stars Gymnastics. ISBN 9781427129796.
––––. Little Stars Paintball. ISBN 9781427129826.
––––. Little Stars Rodeo. ISBN 9781427129833.
––––. Little Stars Skateboarding. ISBN 9781427129840.
––––. Little Stars Skiing. ISBN 9781427129857.
––––. Little Stars Soccer. ISBN 9781427129871.
––––. Little Stars Swimming. ISBN 9781427129888.
––––. Little Stars Taekwondo. ISBN 9781427129895.
––––. Little Stars Yoga. ISBN 9781427129901.
Silverman, Buffy. Little Stars Hockey. ISBN 9781427129802.
––––. Little Stars Snowboarding. ISBN 9781427129864.
ea vol: 24p. (Little Stars). Crabtree/Crabtree Seedlings. Jan. 2021. Tr. $23.
PreS-Gr 2 –Young kids show off their sports skills in these adorable easy readers. Joining the traditional cast of kids’ sports books are some unique offerings, like paintball and rodeo. For sports that include a lot of gear or a special playing field, such as hockey, baseball, and golf, the equipment or course is briefly described and the pictures are well labeled. All but one of the books are written in a first-person narrative to immerse readers in the experience. Any one of the diverse cast of characters in the bright, fun photos could be the narrator. These small, simple books for emerging readers include no more than 10 words on a page. Each concludes with guidance for caregivers that suggests pre- and post-reading questions as well as some dialogic reading prompts. ­VERDICT An additional purchase if you need to strengthen your easiest leveled readers.

Huddleston, Emma. Legends of Women’s Basketball. ISBN 9781634942812.
––––. Legends of Women’s Gymnastics. ISBN 9781634942836.
––––. Legends of Women’s Swimming. ISBN 9781634942850.
––––. Legends of Women’s Track and Field. ISBN 9781634942874.
London, Martha. Legendary Women in Sports Media. ISBN 9781634942805.
––––. Legends of Women’s Figure Skating. ISBN 9781634942829.
––––. Legends of Women’s Soccer. ISBN 9781634942843.
––––. Legends of Women’s Tennis. ISBN 9781634942867.
ea vol: 32p. (Legends of Women’s Sports). North Star Editions/Press Box. Jan. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-5 –Sheroes from the past and present are featured in this series that focuses on female athletes and other women with careers in sports. Fan favorites, like Simone Biles, Megan Rapinoe, Erin Andrews, and Naomi Osaka, are covered among many others. Informational asides contain the most interesting facts in the series, like how reporter Mary Garber broke the color barrier to report on HBCU Winston-Salem State’s basketball games. The narrative writing style is pleasant, though there is no delineation at all within the chapters which inexplicably flow from one person to the next. Readers learn a little about each woman—just enough to pique their interest, but not enough to come away feeling sated. Despite social justice topics like Black Lives Matter and wage inequality playing a massive role in women’s sports, they are rarely if ever covered in these titles. VERDICT ­Individual biographies would serve readers better; this smorgasbord-style biography is wholly unsatisfying.

Kenney, Karen Latchana. Extreme Parkour Challenges. ISBN 9781541590441.
––––. Extreme Skateboarding Challenges. ISBN 9781541590465.
––––. Extreme Snowboarding Challenges. ISBN 9781541590458.
ea vol: 24p. (Extreme Sports Guides: UpDog Books). Lerner. Jan. 2021. Tr. $26.65.
Gr 1-3 –Readers looking to learn a little about some unique extreme sports will be happy to find these overviews on your shelves. Extreme Parkour Challenges not only describes the daring sport, it also includes information about training and exercises competitors do to get and stay in peak shape for their acrobatic sport. Extreme Skateboarding and Extreme Snowboarding both feature athletes catching big air on half-pipes and readers will quickly see how the skills gained in one sport can help with the other. “Hacks” for each sport have some simple ideas and encouragements for interested young athletes. The spare, basic text (generally only two-to-three lines per page) is supplemented by vocabulary terms defined on the same page they’re mentioned as well as in a glossary at the end. Diverse athletes, both male- and female-presenting, show how inclusive these sports can be. VERDICT Not ­particularly engaging or well-written, these are an ­additional purchase.

