They Got Game | Sports Series Nonfiction

The series we’ve rallied for this roundup pull from all corners of the gym, race track, and professional sports world.


The saying goes, “It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game.” In libraries, we instead say, “It doesn’t matter what you’re reading—we just want you to read!” At the heart of these idioms is the coach or librarian, molding the minds of the kids they care about. For young readers who love sports, savvy librarians can help connect them with the right books by making sure their collection is up to date, full of big name bios, and keyed in to local interests. The series we’ve rallied for this roundup pull from all corners of the gym, then speed outside to the race track and into the inspiring world of record-smashing, groundbreaking pros. There are even some graphic novels to pull in comic enthusiasts! You ready to roll?



Becker, Trudy. Acro Dance.ISBN 9781646198269.
––––. Ballet.ISBN 9781646198276.
––––. Bollywood Dance.ISBN 9781646198283.
––––. Contemporary Dance.ISBN 9781646198290.
––––. Hip-Hop Dance.ISBN 9781646198306.
––––. Salsa.ISBN 9781646198313.
––––. Swing Dance.ISBN 9781646198320.
––––. Tap Dance.ISBN 9781646198337.
ea vol: 24p. (Dance). North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers. Aug. 2023. Tr $28.50
PreS-Gr 2–Emerging readers can learn about dancing for fun and exercise with this informative series. Each book uses simple text and bright, dynamic pictures to demonstrate basic concepts about its unique form of dance. Brown-skinned children in colorful, flowing outfits pose in Bollywood Dance, which offers a culturally appropriate introductory understanding of the style. Ballet and Acro Dance show off distinctive clothing too, but also focus on the strength used in these dance forms. Both Salsaand Swing Dance describe partner dancing. Tap Dance, Contemporary Dance, and Hip-Hop Dance can be done solo or as part of a troupe. At no more than five lines on a page, there isn’t much room to dive deep into the subjects. Still, the diversity plus the inclusion of male- and female-presenting children for all the different styles of dance ensures that many readers will see themselves in the included photos. VERDICT A bit utilitarian but worth purchasing if you can swing it.

Berglund, Bruce. Baseball Records Smashed!ISBN 9781669049876.
––––. Football Records Smashed!ISBN 9781669050056.
––––. Hockey Records Smashed!ISBN 9781669050117.
Flynn, Brendan. Basketball Records Smashed!ISBN 9781669049937.
––––. Car Racing Records Smashed!ISBN 9781669049999.
––––. Soccer Records Smashed!ISBN 9781669050179.
ea vol: 32p. (Sports Illustrated Kids: Record Smashers). Capstone. Aug. 2023. Tr $31.32.
Gr 2-5–Perennial favorite Sports Illustrated Kids is back with another thrilling series for young readers, this one all about great sports moments that have gone down in history. Soccer players like Lionel Messi, Carli Lloyd, and Tim Howard’s record-breaking moments are detailed with exciting sports writing in Soccer Records Smashed! Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game and Liz Cambage’s 53-point game bookend the phenomenal stories shared in Basketball Records Smashed! While football and baseball only have opportunities to highlight male athletes, every other sport has men and women who play professionally so all are celebrated. The international focus of Car Racing Records Smashed! is unique and appreciated. The narratives for each record smasher are short—some only two or three pages—but the message to readers is clear: Every game or match or race can be the source of an amazing moment. VERDICT It won’t smash any circulation records, but this series will be a winner.

Carlson Berne, Emma. Get Ready for a Basketball Game.ISBN 9798888220559.
––––. Get Ready for a Lacrosse Game.ISBN 9798888220573.
––––. Get Ready for a Soccer Match.ISBN 9798888220542.
Huddleston, Emma. Get Ready for a Baseball Game.ISBN 9798888220597.
––––. Get Ready for a Football Game.
––––. Get Ready for a Gymnastics Meet.ISBN 9798888220566.
ea vol: 24p. (Game Day). Bearport/Bearcub Bks. Aug. 2023. Tr $26.99.
PreS-Gr 2–These bright, chipper books walk readers through the prep work that goes into getting ready for a big game. No matter what sport readers are interested in, they’ll learn that game day prep starts with a healthy dinner and getting good sleep the night before a game, followed by a healthy breakfast with a big glass of water. The gear for each sport is different, of course: soccer players wear jerseys, shin guards, long socks, and cleats, while American football players have tons of pads, jerseys, cleats, and helmets to keep them safe. After getting dressed, stretching, warming up, and meeting with coaches, it’s finally game time. Vibrant pictures show happy, diverse children, both male and female presenting. While these titles are technically informational fiction, they’re still useful guides for young readers. VERDICT Readers will be ready to face game day with a smile.

Coupé, Jessica. Archery.ISBN 9781791157845.
––––. Fishing.ISBN 9781791157906.
––––. Lacrosse.ISBN 9781791157968.
Letkeman, Candice. Cheerleading.ISBN 9781791157876.
Ridge, Yolanda. Karate.ISBN 9781791157937.
––––. Wrestling.ISBN 9781791157999.
ea vol: 24p. (Like a Pro). Lightbox Learning/AV2. Aug. 2023. Tr $31.41.
K-Gr 2–Ever wondered how the pros got to be so good? Curious readers can compare how amateur and professional athletes practice and play in this AV-enhanced series. In each book, fictional protagonists prepare for a match or game on the left side of the spread while a comparison is drawn to a professional athlete in a smaller panel on the right. Young lacrosse players warm up and stretch before practice? Awesome! Professional players practice, too! A beginning karate student wears a white belt on their gi? Neat! An expert alongside them wears a black belt! The books also include some basic origin information for background on the sports. Though the informational fiction narrative is light on words, each book concludes with a lengthier section of facts and the AV2 components include videos, quizzes, audio narration, web links, and more. VERDICT A winning choice for most libraries.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Bowman, Chris. Billie Jean King and the Battle of the Sexes. ISBN 9798886875065.
––––. Going for Gold: Wilma Rudolph and the 1960 Olympics. ISBN 9798886875072.
––––. Off to the Races!: Secretariat and the Triple Crown. ISBN 9798886875096.
Rathburn, Betsy. The Miracle on Ice.ISBN 9798886875089.
––––. Rumble in the Jungle: Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman. ISBN 9798886875102.
––––. A Winning Crew: The 1936 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team.ISBN 9798886875119.
ea vol: illus. by Eugene Smith. 24p. (Greatest Moments in Sports). Bellwether Media/Black Sheep. Aug. 2023. Tr $29.95.
Gr 4-7–A graphic novel format gives readers a firsthand perspective on sports history in this engaging series. Before Billie Jean King took on (and defeated!) Bobby Riggs, she was a little girl who wanted to be the best tennis player in the world. Her athleticism and activism made her a role model. King isn’t the only activist in this series—Muhammad Ali’s firm stance as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War stripped him of his titles and license to box, forcing him to fight his way back to the top as Heavyweight Champion of the World at the Rumble in the Jungle. The well-known events depicted in each graphic novel are real, and while all the facts are accurate and the text in speech bubbles indicates historical quotes, many more quotes throughout are conjecture. As long as readers are here for infotainment, it’s a truly inviting series. VERDICT Inspiring sports stories? Score!

Fishman, Jon M. Tina Charles vs. Lisa Leslie.ISBN 9781728492346.
Greenberg, Keith Elliot. LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan.ISBN 9781728490878.
––––. Patrick Mahomes vs. Peyton Manning.ISBN 9781728490854.
Stabler, David. Aaron Donald vs. Reggie White.ISBN 9781728490861.
––––. Stephen Curry vs. Magic Johnson.ISBN 9781728492339.
––––. Tom Brady vs. Joe Montana.ISBN 9781728490847.
ea vol: 32p. (All-Star Smackdown). Lerner. Aug. 2023. Tr $30.65.
Gr 3-6–Not to be confused with Scholastic’s popular “Who Would Win?” series, this sports-focused collection features feared athletes who have been known to eat the competition alive. Tina Charles and Lisa Leslie are both high-scoring centers capable of completely dominating their opponents, winning Olympic gold and WNBA championships, and earning MVP titles, but who’s number one? Peyton Manning and Patrick Mahomes were born into sports families, picked in the first round of the NFL draft, and led teams to multiple Super Bowl titles, but who’s really the GOAT? Each book in this series describes the path the players took to the pros, details some of their greatest moments, and highlights their jaw-dropping stats before declaring a winner. Before calling the matches (almost always for the veteran players), the authors remind readers that “best” is just a matter of opinion. With engaging text and plenty of photos, this well-crafted series will quench readers’ thirst for knowledge. VERDICT Three cheers—and one add-to-cart—for this great series.

Gitlin, Martin. The Amazing Rise of Jeremy Lin.ISBN 9781668927786.
––––. How Roberta Vinci Stunned Serena.ISBN 9781668927748.
––––. Miracle on Ice.ISBN 9781668927755.
––––. Super Sox Break the Curse.ISBN 9781668927762.
––––. Taming the Huskies.ISBN 9781668927779.
––––. The Team That Changed Football Forever.ISBN 9781668927793.
ea vol: 32p. (Underdogs: Sports Champions). Cherry Lake/45th Parallel. Aug. 2023. Tr $32.07.
Gr 4-6–Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Reporters laughed when Joe Namath guaranteed the Jets would beat the Colts in Super Bowl III, so they were stunned when he led his team to victory. The Boston Red Sox were cursed from the moment they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees—that is until the 2004 Red Sox came back to beat the Yankees in the World Series. From Roberta Vinci beating Serena Williams and upsetting 300-to-1 odds, to Jeremy Lin’s rise from an undrafted guard to the peak of “Linsanity,” these books walk readers slowly along the path to the reveal of the underdog moment. Unfortunately, while there are a decent amount of facts and stats throughout these titles, the writing is dry and drawn out. Ultimately, there are better reads out there on sports underdogs with those same benefits. VERDICT Pass on this sleepy series.

Haynes, Danielle. Scaling Mount Everest.ISBN 9781642827156.
––––. Shark Diving.ISBN 9781642827187.
––––. Skydiving.ISBN 9781642827217.
––––. Sled Dog Racing.ISBN 9781642827248.
––––. Tornado Chasers.ISBN 9781642827279.
ea vol: 32p. (Life on the Edge). Rosen/ PowerKids. Aug. 2023. Tr $27.93.
Gr 4-6–What’s more extreme: skydiving or shark diving? Both require tons of training, gear, and preparation to ensure your well-being—and even then, safety’s not guaranteed. Scaling Mount Everest shows readers that mountain climbing is intense no matter what, but summiting the tallest mountain in the world is expensive and dangerous. While all the sports in this series are extreme, Tornado Chasers documents a thrill-seeking hobby that is genuinely unique. It would have been nice to see the text give readers a very clear “Do not try this untrained” message. The writing is more about preparation and skills than thrills, but it’s well done and engaging. VERDICT While probably not what the thrill seekers want, this series would make an informative addition to most libraries.

Hewson, Anthony K. The Best Moments in Formula One.ISBN 9781098290733.
––––. Formula One Grand Prix Races.ISBN 9781098290740.
––––. The History of Formula One.ISBN 9781098290771.
Rule, Heather. Formula One Racing Cars.ISBN 9781098290757.
––––. Formula One Teams.ISBN 9781098290764.
Stathes, Corbu. The Best Drivers of Formula One.ISBN 9781098290726.
ea vol: 32p. (Focus on Formula One). Abdo/SportsZone. Sept. 2023. Tr $32.79.
Gr 4-6–Formula One (F1) fans will be frantic for this informative series. The Best Moments in Formula One includes all the greatest comebacks, rivalries, and inspiring moments from the 73-year history of this fast-paced sport. Readers intrigued by how F1 started in 1950, all the mechanical and technological advancements made throughout the years, and its possible future will find much to love in The History of Formula One . The familiar faces of Sir Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel can be found in The Best Drivers of Formula One while Formula One Teams showcases the big-name teams (like Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, and of course, Red Bull) for whom those athletes drive. Each book includes color photographs that enhance the clearly written, well-researched text. For report writers and readers looking to be entertained, it doesn’t get much better than this. VERDICT A wheel-y great purchase for libraries with lots of gearheads.

Olson, Ethan. Great FIFA World Cup Matches.ISBN 9781678206529.
––––. Great MLB World Series Championships.ISBN 9781678206543.
––––. Great NBA Championships.ISBN 9781678206567.
––––. Great NFL Super Bowl Championships.ISBN 9781678206604.
––––. Great NHL Stanley Cup Championships.ISBN 9781678206581.
ea vol: 64p. (Great Pro Sports Championships). ReferencePoint/ BrightPoint. Sept. 2023. Tr $32.95.
Gr 5-8–This hi-lo series gives readers exciting sports writing about some of the best games ever played. In Great FIFA World Cup Matches, readers will be thrilled by the play-by-play calling of the 1986 World Cup featuring legendary Argentinian Diego Maradona and inspired by the Women’s World Cup win by Japan after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. NFL Super Bowl Championships includes some of football’s greatest hits, like the New York Giants defeating the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and John Elway finally winning at Super Bowl XXXII after three previous heartbreaking losses. Each book begins with an “At a Glance” bulleted list of highlights from the reading, which should help readers with their recall should they have a need to book talk or report on what they read. With plenty of white space on the page, the narrative-style text is inviting and exciting. VERDICT For most middle school and public libraries, this one’s a keeper.

Whiting, Jim. The Story of the Atlanta Dream.ISBN 9781640267169.
––––. The Story of the Chicago Sky.ISBN 9781640267176.
––––. The Story of the Connecticut Sun.ISBN 9781640267183.
––––. The Story of the Dallas Wings.ISBN 9781640267190.
––––. The Story of the Indiana Fever.ISBN 9781640267206.
––––. The Story of the Las Vegas Aces.ISBN 9781640267213.
––––. The Story of the Los Angeles Sparks.ISBN 9781640267220.
––––. The Story of the Minnesota Lynx.ISBN 9781640267237.
––––. The Story of the New York Liberty.ISBN 9781640267244.
––––. The Story of the Phoenix Mercury.ISBN 9781640267251.
––––. The Story of the Seattle Storm.ISBN 9781640267268.
––––. The Story of the Washington Mystics.ISBN 9781640267275.
ea vol: 32p. (WNBA: A History of Women’s Hoops). The Creative Company. Creative Education. Jul. 2023. Tr $38.55.
Gr 3-6–Women ballers get their due in this thorough series on the history of WNBA franchises. Each team gets a biographical treatment, from inception to current day. Some teams, like the Los Angeles Sparks, started strong thanks to talented players before hitting rough patches. Other teams, like the Minnesota Lynx, were used to losses when the league began, but developed a stacked roster over time. Women athletes as activists is a common thread throughout the series. For example, the Atlanta Dream used their voices to encourage voters to oppose their team’s co-owner, Kelly Loeffler, in her Senate run due to her anti-Black Lives Matter stance. After Loeffler’s loss, the team was able to successfully lobby for her removal as co-owner. Along with focused, engaging writing, each book also includes bios of big-name stars for a well-rounded overview. VERDICT You could cherry pick for your local team if your budget is tight, but the whole set is worthy of first purchase.


There’s a lot to like in this season’s lineup. Lerner’s “All-Star Smackdown” pits some of the most talented athletes of all time against one another in a think-piece that would be truly epic were it to play out in real life. “Great Pro Sports Championships” (ReferencePoint) and “Greatest Moments in Sports” (Bellwether) use fast-paced, engaging writing to share the stories of some amazing scenes in athletic history while “Game Day” (Bearport) and “Like a Pro” (Lightbox) give young readers the know-how to prepare for their own big sports moments. Speaking of history, The Creative Company’s “WNBA: A History of Women’s Hoops” and Abdo’s “Focus on Formula One” are full of it. Readers who want to make history themselves will love Rosen’s “Life on the Edge” and Capstone’s “Sports Illustrated Kids: Record Smashers.” With this crew on your shelves, you can’t lose!



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