Let’s Play! | Sports Series Nonfiction

Thirteen new sports series cover everything from martial arts and racing to team sports like hockey, basketball, baseball, and more. 


Athletes routinely push their bodies to do astounding, seemingly superhuman feats. Perhaps that’s why that Dewey range gets a lot of face time with young readers eager to learn all they can about their heroes. When done right, sports nonfiction can inspire readers with intense play-by-plays or fascinating facts, the same kinds of dramatic ups and downs that make being a fan simultaneously thrilling and heartbreaking. This season, we’ve selected a huge range of titles that explore the wide and wonderful world of sports. Readers will see differently abled athletes challenge themselves to achieve the highest levels of their sport, learn all about the women athletes demanding radical change, and explore some truly unique sports (Quidditch, anyone?). You ready? Let’s play!


Black, Nessa. Biking. ISBN 9781681518077.
––––. Camping. ISBN 9781681518084.
––––. Canoeing. ISBN 9781681518091.
––––. Fishing. ISBN 9781681518107.
––––. Gardening. ISBN 9781681518114.
––––. Hiking. ISBN 9781681518121.
––––. Horseback Riding. ISBN 9781681518138.
––––. Rock Climbing. ISBN 9781681518145.
ea vol: 16p. (Spot Outdoor Fun). Amicus. Jan. 2020. Tr. $27.10.
K-Gr 2 –Clear layouts and well-defined text boxes make this easy reader series clean and focused. Each book features a variety of people enjoying the great outdoors. Repetition throughout with no more than three sentences on each spread and a slow, steady introduction of new words build confidence for young readers. Those vocabulary words are placed alongside picture clues at both the beginning and the end of each book. The bright, colorful photos are inviting and feature a diverse cast. Camping shows kids and adults enjoying camping in all kinds of weather and in various climates. The only book in the set that feels slightly out of step is Gardening, as it’s less of a sport than a hobby, but it’s still a warm, welcoming introduction. Not super informative, but a lovely easy reader nonfiction series nonetheless. VERDICT Could be useful in filling gaps in very early nonfiction collections.


Dittmer, Lori. Baseball. ISBN 9781640262119.
––––. Basketball. ISBN 9781640262126.
––––. Football. ISBN 9781640262133.
––––. Soccer. ISBN 9781640262140.
––––. Tennis. ISBN 9781640262157.
––––. Volleyball. ISBN 9781640262164.
ea vol: 24p. (Amazing Sports). Creative Company/Creative Education. Jan. 2020. Tr. $29.95.
PreS-Gr 2 –Super simplified overviews of different sports in a big, picture book trim size make this series a nice addition for educators. Each book presents a basic examination of its sport for the youngest group of readers. Rules are kept very general but are detailed enough to ensure readers’ understanding and appreciation of the game. Both U.S. and metric measurements are included. “Story of a Player” sections at the end of each book highlight superstars like Tom Brady in Football and Venus and Serena Williams in Tennis. Many of the sports include photos of male- and female-presenting athletes, though all appear able-bodied and neurotypical. The writing is pared down and not particularly compelling, but it gets the job done. ­ VERDICT A supplemental series if you’re looking for books for this particular age group.


Albino, Dustin. Superfast Formula 1 Racing. ISBN 9781541577220.
Reinke, Beth Bence. Superfast Stock Car Racing. ISBN 9781541577176.
Roselius, J Chris. Superfast Drag Racing. ISBN 9781541577190.
––––. Superfast Rally Car Racing. ISBN 9781541577206.
Slingerland, Janet. Superfast Motorcycle Racing. ISBN 9781541577213.
Wolkin, Joseph Steven. Superfast Indy Car Racing. ISBN 9781541577183.
ea vol: 32p. (Extreme Speed (Lerner ™ Sports)). Lerner. Jan. 2020. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 2-5 –Young researchers will gain much from this streamlined set. Each book speeds into the history of racing as well as the process of preparing for and competing in the races. Formula 1 cars have such specific guidelines that even the driver’s weight is regulated—they can’t weigh less than 176 pounds or the vehicle will be too light. Going far beyond the simple descriptions of racing, these books describe how the cars are built, how they’ve evolved, and the electronic components that give drivers incredible control. Protective gear is described for all, but it is particularly emphasized for motorcycle racers as they crash frequently and have no other protection. “Profiles in Speed” introduce readers to famous racers like Jimmie Johnson and Nico Rosberg. The clean layout with minimal sidebars is inviting for older readers using these books for research purposes. ­VERDICT A recommended first purchase.


