Stock Up On Sports Titles | Fiction & Nonfiction for an Olympic Season

With the arrival of the 2018 Olympics educators can anticipate a spiked interest in sports.
With the arrival of the 2018 Olympics educators can anticipate a spike in interest in sports. Consider creating displays or booktalking some of these recently published fiction and nonfiction titles for a range of grades, some of which add a little science, mystery, science, or romance into the mix. Not all of these games and athletes will be highlighted in the competitions, but the books are sure to garner fans.


ADLER, David A. Pass the Ball, Mo! illus. by Sam Ricks. 32p. (Mo Jackson: Bk. 3). Viking. Jan. 2018. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780425289785. POP PreS-Gr 2–The newest title about the protagonist of Don’t Throw It to Mo! and Get a Hit, Mo! is all about basketball. Mo is the shortest player on the Bees basketball team, but he has big dreams. He practices passing all the time (“’throw it higher,’ Coach Emma tells him”)—at school, at home, even with blueberries into his cereal bowl. When the Bees play the Ducks, Mo is benched for most of the game but gets to come in at the end, when the score is tied. When Mo finally gets the ball, he passes it high—so high that he actually makes a basket and wins the game! The story ends with Coach Emma playfully telling him “it was a very bad pass. But your bad pass won the game.” This charming story has many funny and relatable moments for sports lovers and underdogs, and shows the power of practicing and having the support of family, caring adults, teammates, and friends. There is a great deal of diversity featured in the illustrations—Mo and his family are African American, both basketball teams are coed, and the characters are majority people of color. The spot and full-page illustrations are simple, but with great character expression and movement. VERDICT Another enjoyable “Mo” sports story for beginning readers.–Jenny Berggren, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA ALENE, Catherine. The Sky Between You and Me. 496p. ebook available. Sourcebooks/Fire. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492638537. Gr 10 Up–Raesha is determined to win Nationals. She and her horse, Fancy, must make the best time in the barrel race, and Rae has to be as light as possible. So she begins to deprive herself of food. To complicate matters, a new girl is flirting with Rae’s boyfriend, Cody, and trying to steal Rae’s best friend, Asia. Rae copes by creating her own world, where everything is about control, from keeping track of calories to counting seconds on the clock. Her mantra is “lighter, leaner, faster,” and the scale must be “minus five.” Drawing from personal experience referenced in an author’s note, Alene has crafted a novel in verse that articulates the slow decline and ongoing recovery of a teen battling anorexia nervosa. The story’s scope shows how deep and complicated anorexia’s hold can be; Rae’s need for control extends beyond her own immediate situation to her grief over her mother, also an equestrian, who died of cancer. What if Rae can no longer fit on her mother’s saddle? What if she can keep the scale at minus five? What if she could have stopped her mother from dying? Raw and heartbreaking, Alene’s work tackles a very sensitive topic with accuracy and compassion. VERDICT This title will resonate with readers on many levels. A first purchase for most older YA collections.–Erin Holt, Williamson County Public Library, Franklin, TN CARTER, Caela. Tumbling. 432p. ebook available. glossary. Viking. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451473004. Gr 6-10–Five gymnasts. Five Olympic dreams. Two days to make those dreams into reality. Grace is the coach’s daughter and a perfectionist with no other choice but to be the best. With her mother out of the picture and her dad acting more like a coach than her father, she struggles to cope with the pressure and expectations that come along with being the best. Leigh is the powerhouse, Grace’s best friend and biggest competition. Underneath her smile and easy laugh, she hides a huge secret. Wilhelmina is an “old-timer” at 20, out to prove that she is still among the elite after missing out on the Olympics four years ago. Camille is back for a second chance at the Olympics after her dream was cut short the first time. But are the Olympics really her dream, or are they her mother’s? Monica usually blends into the background but finds herself thrust into the spotlight—and Grace’s crosshairs—as she surges through the competition. Who will make it? Who will crack? Told in alternating voices, this work brings the cutthroat world of elite gymnastics to life. Rotations and breaks in competition mark the end of each chapter. A glossary at the end of the book explains frequently used technical gymnastics terms, making the jargon accessible to gymnastics novices. Carter has created five memorable characters whose voices resonate long after the story ends and whose lives outside of the gym (or lack thereof) make them relatable to readers. VERDICT Purchase for middle and high schools where realistic fiction is in demand.–Carli Worthman, Carmel Middle School, Carmel, IN GALLAGHER, Diana. Lessons in Falling. 250p. ebook available. Spencer Hill. Feb. 2017. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781633920378. Gr 9 Up–Savannah decides to quit gymnastics after one too many injuries. After focusing so intensively on the sport that she hoped would land her a college scholarship, she is struggling to discover who she is. Her dad wants her to resume training, and her longtime best friend, Cassie, wants her to ditch gymnastics and move to the city with her. Then Cassie attempts to take her own life, and in addition to feeling guilty for not recognizing any signs of Cassie’s unhappiness, Savannah no longer has her friend’s support. Fellow student Marcos, who helped to rescue Cassie, brings a new perspective, and as Savannah starts tutoring him, she falls for him, too. Gradually, she begins to feel that he is the only person who supports her and believes that she can achieve her dreams. In her debut novel, Gallagher draws on her deep knowledge of gymnastics to add authentic sports details to familiar YA novel territory of the friends-vs.-relationship drama. Her narrative also reaches into contemporary headlines with Marcos’s story: he’s an immigrant who faces racism and bullying from other students at school. VERDICT Fans of realistic fiction and coming-of-age books will enjoy this touching tale about dealing with difficult friendships, growing up, and finding oneself. A strong choice for most YA collections.–Morgan O’Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY GREEN, Tim & Derek Jeter. Baseball Genius. 352p. ebook available. S. & S./Aladdin. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481468640. POP Gr 5-8–Green teams up with Jeter in his latest piece of sports fiction. Jalen is the son of an Italian immigrant. He lives with his father, who works long days at his diner trying to make ends meet. Jalen has serious baseball talent and has just made a travel team. The only problem is that he needs some extra cash to pay for his team fees. Jalen’s friends Cat and Daniel live near a Major League Baseball player’s house, and Yankees star James “JY” Yager routinely signs batting practice balls and sells them to benefit a youth sports foundation. Jalen knows that if he can get his hands on a few of those balls, he can easily sell them on eBay to pay for his travel team fees. What he does not see coming is an injured ankle keeping Yager home from a Yankees road trip—and Jalen is caught red-handed. Jalen tells Yager that he has the ability to read pitchers and knows which pitch any guy in the pros will throw before he even gets into his windup. Yager is on the verge of being replaced by a younger player, and his sole shot at staying on the Yankees’ roster is by going four-for-four in his next game. If Jalen can help him out from the stands, Yager will pay his travel team fees. The manager of the Yankees, however, has an entirely different agenda. Green is a prolific sports fiction writer, and having Jeter’s name grace the cover will keep this book in demand. Green does a nice job incorporating diverse characters throughout the narrative. Despite a predictable story, this title is sure to circulate. VERDICT Bound to be popular among Green fans and readers of sports fiction.–Carli Sauer, Carmel Middle School, IN HELDRING, Thatcher. The Football Girl. 208p.  ebook available. Delacorte. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385741835. Gr 6-9–Just before the end of eighth grade, Tessa and her two friends show off their running skills in a town road race and catch the eye of the high school cross-country coach. Tessa loves cross-country, but lately, she’s been drawn to football. She joins the summer league with the guys, but all ends horribly when she drops the winning pass that ends their season. Tessa is heartbroken that football seems to be over for her and comes up with a brilliant idea: she’ll attend football camp. Short chapters told in the alternating perspectives of Tessa and Caleb, her next-door neighbor, keep the plot moving and the story intriguing. Caleb offers readers an inside look at what the guys really think about having a girl on the football team. Further drama comes from engaging secondary plotlines that center on friendships, family dynamics, and relationships. This is a great next choice for readers who have enjoyed Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen and Miranda Kenneally’s Catching Jordan. VERDICT Starting with the appealing cover, this book will be an easy sell to middle school readers, especially those who love sports.–Jennifer Rummel, Cragin Library, Colchester, CT KÖRNER, Miriam. Yellow Dog. 264p. Red Deer. Mar. 2017. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9780889955462. Gr 6-9–With little to do in a small Canadian town, it is easy to drift into trouble, and that is where 13-year-old Jeremy is headed. His friend Justin constantly eggs on his acts of mischief, as on the day he dares Jeremy to pull off the tail of a yellow dog that they spy outside a cabin at the edge of town. Anxious to please Justin, Jeremy complies, but he finds himself conscious-stricken at hurting the friendly dog. To make reparations, Jeremy begins hanging around the dog, offering him food and friendship. The old man who owns the dog notices Jeremy and reaches out with small overtures of friendship. Although Jeremy’s widowed mother orders him to stay away from the old man, the boy is drawn to the dog and the old man’s stories about running a dogsled team. When Jeremy adopts three of the many stray dogs roaming the town and starts training his own dog team, his friendship with Justin is tested as the other boy reacts jealously to Jeremy’s new interest. Eventually, lives and relationships hang in the balance as things spin out of control. Körner, a Saskatchewan resident and sled dog owner, vividly portrays life in the Canadian north, including a shocking scene with a stray dog, and seeds the novel with authentic dog team culture and history. VERDICT Hand this touching coming-of-age adventure to fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet.–Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District, Lancaster, PA MILWAY, Katie Smith. The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World. illus. by Shane W. Evans. 32p. (CitizenKid). websites. Kids Can. Apr. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771383318. Gr 1-4–This title follows Deo Rukundo and his family as they flee their home in Burundi. Separated from his family, Deo travels alone until he makes his way to Lukole, a refugee camp in Tanzania. Supplies are scarce, and many children Deo’s age join gangs to bully others and steal what they want and need. One of these bullies, Remy, becomes an opponent not only in Deo’s daily life but also on their pickup soccer team. Deo’s favorite toy from home, a soccer ball made from banana leaves, comes in handy in both practicing soccer and in forging relationships with other boys in the camp and driving home the lesson that they’re all ultimately on the same team. Award-worthy mixed-media illustrations breathe life into the perhaps overlong story. With a simplistic plot that holds few stakes, the narrative does more to inform at a base level than to pique interest in the refugee crisis. Back matter with information about the real Lukole refugee camp and those who might live there, Internet resources, and suggestions of what can be done to aid those in crisis might be useful for those doing school projects or children genuinely interested in helping others. VERDICT This title will fill the gaps of any collection looking for more materials on the refugee crisis, and Burundi refugees in particular, and how the power of organized play can positively impact a dark time in any community.–Brittany Drehobl, Eisenhower Public Library District, IL MONNINGER, Joseph. Game Change. 208p. HMH. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544531222. Gr 6-9–In Grafton County, New Hampshire, football rules all. Seventeen-year-old Zeb Holloway is content living in the shadows as backup quarterback. His peaceful routine of working at his uncle’s auto repair shop and hunting deer in New Hampshire’s backwoods is turned upside down when the star quarterback is injured a week before the state championship game. Zeb is instantly thrust into the spotlight with newspapers, college scouts, and admirers watching his every move. Zeb works to stay true to himself and his support system during the hectic time. Through intense dialogue, rich details, and comments from town members, Monninger heartwarmingly and realistically portrays Zeb and his companions as relatable individuals who do not have the perfect lives. The description of football and the community pressure feel authentic. Zeb deals with the stress of athletic expectations, life with one parent, and developing romantic relationships. Readers find themselves rooting for his happiness more than a football victory. The plot lacks intense action but makes up for that in humorous narrative detail and character development. VERDICT Recommended for a young adult collection looking for more sports fiction. –Emily Bayci, Naperville Public Library, IL

