Winning Sports Nonfiction for Kids & Teens

Reliable nonfiction collections boast robust sports sections that complement the needs of the community while also offering a glimpse into some fields that may seem a little quirky.

Many teams have a star player without whom success is not guaranteed (think along the lines of Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers), but no all-star could win the day by themselves. If you consider your youth collection a team, you need those stalwart background players to support the champs, giving you a solid depth chart that translates into victory—the right book in the right reader’s hands. Reliable nonfiction collections boast robust sports sections that complement the needs of the community while also offering a glimpse into some fields that may seem a little quirky, such as Quidditch. Curious about which series to add to your team? We’ve got you covered.


Adamson, Thomas K. Basketball Records. ISBN 9781626177826.

––––. Olympic Records. ISBN 9781626177857.

––––. Soccer Records. ISBN 9781626177864.

Hoena, Blake. Baseball Records. ISBN 9781626177819.

––––. Football Records. ISBN 9781626177833.

––––. Hockey Records. ISBN 9781626177840.

ea vol: 32p. (Incredible Sports Records). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.95.

Gr 2-4 –A somewhat pleasing update on record breakers. Colorful, flashy photos and a clean, simple layout give this series an edge over its competition. Many statistics won’t surprise readers: Wayne Gretzky holds nearly every hockey record, and Jerry Rice’s receiving records make him a football legend. Sometimes the pictures don’t match their captions. In Basketball an image of Kyle Korver is alongside a caption about LeBron James. One big gripe: as is typical of many baseball stat books for this age group, most industry controversies are glossed over or not mentioned, namely home run records set during MLB’s steroid era. VERDICT Best for browsers who are familiar with the games and don’t want to dig through an entire records book.

Bailer, Darice. Kickball. ISBN 9781503823709.

––––. Street Football. ISBN 9781503823730.

––––. Ultimate. ISBN 9781503823754.

Ellenport, Craig. Pick-up Basketball. ISBN 9781503823686.

Laughlin, Kara L. Capture the Flag. ISBN 9781503823693.

––––. Four Square. ISBN 9781503823723.

––––. Parkour. ISBN 9781503823716.

––––. Street Hockey. ISBN 9781503823747.

ea vol: 24p. (Neighborhood Sports). further reading. glossary. photos. The Child’s World. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 2-4 –Backyard games are described in detail in this spirited series. In each title, full-color photos show the setup of the game and demonstrate how players should position themselves. For instance, in Ultimate instructions on how to do a backhand throw are accompanied by mid-action images of a player modeling the correct form. The text notes in Four Square that rules of the game can vary regionally but that the basics of play are similar everywhere. Some subjects, like parkour, may be less familiar to readers, but Laughlin does a reasonably good job introducing it and preaching safe play, especially because injury can occur if advanced moves are attempted too soon. The simple language and limited amount of text on each page make it a good choice for readers still developing their skills. VERDICT A serviceable choice for elementary schoolers that is worthy of consideration.

Braun, Eric. Baseball Is a Numbers Game: A Fan’s Guide to Stats. ISBN 9781 543506099.

––––. Basketball Is a Numbers Game: A Fan’s Guide to Stats. ISBN 9781543506082.

Frederick, Shane. Football Is a Numbers Game: A Fan’s Guide to Stats. ISBN 9781543506105.

––––. Hockey Is a Numbers Game: A Fan’s Guide to Stats. ISBN 9781543506075.

ea vol: 32p. (Know the Stats). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.99.

Gr 4-6 –A refreshing fusion of math and sports. These engaging volumes include lots of references to current stars and iconic athletes, blending readable sports writing with a little bit of how the sausage gets made—the math behind those statistics viewers see before, during, and after every game—in a way that is exceedingly palatable. The basics of each activity (offense, defense, etc.) take a backseat to the stories of big plays, blockbuster players, and how numbers determine who is the best of the best. Baseball has the most equations, some of which are more easily calculated than others, but all of the books do a fine job showing the equations or at least describing why the statistic is worth knowing. VERDICT The crowd goes wild—they’re a hit! A top choice for middle grade readers.

Ervin, Phil. 12 Reasons to Love Basketball. ISBN 9781632354266.

––––. 12 Reasons to Love Hockey. ISBN 9781632354280.

