We Ball | Sports Series Nonfiction

Most of our modern-day heroes are athletes: Otherwise-normal humans who are capable of performing outstanding feats.

Most of our modern-day heroes are athletes—otherwise-normal humans who are capable of performing outstanding feats. Unlike the superheroes of comic books and movies, who are gods, government science experiments, or teenagers bit by radioactive beasts, these sports stars developed their phenomenal skills over time by practicing and pouring their hearts into the games they love. Some of the series selected for this roundup shine a spotlight on those dynamos, while others look at the major championship events that celebrate their collective greatness. Others encourage readers to find their own sport to explore, a hobby requiring some latent talent they might uncover if they give the unconventional activity a try. Still others deliver the message that even if their readers don’t become superstars, it takes a village of other folks doing their jobs to bring that talent to the forefront and let it shine. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get glowing!



Becker, Trudy. She Competes in Track and Field. ISBN 9781646197071.
––––. She Plays Basketball. ISBN 9781646197088.
––––. She Plays Lacrosse. ISBN 9781646197095.
––––. She Plays Soccer. ISBN 9781646197101.
––––. She Plays Softball. ISBN 9781646197118.
––––. She Plays Volleyball. ISBN 9781646197125.
ea vol: 24p. (She Plays Sports). North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers. Jan. 2023. Tr. $28.50.
K-Gr 2 –This series is aimed at evolving readers and focuses on sight words and repetition. Told from the perspective of a fictional player, the text takes readers through the steps as she prepares for her game. The female-identifying athlete describes the gear she needs, as well as the uniform and equipment she wears to play with her team. Photos are labeled clearly, and some of the unfamiliar or uncommon words are shown again in the picture glossary at the back of the book. Since the story is told by one narrator (“I”), it would be helpful for all the photos to include the same character performing all the activities, rather than a collection of stock photos assembled to illustrate the concepts. In spite of that shortcoming, the books are inclusive, with a welcome range of diversity. The writing is concise, and while some of the words are more difficult than others, they are decodable or understandable with context clues. VERDICT A fine supplemental purchase for most libraries.

Conaghan, Bernard. BMX. ISBN 9781039696624.
––––. Kayaking. ISBN 9781039696679.
––––. Motocross. ISBN 9781039696631.
––––. Skateboarding. ISBN 9781039696648.
––––. Snowboarding. ISBN 9781039696655.
––––. Surfing. ISBN 9781039696662.
ea vol: 32p. (Extreme Sports). Crabtree. Jan. 2023. Tr. $30.6.
Gr 2-4 –Ideally, for beginners, each book in this series begins with a basic one-page description of its extreme sport, followed by explanations of the different ways people have modified and personalized the sport for necessity, fun, or challenge. Essential equipment is featured next, like the unique bikes needed for BMX and motocross. Each entry also focuses on the potential career opportunities in the sport and profiles legendary athletes who have made their marks. Some of these career-focused sections are more robust than others, such as skateboarding, where the X-Games and Olympics create aspirational potential compared to kayaking. The utilitarian writing gets the job done, delivering the information with no frills or fireworks. It’s the action-packed photos that are the star of the show. Overall, they serve as simple introductions and have very little purpose otherwise. VERDICT For books about extreme sports, these sure are modest. Additional purchases at best.

Driscoll, Martin. Fast Breaks and Fanatics: Behind the Scenes of Game Day Basketball. ISBN 9781669003335.
––––. Homers and Hot Dogs: Behind the Scenes of Game Day Baseball. ISBN 9781669003212.
––––. Touchdowns and Tailgates: Behind the Scenes of Game Day Football. ISBN 9781669003274.
Kinglsey Troupe, Thomas. Strikers and Scarves: Behind the Scenes of Match Day Soccer. ISBN 9781669003397.
ea vol: 32p. (Sports Illustrated Kids: Game Day!). /Capstone Pr. Jan. 2023. Tr. $31.32.
Gr 2-4 –This series spends time shedding light on all the people who make our favorite games possible from behind the scenes. In “Homers and Hot Dogs,” readers learn that it’s not just the trainers and coaches, but the grounds crew, concessions workers, and even the fans who make game day come alive. “Strikers and Scarves” has a good deal of focus on groundskeepers, security personnel, and stadium technicians, as well as broadcasters and referees. This emphasis on the periphery of the athletic spectacle shows readers both the importance of community and the multiple career opportunities in the sport. “Touchdowns and Tailgates” still has a fair amount of description of various football positions, which is unfortunate, but readers won’t be phased. The descriptive, straightforward writing flows naturally and its readability will likely lead the young audience to seek out other titles in the series. VERDICT Recommended for all libraries.