Bowers, Matt. Individual Sports at the Paralympics. ISBN 9781681518299.
––––. Team Sports at the Paralympics. ISBN 9781681518305.
––––. Water Sports at the Paralympics. ISBN 9781681518282.
––––. Wheelchair Sports at the Paralympics. ISBN 9781681518275.
ea vol: 32p. (Paralympic Sports). Amicus. Jan. 2020. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 2-4 –This standout series handles para athletics with the care and consideration it deserves. Readers will learn that para athletics has different sport classes. These divisions are maintained to keep the events fair based on the athletes’ impairments and how their individual impairments impact their ability to do their selected sport. Individual sports, like racing, cycling, archery, and the triathlon, can be done mostly alone, though some visually impaired athletes require a guide to race alongside them. Team sports are exciting too, whether it’s sitting volleyball, five-a-side (which is soccer with a noisemaking ball for visually impaired athletes), or goalball (which is similar to soccer dodgeball). Water sports and wheelchair sports can be performed individually or with teams. Readers will be inspired by the amazing athletes who work hard and win medals for their ­performances. VERDICT An essential first purchase for all libraries.



Brainard, Jason. Brazilian Jujitsu. ISBN 9781725310049.
Corso, Phil. Jujitsu. ISBN 9781725310087.
––––. Tae Kwon Do. ISBN 9781725310247.
Faust, Daniel R. Kung Fu. ISBN 9781725310209.
Kelley, K.C. Aikido. ISBN 9781725310001.
Roza, Greg. Judo. ISBN 9781725310124.
Vink, Amanda. Karate. ISBN 9781725310162.
ea vol: 24p. (Enter the Dojo! Martial Arts for Kids). Rosen/PowerKids. Jan. 2020. Tr. $23.60.
Gr 3-6 –Readers just getting into martial arts will appreciate the wealth of information presented in this series. The books distinguish between martial arts that are more grappling focused, like Brazilian jujitsu (BJJ) and jujitsu; striking martial arts, like karate and kung fu; and defensive martial arts, like aikido and tae kwon do. Fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and mixed-martial arts competitions will recognize BJJ, a mix of judo and jujitsu, as well as its parent forms of judo and jujitsu from their many binds. Tae kwon do and aikido focus on defusing, dodging, and blocking. The books all emphasize the health benefits of martial arts as well as how useful they can be in self-defense. VERDICT With straight forward, clear writing and images, this is an informative option to update your shelves.


Buckey, A.W. Women in Basketball. ISBN 9781644930595.
––––. Women in Softball. ISBN 9781644930632.
––––. Women in Swimming. ISBN 9781644930649.
––––. Women in Volleyball. ISBN 9781644930663.
Duling, Kaitlyn. Women in Hockey. ISBN 9781644930601.
Marquardt, Meg. Women in Lacrosse. ISBN 9781644930618.
––––. Women in Soccer. ISBN 9781644930625.
––––. Women in Track and Field. ISBN 9781644930656.
ea vol: 32p. (She’s Got Game). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 4-7 –This series illuminates the importance of Title IX. Readers will learn the history of women in each sport and will become experts equipped with weird trivia facts to boot. For example, when women started playing an early version of basketball, they were assigned to one of three zones that they couldn’t leave. That rule persisted until 1971, when they got to play full court. Another fun fact: Women first played soccer in high-heeled boots. Tidbits like these add to the books’ readability. Superstars of each sport are introduced. Pay inequity between men and women is rightfully called out. Focus questions test reader comprehension. Full-page photographs complement the well-written and engaging text, which contains ample facts for report writers. VERDICT Highly recommended for every library.