Paul, Baptiste. The Field. illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara. 32p. glossary. North South. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735843127. POP

K-Gr 3–An open field in a lush Caribbean setting calls to a group of children. They chase away grazing animals, bring out the soccer ball and goals, and begin a spirited game of soccer. Rain and a muddy, slippery field cannot stop their game; only the repeated calls from the mamas and a setting sun can. Dirty but satisfied, the children return home for baths and bed, knowing that the field will call again for another rousing game. Illustrations in deep, saturated colors with energetic lines accompany a spare but rhythmic English text, sprinkled with Creole. The narrative and images evoke the islands and the joy of playing a game regardless of weather. In a concluding note, Paul recalls his native Saint Lucia where, he explains, Creole is spoken but is rarely written down. A brief glossary is included, though most of the words will be understandable in context and in the animated paintings. ­VERDICT This engaging book is sure to resonate with children who are passionate about soccer and even those who simply enjoy lively play.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

HERBACH, Geoff. Hooper. 336p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062453112. Gr 8 Up–Abandoned by his father at a Polish orphanage, Adam had no one until fate brought him to Renata, an American studying abroad whose heart was so moved by the lonely little boy that she adopted him. Now living in the Minnesota, Adam Reed has grown tall and strong enough to be a beast on the hardwood. On the basketball court, chants of “MVP” follow his colossal dunks. His raw talent gains him not only the attention of beautiful fellow baller Carli Anderson, but also of an elite AAU (amateur athletic union) team. With “Basketball is my passport” as his mantra, Adam throws his heart into trying out for this team. But focusing isn’t easy. The class bully takes particular joy in mistreating Adam, regularly calling him “Duh” and “the Refugee.” That same bully spends time picking on Adam’s best friend, Barry, a kind kid with a deeply troubled home life. Juggling his AAU team responsibilities, his friendship with Barry, his relationship with Renata, and a blossoming romance with Carli, Adam finds the balance he’s struck tenuous at best. There’s much to love in this sports tale. Fast-paced play-by-plays vividly depict the speed and beauty of the game. Adam’s backstory is heartrending and with immigrant mistrust and nonviolent protests in the national spotlight, this is a timely and realistic teen drama and swish—nothin’ but net. VERDICT Highly recommended for first purchase.–Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

redstarREYNOLDS, Jason. Patina. 240p. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481450188.

Gr 5-8–Twelve-year-old Patina Jones not only loves to run, she needs to run—and win. She’s a gifted athlete, and since the death of her father and her mother’s life-altering health problems, Patty’s track club has become the focal point of her life. Running helps her to navigate the changes she and her younger sister, Maddy, are experiencing. They have left their urban neighborhood to live in a different part of the city with their uncle Tony (who is black like Patty and Maddy) and their aunt Emily (who is white) and attend a new school, Chester Academy. In this follow-up to Ghost, the award-winning author continues to display his mastery of voice. Patty’s observations about her new classmates are pointed: “a whole bunch of rich girls whose daddies own stuff.” Over time, Patty begins to understand that her success depends on teamwork. Her changing views are sparked by two collaborative projects. One is based on the life of Frida Kahlo. Working with classmates, about whom she had formed erroneous assumptions, gives her opportunities to widen her perspective. The second and more central catalyst is being selected as a member of the 4×800 relay on her elite track team. With the encouragement of her loving family and supportive coaches, Patty ultimately becomes the anchor of her team, both on and off the track. Patty’s story is an invitation to grapple with the need to belong, socioeconomic status, and the dangers of jumping to conclusions. VERDICT This “second leg” of Reynolds’s series is as satisfying as its predecessor and a winning story on its own.–Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA

redstarRibay, Randy. After the Shot Drops. 336p. HMH. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328702272. Gr 8 Up–A dually narrated story of two teen boys, Bunny and Nasir, struggling with a dying friendship shapes Ribay’s latest. Nasir feels abandoned after Bunny leaves their school to attend an upscale private school to play basketball and is dating Keyona, a girl he had always been interested in. The season is going well and the team, led by Bunny, is on its way to winning a state title. But Nasir’s friend Wallace is digging himself deeper into debt and physical trouble, placing bets on high school games and against Bunny’s specifically. Nasir then becomes complicit in sabotaging Bunny’s chances with explosive and life-altering consequences. Not only is the book well-paced with short chapters switching perspectives, the secondary characters are rich in detail, and Bunny and Nasir are fully realized protagonists with families, friendship, school, and sports. Drama propels the story forward while its emotional appeal builds empathy for both boys’ circumstances. Seamlessly, tension exacerbates the weighty choices that come with their responsibilities. And while the climax is predictable, it feels inevitable. The trajectory of each boy’s future is in the hands of the third teen, Wallace. Without a doubt, Ribay’s compelling book belongs on the shelf alongside contemporary heavy-hitters like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds’s All-American Boys, and Nic Stone’s Dear Martin. VERDICT A must-have for YA shelves.–Alicia Abdul, Albany High School, NY

RIBON, Pamela. SLAM! illus. by Veronica Fish. Vol. 1. 112p. BOOM! Box. Aug. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781684150045. Gr 10 Up–Athletic and brainy Jennifer Chu and recently dumped and anxious Maisie Huff meet at roller derby tryouts and become best friends. While the two young women bond over the hard-hitting and rough-and-tumble struggles of making the team while balancing their personal lives, they grow more confident in their skills and appreciative of the sport. However, Jennifer and Maisie are chosen for rival teams and their relationship may not survive the competition. This volume collects the first four issues of the girl-powered comics celebrating roller derby and female friendship. Moana screenwriter Ribon’s snarky humor and biting dialogue perfectly complement Fish’s (“Archie”) fresh, dynamic art. The design and variation of the panels bring to life the frenetic pace of the high-energy sport. The diverse cast includes women of all sizes, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds, and the art and text work together seamlessly to make each of the characters multidimensional. Teens who are ready to graduate from Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girls, John Allison’s “Bad Machinery,” and the “Lumberjanes” comics will gravitate to this series. VERDICT Purchase where Allison’s “Giant Days” and Brian K. Vaughan’s “Paper Girls” are popular. An excellent choice for sports collections and graphic novel shelves for older teens.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal WIESNER, David. I Got It! illus. by David Wiesner. 32p. Clarion. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544309029. PreS-Gr 3–Set against the backdrop of a pick-up baseball game, Wiesner’s nearly wordless picture book expertly layers together elements of relatable emotion, boundless imagination, eye-popping action, and out-and-out fun. When a lonely boy approaches a group of kids milling around the chain-link backstop, he is quickly sized up by the team captain and sent to the outfield. A crack of the bat later, a fly ball is hurtling its way toward the youngster, who enthusiastically calls out, “I got it!” Easier said than done, as all manner of fantastical obstacles throw themselves in his pathway—everything from suddenly sprouting tree branches to impossible shifts in size (of both ball and boy). Never fear, perseverance and determination win out in the end, and the young protagonist, eyes shining brightly, arm fully extended, and glove reaching to blue sky, is triumphant (“I GOT IT!”). Created in acrylic, gouache, and watercolor, Wiesner’s beautifully composed paintings realistically portray his characters, their activities, and their social interactions, making the flights of fancy all the more effective. Any reader who has ever experienced the seemingly endless wait for a fly ball to descend into his or her open glove (along with the always present possibility of disaster) will relate to the story. VERDICT A mesmerizing and entertaining offering that will be enjoyed by a broad audience. A must-have addition to the sports shelves.–Joy Fleishhacker, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs WHITE, Ellen Emerson. A Season of Daring Greatly. 432p. ebook available. Harper Collins/Greenwillow. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062463210. Gr 8 Up–Jill Cafferty, 17, is about to make history for becoming the first woman to be drafted into Major League Baseball, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates with a $2 million contract. But rather than give interviews, she’s more interested in pitching a shutout game. While the media and fans swarm, Jill navigates the tricky waters of displaying her expertise in a male-dominated sport, being away from home for the first time, and starting her professional career before she even goes to college. The friends she makes along the way give Jill’s story more dimensions, expanding the narrative about her workout routines and sports activity. White writes confidently and with great detail about the mechanics of the game. The descriptions of life as a traveling baseball player are eye-opening and shine a realistic light on the so-called glamor of professional sports. Jill is a strong, centered, and witty character, and it’s refreshing to read her smart comebacks to blatant sexism and her even-tempered reactions whenever disgruntled teammates or fans unfairly provoke her. VERDICT While this novel sometimes feels more like a script for a TV show, without a fully realized plot, it is still a good candidate for collections needing more positive depictions of characters who advocate against gender bias.–Michael Marie Jacobs, Darlington School, GA SPAGNA, Ana Maria. The Luckiest Scar on Earth. 206p. Torrey House. Feb. 2017. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781937226664. Gr 7 Up–When Charlotte has to move from her beloved Rocky Mountains in Colorado to Washington State, she plans to leave her snowboard—and her racing dreams—behind. Instead, her board propels her into a relationship with her father, a fight to save the local ski resort, and a new definition of “home.” Charlotte hasn’t seen her father, Larry, since she was five. Now that she has moved to his town, though, her mom is adamant that they meet. Larry turns out to be a quiet man with “Get Obsessed” and “Stay Obsessed” written in Sharpie on the backs of his hands. He also has a huge scar running across his face from a chainsaw accident and a passion for saving the environment. Larry takes a part-time job at a ski resort so that Charlotte will have a free lift ticket, but after he signs a petition to block development of the resort, Charlotte’s lift ticket and her plans to return to racing are jeopardized. This refreshing bildungsroman is full of characters who could have been clichéd types: the vegetarian mother, the reclusive father, wealthy snowboarders, and migrant workers. Instead, readers are along for the ride as Charlotte gets to know the complex, surprising people surrounding her—and the true meaning of that lucky scar on her father’s face. VERDICT Think Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot meets Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. Recommended for purchase for most school and public libraries.–Carly Wiggins Searcy, McNeese State University, LA


redstarABDUL-JABBAR, Kareem & Raymond Obstfeld. Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court304p. Little, Brown. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316555388. Gr 7 Up –The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, traces his path to becoming a basketball superstar and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Born in Harlem in 1947, shy, thoughtful Abdul-Jabbar was not on anyone’s “most likely to succeed” list at the start. In this intimate narrative, he reveals how the influence of selfless, wise coaches and role models helped shape him into a proud man who scored big in basketball and grew confident as an African American and a practicing Muslim. While the tone of the work is understated and contemplative, the memoir contains powerful ideas for reflection and discussion about racism, politics, identity, and religion. The book is about so much more than a single basketball star’s rise to fame. Abdul-Jabbar intertwines his narrative with that of other people who railed against injustice such as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Bruce Lee. Students who enjoy sports will appreciate the details of Abdul-Jabbar’s talent and acclaim, as will those who gravitate toward insightful contemporary reads from authors such as Jason Reynolds. ­VERDICT  This timely and unforgettable memoir is essential for middle and high school collections, and affords rich opportunities for classroom and book club discussions.–Melissa Williams, Berwick Academy, ME CHURIN, Nancy. Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf. illus. by John Joven. 32p. chron. Albert Whitman. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807511282. Gr 1-3–Churnin details the life of Charlie Sifford, the first black man to compete in the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA).The narrative opens with a young Sifford playing a game of golf by himself at night (“If anyone saw him, he’d be in trouble”), before detailing Sifford’s life as a caddie and how segregation forbid him from entering PGA tournaments. Inspired by a meeting with Jackie Robinson (who “didn’t quit or lose his temper” when faced with racism), and with the help of lawyer Stanley Mosk, Sifford would eventually win a discrimination case against the PGA in 1960. The overturning of the PGA’s Caucasians-Only clause allowed Sifford to go on to win the Greater Hartford Open in 1967, the Los Angeles open in 1969, and the Senior PGA Championship in 1975 to become known as the “Jackie Robinson of golf.” Churnin provides a thoughtful overview of discrimination and how it impacted the world of sports through the 1960s. The illustrations are colorful and their size and placement vary throughout the story, providing a more dynamic reading experience and breaking up larger blocks of text. The characters especially come to life on the page with a range of expressions and emotions conveyed through the art. VERDICT A worthwhile addition to school libraries looking for sports-related picture book biographies.–Kelly Topita, Anne Arundel County Public Library, MD CONNOLLY, Sean. The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science: 54 All-Star Experiments. illus. by Chad Thomas. 256p. glossary. Workman. Nov. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780761189282. Gr 4 Up–Connolly’s appealing collection of hands-on experiments illustrates many of the science principles at work in athletics. The work consists of seven well-organized chapters of clearly described activities. The format for each experiment is consistent, beginning with a heading that notes the specific sport involved and estimated amount of time needed to complete the project. The smooth writing style and engaging content enliven the learning process and will even enlist the participation of those not scientifically inclined. The cartoonish artwork also adds touches of humor. Each experiment is wrapped up with a concluding explanatory section discussing the science involved and how it relates to a given sport. Examples of science concepts covered include Boyle’s law, centripetal force, conservation of energy, kinetic energy, Newton’s laws of motion, and surface tension. Students can conduct these experiments on their own. However, some activities do require adult help or supervision (safety cautions are provided throughout). Teachers, too, will find a wealth of material to enhance classroom lessons or physical education classes. VERDICT A worthy purchase for all libraries, especially for schools.–Lynn Vanca, Freelance Librarian, Akron, OH GRAMLING, Gary. The Football Fanbook: Everything You Need To Become a Gridiron Know-It-All. 192p. photos. Time/Liberty Street. Aug. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781683300076. POP Gr 5 Up–This browsable, trivia-filled title is full of useful factoids for football fans. Right from the get-go, Gramling dives into the stats and figures of the NFL, from most career touchdowns (Jerry Rice at 208) to most career rushing yards (Emmitt Smith at 18,355). Subsequent chapters cover coaching strategies, recipes for snacks, tips on how to play and/or start a fantasy team, and the history behind the Heisman Trophy, referees’ striped shirts, and more. A “Team Tidbits” section dedicates a page to each NFL team’s history and additional stats. The final chapter doubles as a football dictionary, going over game-related terms from A to Z. The bright, clean layout is visually pleasing, and the detailed, reader-friendly text effectively covers the intricacies of the sport. Unlike other volumes on the subject, the book does not rely on flashy gimmicks or graphics to hook readers, just solid information and fantastic photography. VERDICT A must-have for football fans or communities where the game is popular.–Joanne Albano, Commack Public Library, NY KENNEALLY, Miranda. Coming Up for Air. 320p. (Hundred Oaks). Sourcebooks/Fire. Jul. 2017. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781492630111. Gr 9 Up–This stand-alone series entry focuses on Maggie, a high school senior and an elite swimmer training to qualify for the Olympics. Her daily schedule includes hours of swim practice, and her weekends are usually spent at competitions, which has contributed to Maggie’s lack of dating experience. After realizing that she’s increasingly interested in sex yet hesitant to engage in risky behavior, she approaches her best friend and fellow swimmer, Levi, for guidance in navigating a physical relationship with a guy. The proposition threatens to derail their friendship as well as distract them both from their training, but along the way they discover they have feelings for each other. The writing and plotting will appeal to the intended audience and perfectly balance intense sports play-by-play with romance. In her quest to explore her sexuality, Maggie prioritizes her desires and needs. She is always in the driver’s seat, which is not often the case for female characters in YA fiction. Kenneally provides readers with a realistic model of sexual behavior that emphasizes safe sex practices. Hand this title to those who enjoy Kasie West, Morgan Matson, and Emery Lord. VERDICT A contemporary sports fiction romance that offers practical, sex-positive advice; ­recommended for most teen collections.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH MARANISS, Andrew. Strong Inside: The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line. 272p. bibliog. ebook available. index. photos. Philomel. Dec. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399548345. POP Gr 7 Up–Vanderbilt University made a strong statement in 1966 when they recruited Perry Wallace, a local teen basketball star who was African American. Students may not be familiar with Wallace, but after reading this poignant biography, they will not forget him. Readers meet him as a child whose loving family provided him with the care and attention he needed to thrive academically, then follow him onto the court, where he yearned—and then learned—to dunk. Maraniss speeds through Wallace’s senior year at Pearl High, in Tennessee, where recruiters from schools across the country were eager to add him to their rosters. His years at Vanderbilt, where he broke the color barrier in the Southeastern Conference, receive the most attention, with great sports writing meeting heartfelt interludes of Wallace’s efforts to bring about change for his fellow black students. Maraniss does not shy away from the ultimate truth: Wallace experienced vicious racism and countless death threats as well as racial slurs, discrimination, and unfair treatment on and off the court. Wallace is quoted abundantly throughout the text, and the bibliography is packed with primary sources, offering ample research opportunities for those compelled to dig deeper into the civil rights struggle of Wallace and other black athletes. VERDICT This portrait of the fortitude of a young athlete will make a huge impact on teens and is guaranteed to spark serious discussion.–Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

Long-Armed Ludy
and the First Women’s Olympics (Patrick)
©2017 by Adam Gustavson

PATRICK, Jean L.S. Long-Armed Ludy and the First Women’s Olympics. illus. by Adam Gustavson. 32p. bibliog. photos. Charlesbridge. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781580895460. Gr 2-4–“No one really knows how Ludy’s arms got so long,” begins the story of the tall and long-limbed Lucille “Ludy” Godbold, whose physical build led to a successful stint as a shot-putter. At Winthrop College in South Carolina, Godbold’s track coach suggested she try the shot put. Godbold enjoyed and excelled at the sport and made the U.S. Women’s Olympic team in 1922. However, when she lacked the funds to travel to France, college staff and students donated money so she could go. Godbold traveled to Paris and took home the gold. Folksy, descriptive text, which includes regional colloquialisms, will entertain readers. The acrylic illustrations are energetic, and the palette and style of dress of the depicted individuals are appropriate for the time period. Godbold’s arms are often shown extended in activity, making them appear even longer. Most drawings fill a single page, with text and smaller inset pictures on the facing page. Full spreads are devoted to big events, such as Godbold winning the gold. Though stylized, Gustavson’s artwork deftly captures Godbold’s likeness. More information about the athlete and the Women’s Olympics, an author’s note, and a couple of black-and-white pictures are appended. VERDICT A charming, down-home introduction to a female athlete, and a great addition to any public or school library.–Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA PIMENTEL, Annette Bay. Girl Running. illus. by Micha Archer. 32p. bibliog. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101996683. Gr 2-4–Bobbi Gibb found joy in running before it was an activity women were encouraged or even allowed to participate in. Faced with enormous obstacles (including having available running gear), Gibb went on to become the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon, blazing the trail for thousands of women to come. The story does justice to Gibb’s dream, although additional contextual details may have helped foster a richer understanding. For example, there is no mention of the year during which the story takes place (1966) until the book’s afterword. Gibb’s age is also unclear. On the very first page she is an adolescent, but the work soon transitions into her running across the country and entering the Boston Marathon as an adult without clear indication that many years have passed. The lush collage-style illustrations are a highlight, specifically the clever mile marker and elevation indicators which stretch across the pages as Gibb runs the race. The closing image nicely incorporates the names of other female marathoners as a tribute. VERDICT An inspiring addition to picture book biography collections.–Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH RAPPAPORT, Doreen. 42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero. 128p. bibliog. chron. further reading. index. websites. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763676247. Gr 5-8–Jackie Robinson’s life has inspired a number of biographies for kids, and Rappaport (Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust; Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) adds a well-rounded and nuanced portrayal. The book examines Jack Roosevelt Robinson’s life from his early years (including teenage run-ins with the law) and concludes its detailed coverage roughly 90 pages later with the World Series of 1947. The more than 20 pages of back matter tackle brief high points in Robinson’s dazzling career and excellent source notes. Rappaport does not sugarcoat the challenges Robinson faced, repeating racial slurs in the text. Although Robinson sometimes lost his temper, he kept his dignity through incidents that will make readers cringe. Robinson was not welcome at team hotels. He ate many meals in restaurants separate from the team, with only manager Wendell Smith for company, and he was harassed and insulted by opposing players and occasionally by teammates as well. A discussion guide is planned and may help adults and younger readers process the prejudice and hate that Robinson endured, particularly in his childhood and early career. VERDICT An excellent biography that humanizes its legendary subject for middle schoolers.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

redstarSHEINKIN, Steve. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. 288p. bibliog. ebook available. notes. photos. Roaring Brook. Jan. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781596439542.

NF-Sheinkin-UndefeatedGr 6 Up –Proclaimed “the greatest all-around athlete in the world” by legendary football coach Glenn “Pop” Warner, Jim Thorpe dominated sports in the early 1900s. His natural athleticism, in tandem with Warner’s innovative coaching style, helped establish the Carlisle Indian Industrial School’s football program as one of the nation’s best, eclipsing perennial gridiron powerhouses Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Despite the fame and attention Carlisle received because of its winning team, a stark reality existed: the cultures of these same young men were being systematically eradicated by the school (e.g., prohibiting students from speaking Native languages, forcing them to cut their hair). Operating under the premise that the “Indian problem” could be solved by stripping students of their cultural identities, Carlisle founder and superintendent Richard Henry Pratt, a U.S. Army captain, vowed to “Kill the Indian; Save the Man” through any means necessary. Sheinkin has created a rich, complex narrative that balances the institutionalized bigotry and racism of the times with the human-interest stories that are often overshadowed by or lost to history. Within this framework, he brings to life the complicated, sometimes contentious relationship between a coach and a star athlete, their rise to glory, and the legacies they left behind. VERDICT A thoroughly engrossing and extensively researched examination of football’s first “all-American.” Highly recommended for U.S. history collections.–Audrey Sumser, Kent State University at Tuscarawas, New Philadelphia, OH

redstarTATE, Don. Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth. illus. by Don Tate. 40p. bibliog. notes. photos. Charlesbridge. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781580896283.

Gr 1-4 –Sparked by his own passion for bodybuilding and physical fitness, Tate recounts the story of Eugen Sandow (1867–1925) in this inspirational picture book. The biography begins during Sandow’s childhood in Prussia, where he used sports and exercise to develop from a frail, skinny child into a robust, physically active young man and later into a world-famous strongman in the United States, with his own successful business enterprise. The text progresses chronologically, with references to various geographic settings and specific historical events. Tate’s mixed-media illustrations feature characters, especially Sandow, with oversize, highly expressive faces. The muted colors are appropriate to the historical setting. The artwork is chock-full of humorous, cartoonish details that greatly enhance the story. In the afterword, Tate provides additional biographical information on both Sandow and himself. He includes a few simple exercises for kids and a well-developed bibliography. This title would be a good companion to Meghan McCarthy’s Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas, reinforcing the themes of physical fitness and the importance of healthy choices. VERDICT An excellent introduction to a historical figure that will appeal not only to children already interested in sports and fitness but also to those in need of encouragement.–Theresa Muraski, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Library

VERNICK, Audrey. The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton. illus. by Steven Salerno. 40p. photos. Clarion. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544611634. PreS-Gr 3–Vernick provides another entertaining and informative introduction to a little-known baseball legend. Edith Houghton, born in 1912 in Philadelphia, became a female baseball player at the age of 10. Playing with women who were older than herself, she traveled as far as Japan. Later, she became the first woman hired as a scout for a professional baseball team. While the story itself is fascinating, Vernick excels at highlighting the more noteworthy aspects of the athlete’s life with her attention to detail. When describing the team’s sea voyage to Japan, she points out the fun the teammates had dancing and socializing, once they overcame their seasickness. However, the heart of the story is Houghton’s recollections of her youthful experiences. Appended is a postscript of Houghton’s later life along with photographs—a satisfying touch. Created from charcoal ink and gouache, the colorful and lively illustrations complement the text. Especially well done is Salerno’s occasional use of the contrast between sepia and color tones, which accentuates the more important aspects of the page. This book should especially appeal to those who enjoyed Vernick and Salerno’s Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team (Clarion, 2012). VERDICT The compelling story and energetic illustrations make this an excellent addition.–Margaret Nunes, Gwinnett County Public Library, GA

redstarWALLACE, Sandra Neil. Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery. illus. by Bryan Collier. 48p. further reading. notes. reprods. websites. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481443876. Gr 1-4–The pursuit of dreams and the resilience of the human spirit shine in this illustrated biography of one of the world’s greatest sports artists. Growing up in the segregated south, Ernie Barnes loved to draw and rarely left home without his sketchbook. Shy, quiet, and often picked on, Barnes found his voice by painting what he observed in his surroundings: families walking, an old man snoring, the junk man peddling. When he grew to be six foot three, he was recruited for the high school football team and eventually earned a sports scholarship to an all-black university. Still, Barnes was discouraged: he wanted to be an artist instead of an athlete. His art teacher inspired him to paint what he saw, and suddenly his calling was realized: he will paint football, seeing the beauty in what before was ordinary. Barnes would go on to make the NFL, play for the Colts, and paint his first football painting, The Bench, a work that would define his career for years to come. After leaving football for good, his professional dream was fully realized when he was invited to become the official artist for the American Football League: “When I became an athlete, I didn’t stop being an artist.” Collier’s illustrations are storytellers on their own, blending emulations of Barnes’s work with dynamic, mixed-media imagery that enhances the book’s historical relevance. VERDICT An absolutely indispensable illustrated biography that will remind readers of all ages that it’s never too late to pursue their dreams.–Natalie ­Romano, Denver Public Library

redstarWINTER, Jonah. Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet. illus. by C.F. Payne. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101933527. Gr 2-5–The cover image of a steely-eyed Mickey Mantle, bat aloft over his shoulder, sets the stage for an intimate look at the Hall of Famer. Mantle (1931–95) shattered records but struggled throughout his life to live up to expectations. (“Where Mickey came from, you had to be strong—tough, too.”) Mantle battled childhood injuries and illness, but his father was determined to train him to be a ballplayer. In his teens, Mantle “shot up like Jack’s beanstalk” and signed with the Yankees the day he graduated from high school. After a stint in the minors, he arrived in New York along with news of his speed and hitting prowess. He was slated to replace the great Joe DiMaggio (“The torch was being passed. [GULP] Greatness would be expected.”). Winter relates the ups and downs of Mantle’s career with zest: “Oh, if only, if only, Mickey could have stayed the way he was on that day, forever young, forever healthy, forever limitless in what he could do.” Instead, there were slumps and injuries, including the horrific knee injury in the second game of the 1951 World Series. Mantle battled back: “What Mantle had was EMOTION, a FIRE inside that caused him to CRUSH the ball.” Payne’s mixed-media illustrations convey emotions and character. In one spread, DiMaggio and Mantle pose for photographers: well-mannered DiMaggio a half-step behind Mantle, who smiles shyly, eyes distant. Payne varies perspective to great effect: an image of Mantle’s famous “tape-measure home run” zeroes in on the ball at the apex of its flight, with the ballpark far in the distance. VERDICT Highly recommended for school and public libraries, this nuanced look at one of baseball’s iconic players has lessons for fans young and old.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

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Barbara Birenbaum

MUST READ for all ages! THE OLYMPIC GLOW, Birenbaum ( ISBN 9780935343-458hc -465sc. Honor book and only book about Olympic torchbearers endorsed by USOC, in Curr. Guide to the Olympics (Scholastic mag., ACOG centennial book). Gives history of torchbearers back to Zeus and forward to present, many ways torch travels, significance, how to hold-carry-pass torch, ceremonies, torchbearers, blessing before games. Book cover available to post. School discount. NEW POSTING. First posting should have website: (

Posted : Feb 07, 2018 10:33

Barbara Birenbaum

A MUST READ for all ages! THE OLYMPIC GLOW, Birenbaum ( ISBN 9780935343-458hc -465sc. Honor book and only book about Olympic torchbearers endorsed by USOC, in Curr. Guide to the Olympics (Scholastic mag., ACOG centennial book). Gives history of torchbearers back to Zeus and forward to present, many ways torch travels, significance, how to hold-carry-pass torch, ceremonies, torchbearers, blessing before games. Book cover available to post. School discount.

Posted : Feb 07, 2018 10:26



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