Schuh, Mari. Bowling. ISBN 9781681519333.
––––. Cheerleading. ISBN 9781681519340.
––––. Downhill Skiing. ISBN 9781681519357.
––––. Lacrosse. ISBN 9781681519364.
––––. Skateboarding. ISBN 9781681519371.
––––. Softball. ISBN 9781681519388.
––––. Tennis. ISBN 9781681519395.
––––. Track and Field. ISBN 9781681519401.
ea vol: 16p. (Sports). Amicus/Spot. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.10.
PreS-Gr 1 –Emerging readers are encouraged to search for four highlighted vocabulary words as they work their way through this sports series. With no more than 20 words on a page and plenty of repetition, each book makes reading about sports gear and athletes simple. In terms of representation, some books are better than others. Nearly every book includes both male- and female-presenting athletes, the exceptions being Lacrosse and Softball. While the majority of athletes pictured are white (especially in Downhill Skiing, where all the skiers appear to be white), athletes of color are included in photos featuring people at an average rate of 25%. Notably, Tennis stands alone in featuring an athlete who uses a wheelchair. The clean, simple spreads and limited vocabulary make this more successful as an easy reader series than as informational sports titles. ­VERDICT There are better sports easy readers on the market. You’re fine to sit this one out.

Stratton, Connor. Bubba Wallace: Auto Racing Star. ISBN 9781644937037.
––––. Cody Bellinger: Baseball Star. ISBN 9781644936979.
Walker, Hubert. Colin Kaepernick: Football Star. ISBN 9781644937013.
––––. Gerrit Cole: Baseball Star. ISBN 9781644936986.
––––. Ja Morant: Basketball Star. ISBN 9781644937020.
––––. LeBron James: Basketball Star. ISBN 9781644937006.
––––. Ronald Acuña Jr.: Baseball Star. ISBN 9781644936962.
––––. Stephen Curry: Basketball Star. ISBN 9781644936993.
ea vol: 32p. (Biggest Names in Sports). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-5 –Readers interested in learning more about their favorite stars will gravitate toward this thoughtful, well-written series. Baseball fans can learn more about the early lives of Cody Bellinger, Gerrit Cole, and Ronald Acuña Jr., who all grew up playing ball (Bellinger and Acuña had fathers who played professionally). The bio for the relatively new NBA star Ja Morant shows how far he has to go before he gets on the level of veterans like LeBron James and Steph Curry. While their athleticism is the topic of their books, the activism of Bubba Wallace, the first Black driver at the Daytona 500 in almost 50 years, and Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who took a knee to peacefully protest during the national anthem, contextualize the experience of being a Black athlete in America. Chock-full of facts and photos, these titles are both useful and engaging. VERDICT For its stars and scope, this series is a first purchase.

 

Upper Elementary to Middle School

Doeden, Matt. G.O.A.T. Baseball Teams. ISBN 9781728404417.
––––. G.O.A.T. Hockey Teams. ISBN 9781728404448.
––––. G.O.A.T. Men’s Basketball Teams. ISBN 9781728404431.
––––. G.O.A.T. Soccer Teams. ISBN 9781728404424.
––––. G.O.A.T. Women’s Basketball Teams. ISBN 9781728404455.
Levit, Joe. G.O.A.T. Football Teams. ISBN 9781728404400.
ea vol: 32p. (Greatest of All Time Teams). Lerner. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 4-6 –What is the greatest team of all time? Breaking it down in a 10-team countdown format, the G.O.A.T.s are described in epic sports writing that highlights the teams’ noteworthy players and history-making achievements. G.O.A.T. Baseball Teams includes three appearances by the New York Yankees. Perhaps more shockingly, there are no duplicates in G.O.A.T. Football Teams! G.O.A.T. Hockey Teams includes both male and female teams, professional and amateur alike. Young U.S. soccer fans will cheer at the U.S. Women’s National Team’s multiple appearances in G.O.A.T. Soccer Teams. Both men’s and women’s professional basketball receive their own welcome treatments in separate titles. Readers may agree (or disagree, as the “Your G.O.A.T.” sections encourage) with the authors’ conclusions, but regardless of their personal feelings, they’ll learn a ton and be entertained along the way. VERDICT The high-energy writing makes this series, jam-packed with fast facts, ideal for statheads. A recommended first purchase.

Gitlin, Marty. Big Business in Esports. ISBN 9781532194412.
Hudd, Emily. Gaming Careers in Esports. ISBN 9781532194450.
McCarthy, Cecilia Pinto. Technology in Esports. ISBN 9781532194467.
Nicks, Erin. College Esports. ISBN 9781532194429.
––––. Esports Competitions. ISBN 9781532194436.
––––. Esports Stars. ISBN 9781532194443.
ea vol: 32p. (Esports Explosion). ABDO/SportsZone. Dec. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 3-5 –While most sports’ fan bases are stagnating or shrinking, esports’ base is booming and this series explains why. Big Business in Esports simplifies the process video games go through to become official esports. Technology in Esports dives deeper into game development, plus tech requirements for professional gaming. College Esports details how gaming became part of universities’ athletic departments and scholarship opportunities for up-and-coming gamers. This title also talks about inclusion of women in esports, which could frankly have a book all its own. Gaming Careers in Esports shares both the successes and difficulties awaiting professional athletes as well as the management and backend game development careers available. Readers can learn more about those professional athletes and the tournaments that win them big money in Esports Stars and Esports Competitions. The writing is clear and while not particularly exciting, it’s straightforward and informative. VERDICT Useful if your collection is lacking in this arena.

Goodman, Michael E. Atlanta Braves. ISBN 9781640262959.
––––. New York Mets. ISBN 9781640263116.
––––. New York Yankees. ISBN 9781640263123.
––––. Philadelphia Phillies. ISBN 9781640263147.
––––. Pittsburgh Pirates. ISBN 9781640263154.
––––. Washington Nationals. ISBN 9781640263239.
Whiting, Jim. Arizona Diamondbacks. ISBN 9781640262942.
––––. Baltimore Orioles. ISBN 9781640262966.
––––. Boston Red Sox. ISBN 9781640262973.
––––. Chicago Cubs. ISBN 9781640262980.
––––. Chicago White Sox. ISBN 9781640262997.
––––. Cincinnati Reds. ISBN 9781640263000.
––––. Cleveland Indians. ISBN 9781640263017.
––––. Colorado Rockies. ISBN 9781640263024.
––––. Detroit Tigers. ISBN 9781640263031.
––––. Houston Astros. ISBN 9781640263048.
––––. Kansas City Royals. ISBN 9781640263055.
––––. Los Angeles Angels. ISBN 9781640263062.
––––. Los Angeles Dodgers. ISBN 9781640263079.
––––. Miami Marlins. ISBN 9781640263086.
––––. Milwaukee Brewers. ISBN 9781640263093.
––––. Minnesota Twins. ISBN 9781640263109.
––––. Oakland Athletics. ISBN 9781640263130.
––––. San Diego Padres. ISBN 9781640263178.
––––. San Francisco Giants. ISBN 9781640263185.
––––. Seattle Mariners. ISBN 9781640263192.
––––. St. Louis Cardinals. ISBN 9781640263161.
––––. Tampa Bay Rays. ISBN 9781640263208.
––––. Texas Rangers. ISBN 9781640263215.
––––. Toronto Blue Jays. ISBN 9781640263222.
ea vol: 32p. (Creative Sports: Veterans). The Creative Company. Jan. 2021. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 4-7 –For readers looking to gain a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of their favorite team, this series is almost impeccable. Spanning the history of each team, from creation to present day, Goodman and Whiting provide thorough, well-researched histories that are engaging and informative. The narratives flow naturally, broken up only occasionally by short “Extra Innings” sections highlighting star players and unique moments in the teams’ histories. Particularly interesting tidbits include the so-called “Black Cat Mystery,” a moment in a Mets game where a black cat crawled out of the stands and spooked the Chicago Cubs into a loss. Mentions of mascots and between-inning fanfare, like the Milwaukee Brewers’ homer-celebrating Bernie Brewer and the Washington Nationals’ racing presidents, will intrigue casual readers and delight avid fans, giving them more insight into the creation of these unique characters. VERDICT Overall, this series is a grand slam. Buy ’em all if you can!


Capstone hit it out of the park with “Sports Illustrated Kids Prime Time Plays” and “Sports Illustrated Kids Stars of Sports,” both exceptionally written and exciting for readers. Bellwether/Blastoff! Readers and North Star Editions/Focus Readers came through for the easy reader squads with “Let’s Play Sports!” and “Biggest Names in Sports.” The Creative Company gave us the nearly impeccable “Creative Sports: Veterans,” which is suitable for upper elementary and even middle schoolers—both for free reading and report writing. Lerner’s “Greatest of All Time Teams” is an exceptionally fun and informative series as well. Sports nonfiction can get to that niche of athletes who don’t really love reading with an admirable success rate, so honestly, any attention you can give this area is well worth it. Now get out there and give it your best shot, slugger!

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