Capitano, Madison & Pablo de la Vega. The Catcher. ISBN 9781731628923.
––––. The Linebacker. ISBN 9781731628862.
––––. The Pitcher. ISBN 9781731628893.
––––. The Power Forward. ISBN 9781731628985.
––––. The Quarterback. ISBN 9781731628831.
––––. The Soccer Goalie. ISBN 9781731628954.
ea vol: 32p. (Playmakers in Sports). Rourke/Escape. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-9 –This bilingual series introduces readers to sports positions across various disciplines. The roles are not specific to one sport, but the books focus on players that can be stars (pitchers, power forwards, quarterbacks) as well as the ones who are game savers (catchers and linebackers). Simple English text on each page is followed by a Spanish translation. Glossary terms are defined in both languages on the pages where they are first introduced. Each book wraps up with a memory game; readers are asked to remember what they learned on the pages where the pictures appeared. There are also comprehension questions and suggested activities, like inventing your own pitching signs in The Catcher. Male and female athletes in most of the books (football excluded) show sensitivity to representation. VERDICT Consider for their usefulness as world language texts rather than sports nonfiction.


Chandler, Matt. Alex Morgan: Soccer Champion. ISBN 9781543591682.
––––. Chloe Kim: Gold-Medal Snowboarder. ISBN 9781543591743.
––––. Giannis Antetokounmpo: Basketball Powerhouse. ISBN 9781543591712.
––––. Kevin Durant: Basketball Champion. ISBN 9781543591705.
––––. Khalil Mack: Football Dominator. ISBN 9781543591675.
––––. Patrick Mahomes: Football MVP. ISBN 9781543591750.
Frederick, Shane. Auston Matthews: Hockey Dynamo. ISBN 9781543591729.
––––. Candace Parker: Basketball Star. ISBN 9781543591767.
ea vol: 32p. (Stars of Sports). Capstone. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.65.
Gr 3-5 –This snappy series provides bios of current big-name athletes. The overviews offer an in-depth look at each athlete’s rise to fame, including their early life and preprofessional play. For soccer star Alex Morgan and snowboarding phenom Chloe Kim, the author touches briefly what they plan to do after their sports career is over (they can’t compete forever, after all). Readers may be surprised to learn that NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who grew up poor in Greece, sent all his money to his family overseas during his rookie season. After Super Bowl LIV, Patrick Mahomes books will be in great demand (and will be slightly outdated). The writing is solid in each book and with stars like these, you can’t go wrong. VERDICT Well-written options, so pick what will be popular in your community.


Decker, Michael. Dodgeball. ISBN 9781532190384.
––––. Fantasy Football. ISBN 9781532190391.
London, Martha. Pickleball. ISBN 9781532190407.
––––. Quidditch. ISBN 9781532190414.
––––. Roller Derby. ISBN 9781532190421.
––––. Ultimate Frisbee. ISBN 9781532190438.
ea vol: 32p. (The Greater World of Sports). ABDO/SportsZone. Dec. 2019. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-6 –Get ready to get weird! The history and rules of these sports are discussed in depth in this series. Each requires its own unique equipment, like the skates used for roller derby and the frisbees used for ultimate frisbee. Some of these sports are older, but Quidditch is fairly new, having started in 2005 when some college students and Harry Potter fans wanted to bring the wizarding world’s favorite game into the real world. Colorful photos make each game seem exciting and energetic. Pickleball notably shows people of many ages and with different levels of physical ability, marking it as the only title in this series that discusses ability. These are well-written guides to lesser-known sports that could encourage the possibility of invention. VERDICT Great first purchases if your shelves in these sections are bare.