Hinote Lanier, Wendy. The Stanley Cup Final. ISBN 9781637382943.
Lilley, Matt. The FIFA World Cup. ISBN 9781637382912.
––––. The NBA Finals. ISBN 9781637382936.
M. Clayton, Annette. The Daytona 500. ISBN 9781637382905.
Mitchell, Bo. The Super Bowl. ISBN 9781637382950.
O’Neal, Ciara. The WNBA Finals. ISBN 9781637382967.
Smith, Elliott. The Final Four. ISBN 9781637382929.
Walker, Hubert. The World Series. ISBN 9781637382974.
ea vol: 32p. (Major Sports Events). North Star Editions/Apex. Jan. 2023. Tr. $31.35.
Gr 2-4 –This series tries to pack enough information to satiate sports enthusiasts within its slim volumes. Each book begins by describing the final few moments of a notable championship game, before discussing its origin. For some, this includes finals for both male and female leagues, like the NCAA Final Four and FIFA World Cup. The Daytona 500 is notable for being the only championship where gender division doesn’t exist. In each book, qualifying for the final is discussed, before past legends, like the NFL’s undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, are mentioned at the end, to no doubt inspire readers. Comprehension questions at the end of the text challenge readers to synthesize what they have learned. While the writing is not particularly thrilling, it’s enthusiastic enough to keep its young audience engaged, though they may need to find other books if they are still interested in learning more. VERDICT Suitable additional purchases.

Murray, Julie. Archery. ISBN 9781098264192.
––––. Baton Twirling. ISBN 9781098264208.
––––. Competitive Dance. ISBN 9781098264215.
––––. Figure Skating. ISBN 9781098264222.
––––. Rhythmic Gymnastics. ISBN 9781098264239.
––––. Skateboarding. ISBN 9781098264246.
ea vol: 24p. (Artistic Sports). /Abdo Kids Jumbo. Jan. 2023. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 2-4 –Creative readers looking for ­aesthetic athletic outlets will find some beautiful options in this series. All require a high level of concentration, from the balance and bravery essential in skateboarding to the focus and intensity of archery. Each book describes the history of its sport before launching into a rundown of the basic skills and equipment. Some of the gear can be incredibly unique, such as the ball, rope, ribbon, hoop, and club props in Rhythmic Gymnastics or the batons and maces needed for Baton Twirling. Brightly colored photographs demonstrate each sport with grace and energy. Unfamiliar vocabulary terms are in bold and defined in the glossary. A “More Facts” section caps off each work with some interesting tidbits the author couldn’t quite fit into the straightforward informational flow of the introductory text. VERDICT Fine additional purchases for libraries looking for entry-level material about these unique sports.

Wood, Alix. Basketball. ISBN 9781978533059.
––––. Gymnastics. ISBN 9781978533097.
––––. Martial Arts. ISBN 9781978533134.
––––. Soccer. ISBN 9781978533172.
ea vol: 32p. (The Science Behind...). Enslow. Dec. 2022. Tr. $26.93.
Gr 1-3 –Join a crew of robots on their mission to get in the game! As robots, they require clear instructions to perform the steps necessary for any of the new skills their teammates might teach them. In soccer, Zink has to learn how to head the ball correctly—do it wrong and you can injure yourself, even if you’re a robot! In gymnastics, Beepa learns how to use gravity for a perfect forward roll. In martial arts, Marsha must make a fist just the right way or she could bust her thumb during a punch. Many would qualify this series not as nonfiction, but as informational fiction, and as such would place it with fictional picture book resources. Regardless, it’s an engaging way to teach the STEM concepts involved in sports, and libraries would be wise to add it to their collections. VERDICT Recommended, but not as nonfiction.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Adamson, Thomas K. Joe Burrow. ISBN 9798886871555.
––––. Juan Soto. ISBN 9798886871562.
––––. Lionel Messi. ISBN 9798886871586.
––––. Serena Williams. ISBN 9798886871609.
Downs, Kieran. LeBron James. ISBN 9798886871579.
––––. Shohei Ohtani. ISBN 9798886871616.
Morey, Allan. Dak Prescott. ISBN 9798886871524.
––––. Giannis Antetokounmpo. ISBN 9798886871548.
––––. Patrick Mahomes. ISBN 9798886871593.
––––. Steph Curry. ISBN 9798886871630.
Sabelko, Rebecca. Diana Taurasi. ISBN 9798886871531.
––––. Simone Biles. ISBN 9798886871623.
ea vol: 24p. (Sports Superstars). Bellwether Media/Torque. Jan. 2023. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 3-5 –The brightest stars in sports are profiled in this visually appealing series. Each athlete is given a fairly thorough biographical treatment, such as NFL quarterbacks Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, and Patrick Mahomes. All considered role models, their accomplishments are lauded before their future potential is assessed. Notably, Simone Biles’s gymnastics prowess and her advocacy for mental health and victims of abuse are praised. Toward the back of each book, maps show the professional travels of each athlete, which is more interesting for stars of international renown like Lionel Messi, Serena Williams, and Shohei Ohtani than for homebodies like Steph Curry and Diana Taurasi. Leaning heavily on the energetic, brightly colored photos, the short blocks of text and factoid callouts are highlighted with graffiti-like graphics. The overall aesthetic is a bit busy, but for reluctant readers, there is much to draw the eye and the concise writing delivers the appropriate level of detail for browsers. VERDICT A first-purchase series full of flair.

Coleman, Ted. Atlanta Hawks All-Time Greats. ISBN 9781634945998.
––––. Brooklyn Nets All-Time Greats. ISBN 9781634946001.
––––. Cleveland Cavaliers All-Time Greats. ISBN 9781634946018.
––––. Denver Nuggets All-Time Greats. ISBN 9781634946025.
––––. Miami Heat All-Time Greats. ISBN 9781634946032.
––––. New York Knicks All-Time Greats. ISBN 9781634946049.
––––. Phoenix Suns All-Time Greats. ISBN 9781634946056.
––––. Utah Jazz All-Time Greats. ISBN 9781634946063.
ea vol: 24p. (NBA All-Time Greats Set 2). North Star Editions/Press Box Bks. Jan. 2023. Tr. $28.5.
Gr 4-6 –Even the NBA’s biggest stars need their constellations to shine. That’s why the titles in this series update focus on how the big guys fit into the teams that helped them become legendary. Readers will need to be familiar with basketball, and perhaps even be fans of the franchises, as the books begin by launching straight into the squads’ histories. Clutch players’ names are highlighted in alternative colors as the history of the team unfolds. Though each player gets but a brief overview, the solid, engaging writing helps readers understand the scope of their greatness. “Stat Spotlight” and other callouts throughout the chapters drop in fast facts at a glance to break up the otherwise text-heavy narrative. Each book ends with a time line that shows the overlap of the athletes, as well as team facts like total NBA titles and key coaches. VERDICT Worthwhile series additions to pick up, particularly if you live in these teams’ regions.

De Medeiros, James. Kayaking. ISBN 9781791147457.
De Medeiros, Michael. Mountain Biking. ISBN 9781791147488.
Gillespie, Katie. Stand-Up Paddleboarding. ISBN 9781791147518.
––––. Whitewater Rafting. ISBN 9781791147549.
––––. Ziplining. ISBN 9781791147570.
Kissock, Heather. Horseback Riding. ISBN 9781791147426.
Richardson, Gillian. Hiking. ISBN 9781791147396.
Tomljanovic, Tatiana. Camping. ISBN 9781791147365.
––––. Rock Climbing. ISBN 9781791147334.
ea vol: 24p. (Outdoor Adventures and Sports). Lightbox Learning/AV2. Jan. 2023. Tr. $32.84.
Gr 4-6 –Readers looking for new ways to explore the great outdoors will find a bevy of wild ideas in this daring series. Each book starts with the roots, with some, like ziplining and stand-up paddleboarding, going back to Indigenous cultures, and others, like mountain biking, having more recent origins. The sports take their athletes around the world seeking thrills, and photos of beautiful locations are shared. Regardless of the adventure readers are interested in taking, all the books place a heavy emphasis on safety, essential equipment, preparation, and conditioning, going so far as to describe how to roll a kayak, make GORP for a hiking snack, and stretch effectively before rock climbing. Each spread includes infographic-style text groupings that deliver facts in visually appealing information packets. The well-written books end by encouraging readers to find a club to join, where they can try out their new hobby safely while making friends. VERDICT Recommended for general purchase.

Hill, Anne E. Inside the Las Vegas Aces. ISBN 9781728476094.
––––. Inside the Seattle Storm. ISBN 9781728476117.
Sonneborn, Liz. Inside the Brooklyn Nets. ISBN 9781728476070.
Stabler, David. Inside the Boston Celtics. ISBN 9781728476063.
––––. Inside the Golden State Warriors. ISBN 9781728476087.
––––. Inside the Los Angeles Lakers. ISBN 9781728476100.
ea vol: 32p. (Super Sports Teams (Lerner ™ Sports)). Lerner. Jan. 2023. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 4-6 –Readers will get up-close and personal with some successful teams in this high-quality series. Each book begins with a play-by-play of the final few moments of a recent, franchise-defining game before transitioning to the team’s origin story. Amazing moments, described with exciting sports writing, and big superstars, such as Bill Russell and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, demonstrate some of the greatest achievements for the storied squads. After sharing the accomplishments and stats of each team’s most decorated past athletes, the books end with high hopes for the future, name-dropping current dynamic players who hope to create new dynasties. Interesting details fill the well-written and thoroughly researched books with plenty of fodder for reports, such as how the Seattle Storm play their home games in Climate Pledge Arena, the first pro sports venue powered exclusively by wind and solar energy. VERDICT Especially if these teams are in your area, you’ll want these titles handy.

Kortemeier, Todd. Inside the Daytona 500. ISBN 9781503865150.
––––. Inside the NBA Finals. ISBN 9781503865174.
––––. Inside the Olympics. ISBN 9781503865181.
––––. Inside the Super Bowl. ISBN 9781503865198.
––––. Inside the World Cup. ISBN 9781503865167.
––––. Inside the World Series. ISBN 9781503865204.
ea vol: 32p. (Inside Big Events). The Child’s World/Momentum. Jan. 2023. Tr. $34.21.
Gr 4-6 –This series views big events from a variety of perspectives, offering a unique and comprehensive view not often provided in sports nonfiction. The Daytona 500 shares perspectives from the founder, a chief starter, a fan, a driver, and a broadcaster. The NBA Finals view the event through the eyes of LeBron James, coach Steve Kerr, a Laker Girl Cheerleader, Mavs owner Mark Cuban, and a Milwaukee Bucks fan. The Super Bowl includes perspectives from a fan, referee, and coach, as well as from QB Patrick Mahomes and half-time performer The Weeknd. Direct quotes, cited in bibliographies, and excellent writing make this a fantastic resource series for researchers. While the Olympics include measured coverage of female- and male-identifying athletes, The World Cup focuses almost exclusively on the men’s World Cup, which is disappointing as the USWNT is more successful internationally than the ­USMNT. VERDICT Recommended for general ­purchase, despite reservations about the World Cup book.


Upper Middle School to High School

Gitlin, Martin. Ticket to the FIFA World Cup. ISBN 9781668919521.
––––. Ticket to the NBA Finals. ISBN 9781668919569.
––––. Ticket to the Super Bowl. ISBN 9781668919545.
––––. Ticket to the Tennis Grand Slam. ISBN 9781668919514.
––––. Ticket to the Triple Crown. ISBN 9781668919552.
––––. Ticket to the World Series. ISBN 9781668919538.
ea vol: 32p. (The Big Game). 45th Parallel Pr. Jan. 2023. Tr. $32.07.
Gr 4-8 –Athletes put in lifetimes of work to make it to the big games described in this thorough series. While readers will be familiar with the championship games, they will learn the origins as well as the stories of legendary games and players in the NBA Finals, Super Bowl, and World Series. FIFA World Cup and Tennis Grand Slam provide balanced coverage of male-identifying and female-identifying athletes. The unique standout of the series is Triple Crown, as few children follow horse racing. Throughout the narratives, vocabulary terms are highlighted in a different color. Though sometimes they are left to be defined in the glossary, at other times they are defined immediately after first use. Photos of past stars, like Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals, always include small ­additional descriptions of their accomplishments. While the writing is uninspired, the content is comprehensive, making it a suitable resource for researchers. VERDICT Cherry-pick this series.


Of the many series that focus on championship games, the most successful is Inside Big Events (The Child’s World), which pulls in primary sources to create a dynamic, 360° experience. Super Sports Teams (Lerner), an excellent series continuation, will be ­essential additions in those teams’ regions. For readers curious about ways to connect athleticism with nature, Outdoor Adventures and Sports (Lightbox Learning) will be welcome. Its mixture of history with safety and skill-building is almost unmatched in sports nonfiction of late. Sports Illustrated Kids: Game Day! (­Capstone) provides such a unique view of the stadium experience that it helps readers understand that, while the athletes get the glory, the show can’t go on without hundreds and hundreds of other essential workers. While the LeBrons and the Joe Cools earn the highest praise, the technicians and groundskeepers are the unsung heroes. When we all work together, we ball.

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