Howel, Brian. 12 Reasons to Love Football. ISBN 9781632354273.

Kortemeier, Todd. 12 Reasons to Love Lacrosse. ISBN 9781632354297.

––––. 12 Reasons to Love Track and Field. ISBN 9781632354310.

––––. 12 Reasons to Love Volleyball. ISBN 9781632354327.

Mason, Tyler. 12 Reasons to Love Baseball. ISBN 9781632354259.

Trusdel, Brian. 12 Reasons to Love Soccer. ISBN 9781632354303.

ea vol: 32p. (Sports Report). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. 12 Story Library. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $31.35.

Gr 4-6 –Each book in this series describes exactly a dozen reasons why the titular activity is one to love. In each title, intermittent critical thinking sections prompt students to consider different angles. For example, Track and Field notes how sprinting record times get shorter and shorter while asking readers if they think the current record can be broken or if that is the limit of human speed. A spread in Lacrosse acknowledges the game’s roots in many American Indian nations; however, much of the discussion is clumsily handled (“Colonial Europeans discovered the game after entering the New World”). While the titles are mostly useful for the uninitiated, kids who enjoy more will come away with some new trivia. VERDICT­ A supplementary purchase.

Kortemeier, Todd. Caring in Sports. ISBN 9781635175295.

––––. Citizenship in Sports. ISBN 9781 635175301.

––––. Courage in Sports. ISBN 9781 635175318.

––––. Fairness in Sports. ISBN 9781 635175325.

––––. Perseverance in Sports. ISBN 9781 635175332.

––––. Respect in Sports. ISBN 9781 635175349.

––––. Responsibility in Sports. ISBN 9781 635175356.

––––. Trustworthiness in Sports. ISBN 9781 635175363.

ea vol: 32p. (Sports Build Character). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Focus Readers. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 2-4 –For coaches, caregivers, and teachers seeking to steer sore losers toward good sportsmanship, these books will be a boon. Real-world examples of desired qualities are provided via role model athletes. For example, in Citizenship, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry give back in truly inspiring ways. (Brees helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Curry brings mosquito nets to people in areas prone to malaria outbreaks.) After perusing these volumes, players will feel compelled to bring kindness onto the field. In addition, follow-up questions in each volume encourage readers to deepen their connection to the concepts. VERDICT A thoughtful series to encourage sportsmanship among hyper-competitive kids. Sure to be a hit with teachers and students.

Labrecque, Ellen. Alpine Skiing. ISBN 9781534107502.

––––. Curling. ISBN 9781534107540.

––––. Figure Skating. ISBN 9781534107564.

––––. Ice Hockey. ISBN 9781534107526.

––––. Nordic Skiing. ISBN 9781534107519.

––––. Sliding. ISBN 9781534107533.

––––. Snowboarding. ISBN 9781534107496.

––––. Speed Skating. ISBN 9781534107557.

ea vol: 32p. (21st Century Skills Library: Global Citizens; Olympic Sports). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $29.93.

Gr 4-6 –These books offer fairly dense, text-heavy accounts of the evolution of different Olympic winter sports. Descriptions of gear, all-time best athletes, and dynasties of each sport provide young researchers with a lot of fodder for reports. Most notable is inclusion of climate change and its effect on outdoor winter sports in Alpine Skiing, Nordic Skiing, and Snowboarding. The somewhat dry writing will not have huge appeal to casual browsers. The sparse visuals don’t do much to break up the long chunks of text. ­VERDICT Unlikely to garner a readership outside of those with schoolwork needs.

Lyon, Drew. Baseball’s Best and Worst: A Guide to the Game’s Good, Bad, and Ugly. ISBN 9781543506136.

––––. Football’s Best and Worst: A Guide to the Game’s Good, Bad, and Ugly. ISBN 9781543506143.

McCollum, Sean. Basketball’s Best and Worst: A Guide to the Game’s Good, Bad, and Ugly. ISBN 9781543506129.

––––. Hockey’s Best and Worst: A Guide to the Game’s Good, Bad, and Ugly. ISBN 9781543506112.

ea vol: 32p. (The Best and Worst of Sports). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.99.

Gr 4-6 –Resembling the layout of a tabloid magazine, this series is a light, enjoyable read. Some topics are handled in a serious manner (Babe Ruth vs. Mario Mendoza), while others are just silly, such as Rollie Fingers’s legendary mustache vs. Randy Johnson’s mullet. Funny moments and bloopers in each will surely elicit a few giggles, particularly Mark Sanchez’s infamous “Butt Fumble” featured in Football’s. Basketball’s is the only volume that includes a woman athlete. Written in a clever, high-energy language, these are sure to entertain their target audience—casual browsers and the Guinness World Record crowd. VERDICT Will circulate well despite its almost all-male focus.

Mikoley, Kate. Baseball: Stats, Facts, and ­Figures. ISBN 9781538211274.

––––. Basketball: Stats, Facts, and Figures. ISBN 9781538211311.

––––. Football: Stats, Facts, and Figures. ISBN 9781538211359.

––––. Hockey: Stats, Facts, and Figures. ISBN 9781538211397.

––––. NASCAR: Stats, Facts, and Figures. ISBN 9781538211434.

––––. Soccer: Stats, Facts, and Figures. ISBN 9781538211472.

ea vol: 32p. (Do Math with Sports Stats!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 4-6 –Teachers will love this series that describes statistics in clear, succinct writing. Each volume encourages readers to do small word problems, such as calculating the area of a soccer pitch. The overviews of the figures tracked for each sport are detailed and thorough and descriptions of how knowing the background of the stat is more beneficial than just knowing the number allow the author to describe each game in depth. The colorful photographs are overlaid with ghostly math equations, a design element that was wholly unnecessary, but the layout is otherwise uncluttered. VERDICT This is a series worth having in classrooms, but it won’t get picked up by browsers.

Omoth, Tyler. College Basketball’s Championship. ISBN 9781543504958.

––––. Pro Baseball’s Championship. ISBN 9781543504972.

––––. Pro Football’s Championship. ISBN 9781543504798.

––––. Pro Hockey’s Championship. ISBN 9781543504934.

ea vol: 32p. (Major Sports Championships). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 2-4 –In uncomplicated terms, the author describes the basics of how each sport finds its champion. The history, rules, and background of the World Series, Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, and NCAA March Madness bracket system are complex, but readers who are unfamiliar with these playoffs will walk away with a solid foundational knowledge after perusing these volumes. Tons of lively graphics and fact callouts, peppered throughout each book, direct attention and will keep reluctant readers and browsers interested. Each volume wraps up with a few wow moments, such as David Tyree’s famous 2007 Helmet Catch that helped the Giants win the Super Bowl. With tales of Hall of Fame caliber, athletes making game-changing plays, and modern stars who’ll no doubt shine in more moments, these slim titles will keep students cheering. VERDICT There’s crossover between reluctant readers and sports fans—pass this series to both.

Middle to High School

Aswell, Sarah. Intro to Show Jumping. ISBN 9781532113444.

Lauryssens, Molly. Intro to Rodeo. ISBN 9781532113437.

Lusted, Marcia Amidon. Intro to Horse Polo. ISBN 9781532113413.

Sanderson, Whitney. Intro to Dressage. ISBN 9781532113390.

––––. Intro to Eventing. ISBN 9781532113406.

––––. Intro to Horse Racing. ISBN 9781532113420.

ea vol: 48p. (Saddle Up!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $32.79.

Gr 5-8 –Readers seeking information about all-things equestrian will appreciate this informative series. The straightforward writing and occasional photographs will appeal to report writers and curious readers alike. Each volume includes the backstory and development of the specific sport, as well as descriptions of training methods and gear. While some of the topics may be more familiar to readers (racing or horse jumping), others, such as horse polo and eventing, are more niche. The athleticism and range of both the riders and their steeds is clear, particularly in Rodeo and Eventing. VERDICT Thorough introductions to horse-related sports are few and far between—good ones are very rare. A first pick.

Avise, Jonathan. Lionel Messi vs. Pelé. ISBN 9781532113567.

Glave, Tom. Tiger Woods vs. Jack Nicklaus. ISBN 9781532113598.

Graves, Will. Sidney Crosby vs. Wayne Gretzky. ISBN 9781532113581.

Howell, Brian. LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan. ISBN 9781532113550.

Monnig, Alex. Serena Williams vs. Billie Jean King. ISBN 9781532113574.

Wilner, Barry. Tom Brady vs. Joe Montana. ISBN 9781532113604.

ea vol: 32p. (Versus). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 5-8 –Readers who flock to these books looking for a definitive answers will be disappointed; however, anyone who’s a fan will recognize immediately that the athletes chosen for comparison are well matched. Each volume includes brief biographical information about the athletes before launching into comparisons of their many gifts and talents. Some pairs, such as Lionel Messi and Pelé or LeBron James and Michael Jordan, are such great counterparts that it’s almost impossible to say there’s a clear victor. In other cases, readers can clearly see how each player’s strengths were different. Who would come out on top if these phenomenal stars met up in their respective primes? The titles on the more well-known athletes are more likely to circulate than the less familiar ones, but they’re all fascinating. VERDICT A real winner for middle school collections.

Carothers, Thomas. Sports’ One-Hit Wonders. ISBN 9781532113697.

Gitlin, Marty. Sports’ Most Memorable Characters. ISBN 9781532113680.

Graves, Will. Greatest Teams That Didn’t Win It All. ISBN 9781532113642.

Hall, Brian. Careers Cut Short. ISBN 9781532113635.

Marthaler, Jon. Offbeat Sports. ISBN 9781532113666.

Mason, Tyler. Biggest Scandals in Sports. ISBN 9781532113628.

Rule, Heather. Sports’ Greatest Turnarounds. ISBN 9781532113673.

Wilner, Barry. Hard-to-Beat Sports Records. ISBN 9781532113659.

ea vol: 48p. (The Wild World of Sports). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $32.79.

Gr 5-8 –Reading more like encyclopedias than narrative sports nonfiction, each book in this series covers athletes from a wide range of fields that fit the bill of the title. Memorable Characters includes tennis spitfire John McEnroe and football braggadocio Chad Ochocinco. Offbeat describes roller derby—and Quidditch! While all the books are enjoyable to read, perhaps the best are those that rely on emotional stories. Careers Cut Short discusses players whose injuries or untimely deaths curtailed their careers, such as baseball players Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente. Biggest Scandals dives into the steroid era in baseball and has a section on the infamous Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan kneecapping incident. VERDICT A fine series for robust collections serving readers who like to learn a little about a lot.

Marquardt, Meg. STEM in Auto Racing. ISBN 9781532113468.

––––. STEM in Soccer. ISBN 9781532113536.

Martin, Brett S. STEM in Football. ISBN 9781532113505.

––––. STEM in Hockey. ISBN 9781532113512.

McKinney, Donna B. STEM in Snowboarding. ISBN 9781532113529.

Smibert, Angie. STEM in Basketball. ISBN 9781532113482.

Ventura, Marne. STEM in Baseball. ISBN 9781532113475.

––––. STEM in Figure Skating. ISBN 9781532113499.

ea vol: 48p. (STEM in Sports). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $32.79.

Gr 5-8 –The breakdown of each concept into individual chapters allows the authors to fully analyze the impact STEM plays on the titular sport. Even games that seem relatively low-tech, where the gear required for play is fairly minimal, have fascinating STEM implications, such as the Magnus effect in soccer, which lets players bend it like Beckham, or shatterproof backboards in basketball. While all the volumes provide fascinating reading, Auto Racing stands out for its description of how technology and science have led to leaner, lighter, and faster vehicles with fuel specifically engineered to maximize performance, and steering wheels that allow drivers to know everything about their vehicle’s performance. In addition, abundant visuals make this a great series for curious readers and researchers alike. VERDICT MVPs of the season. A top buy.

It’s a solid field this year. Of all the standout series, six are champions. The Child’s World’s “Neighborhood Sports” is a great series for young readers who are looking for a new game to play with their buddies. Focus Readers’ “Sports Build Character” is a must-have in schools and libraries for its promotion of empathy and kindness. Capstone’s “Know the Stats” sprinkle math in delicately, while ABDO’s “STEM in Sports” is unrelenting in its digging into the nerdy side of athletics. ABDO has two more phenomenal series in “Versus” and “Saddle Up.” Analyze your collection, see where the gaps exist, and select some of these free agents to round out your squad.

Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

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