Derr, Aaron. Individual Sports of the Summer Games. ISBN 9781634407205.
––––. Individual Sports of the Winter Games. ISBN 9781634407212.
––––. Sports of the Paralympic Games. ISBN 9781634407243.
––––. Team Sports of the Summer Games. ISBN 9781634407229.
––––. Team Sports of the Winter Games. ISBN 9781634407236.
ea vol: 48p. (Gold Medal Games). Red Chair. Jan. 2020. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 3-5 –These Olympics guides are ready to deliver 2020 Games content early. The straightforward writing style is simple but not boring, engaging readers with informative overviews of the events. Individual Sports of the Summer Games covers many of the individual events and also includes team sports like synchronized swimming, veering slightly off topic to cover a lesser-known competitive sport. The team sports books dig into all the big events like basketball and hockey. Sports of the Paralympic Games addresses how “paralympic” is a portmanteau of “paraplegic” and “Olympics” and mentions that “para” also means “alongside” in Greek. The narrative of each story is well composed, but for readers who need brain breaks, there are sidebars and groan-worthy sports jokes. Perhaps most importantly, controversy is not ignored; the mention of the many years of sexual abuse by the USA Gymnastics doctor is a brief but critical admission. ­ VERDICT Highly recommended.


Duling, Kaitlyn. What It Takes to Be a Pro Hockey Player. ISBN 9781632357625.
––––. What It Takes to Be a Pro Lacrosse Player. ISBN 9781632357632.
––––. What It Takes to Be a Pro Soccer Player. ISBN 9781632357649.
Mattern, Joanne. What It Takes to Be a Pro Baseball Player. ISBN 9781632357595.
––––. What It Takes to Be a Pro Basketball Player. ISBN 9781632357601.
––––. What It Takes to Be a Pro Football Player. ISBN 9781632357618.
ea vol: 32p. (Play Like a Pro). Bookstaves/12 Story Library. Jan. 2020. Tr. $31.35.
Gr 3-5 –This series outlines the path pros take to make it big. The beginnings of each sport are discussed and while some (soccer) have disputed origins, others (basketball and lacrosse) have clear genesis stories. In most, players begin with a rec or traveling league as a kid, play with a high school squad, then go on to play in college before being drafted or are drafted professionally right out of high school. Fitness and nutrition basics are outlined, as are players’ post-career options. Sled hockey and wheelchair lacrosse are just several spots where this series highlights players with disabilities. While all books discuss injuries, What It Takes to Be a Pro Soccer Player recommends taking care of mental and physical health. Two minor bones to pick: Soccer claims players wear elbow and knee pads; they do not. Football talks about Tim Tebow as if he still plays; he hasn’t played in the NFL since 2012 and now plays Minor League Baseball. VERDICT Mostly good information for aspiring athletes.


Hewson, Anthony K. Adam Thielen: Football Star. ISBN 9781644930564.
––––. Brooks Koepka: Golf Star. ISBN 9781644930533.
––––. JuJu Smith-Schuster: Football Star. ISBN 9781644930557.
Monnig, Alex. Luka Doncic: Basketball Star. ISBN 9781644930526.
Patrick, Lee. Aaron Donald: Football Star. ISBN 9781644930519.
––––. Christian Yelich: Baseball Star. ISBN 9781644930571.
––––. Saquon Barkley: Football Star. ISBN 9781644930502.
Scheff, Matt. Naomi Osaka: Tennis Star. ISBN 9781644930540.
ea vol: 32p. (Biggest Names in Sports). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 4-7 –This informative series shares the life stories of favorite pro athletes. Each book includes the history of the superstar’s rise in their particular field as well as a synopsis of key moments in their careers. Not only do the books comprehensively cover the athletes’ careers, some make mention of retirement plans. JuJu Smith-Schuster knows he can’t be a wide receiver forever, so he hopes to turn his hobby of gaming into a career after he retires. Each book emphasizes how the stars use their money and fame to help others, like how Christian Yelich worked to raise money after the devastating California wildfires. Naomi Osaka’s bio includes a sensitive look at her 2018 U.S. Open win, which was tinged with sadness as the crowd booed her victory over Serena Williams. Young readers will definitely come away inspired to work hard on their dreams. VERDICT Recommended first purchases.


Kelley, K.C. WNBA Records and Trivia. ISBN 9781503835320.
––––. WNBA Superstars. ISBN 9781503835337.
––––. WNBA Young Stars. ISBN 9781503835344.
Labrecque, Ellen. All-Time Best WNBA Players. ISBN 9781503835290.
––––. The Story of the WNBA. ISBN 9781503835306.
––––. WNBA Champions. ISBN 9781503835313.
ea vol: 24p. (Women’s Professional Basketball). The Child’s World. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-5 –Young readers will be inspired by the accomplishments of professional women’s basketball players spotlighted in this series. WNBA Records and Trivia has a different record called out on each spread, illustrated with great action shots of the stars mentioned—notably Diana Taurasi; who holds records for all-time points, all-time free throws made, most three-point shots made, and most points in a season. Superstars and Young Stars highlight all the best female ballers, listing their accomplishments and stats in quick overviews. All-Time Best includes Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes, two players from the first season of the WNBA who are both Basketball Hall of Fame inductees. The books aren’t packed with information, but they have an inspiring, hopeful tone. VERDICT Your shelves are probably missing influential women ballers—this set will fix that gap. Highly recommended.



Bach, Greg. Justin Verlander. ISBN 9781422244388.
––––. Mike Trout. ISBN 9781422244401.
––––. Nolan Arenado. ISBN 9781422244425.
Parker, Donald. Christian Yelich. ISBN 9781422244418.
––––. Max Scherzer. ISBN 9781422244395.
ea vol: 80p. (Ballpark Greats: Pro Baseball’s Best Players). National Highlights/Mason Crest. Jan. 2020. Tr. $34.60.
Gr 7 Up –Readers who have been enduring football season just to make it to baseball spring training will be happy to find this on the shelves. Each player is given the full biographical treatment, including “The Greatest Career Moments,” which are accompanied by QR codes linking to videos of the specific plays. A chapter dedicated to player quotes rates the sound-bites on their originality; some are more cliché than others. It would be an interesting research project to analyze the ingenuity of these short speeches. Text-dependent questions and research project suggestions cap off each chapter. Each book concludes with a chapter about charitable work and personal details. While mostly good, there is some questionable formatting that complicates reading. “The Greatest Career Moments” are inserted into chapter one of each book, breaking up the narrative (in the case of Justin Verlander, splitting a sentence with a nine-page break). VERDICT Cherry-pick based on local popularity.


Miller, Derek. FC Bayern Munich. ISBN 9781502652775.
Shoup, Kate. Paris Saint-Germain FC. ISBN 9781502652867.
––––. Real Madrid CF. ISBN 9781502652621.
Small, Cathleen. Manchester United FC. ISBN 9781502652652.
Young-Brown, Fiona. Chelsea FC. ISBN 9781502652683.
ea vol: 64p. (Soccer’s Greatest Clubs). Rosen/Cavendish Square. Jan. 2020. Tr. $34.21.
Gr 5-8 –In-depth coverage of some of the world’s biggest soccer teams will give new and super fans much to read about. The formation of each team is described and, given the age of many of the teams, the impact of world politics on soccer makes up a large chunk of the narrative. While most were affected by World War I and World War II, the impact of Hitler and the Nazi party on the Bayern Munich team was devastating. Hooliganism and its links to white supremacy are described in full, showing the effect that these negative fans have on the sport and the actions teams have taken to limit their malicious conduct. While most of these titles are excellent, Paris Saint-Germain FC and Real Madrid CF both begin with a description of what soccer is, which seems unnecessary for readers at this level who are presumably already fans. VERDICT Incredibly informative. Cherry-picking recommended.

You’ve gone the distance! You’ve crossed the finish line! You’re ready to take on the world...or at least add to your cart! This season, a few MVPs stand out. “Extreme Speed” (Lerner) allows readers to get up close and personal with incredible race cars (and their drivers and pit crews), a great choice for gearheads. Readers who are new to martial arts will enjoy “Enter the Dojo! Martial Arts for Kids” (Rosen/PowerKids). “Gold Medal Games” (Red Chair) and “Paralympic Sports” (Amicus) will get readers ready for the upcoming 2020 Olympics. For those who love a good sports biography, “She’s Got Game” (North Star Editions/Focus Readers) and “Biggest Names in Sports” (North Star Editions/Focus Readers) as well as “Women’s Professional Basketball” (The Child’s World) have a lot to offer. And hey, toss in “The Greater World of Sports” (ABDO/SportsZone) for those quirky kids. Nice work, champ!

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing