“Batter-Up” for some great sports books! We’re still in baseball season, but now it’s almost football season and with basketball season right around the corner – along with soccer and other team sports. So I’ve collected some outstanding new sports books for readers interested on the subject. (However, these books are so good, kids of all ages and interests will love them!)
Let’s begin with baseball books. My favorite kid’s sports author is John Feinstein. John has written some of the best sports mysteries which includes the sports of the NFL, the U.S. Open and basketball. His newest book for kids is Change-Up: Mystery at the World Series and it has, once again, surpassed my high expectations. Returning protagonists and teen reporters, Stevie and Susan Carol get yet another opportunity to cover a series of games, but this time it’s The World Series. They interview a new pitcher for the series and discover some unusual information about his background. They begin to do some investigative reporting on his background and the more they explore, the larger the mystery becomes. There is much to learn about this mystery as these two are about to discover. What I like best about Feinstein’s mysteries is the way he develops his characters; they come alive and you become part of the whole experience as you read through to the end. And you will want to read this to the very end!
Roy Morelli Steps Up to the Plate, by Thatcher Heldring, will grab you at the beginning and keep you reading until the end. Eighth grader Roy thinks of himself as an elite, cool baseball player who is about to play on the All-Star team. However, his parents have other ideas since he’s let his studies go and now he’s flunking history. So now there’s no All-Star team for the summer, just a tutor and the mediocre recreation league. But, he’s about to learn some very important life skills this summer that will shape his life!
Roberto & Me, by Dan Gutman, is another book in a series by another favorite kid’s author. Young Joe Stoshack goes back in time in an attempt to warn famous Roberto Clemente not to board the humanitarian plane that crashed and killed him back in 1972. Gutman is able to hold the reader with anticipation and excitement, as well as provide teachable moments about donating time and supplies to help the disadvantaged.
Free Baseball, by Sue Corbett, is a look inside the rise of baseball players through the ranks of minor-league baseball. But it’s more a story about a young Cuban boy who comes to America with his mother and hopes to find his major-league baseball father. The sacrifices for love of family come through very strongly. And the Spanish words that are woven nicely in the story can be found in the glossary in the back, along with various baseball terms.
Henry Aaron’s Dream, by Matt Tavares, is an incredible picture book highlighting the life of one of baseball’s best: Hank Aaron. Taveres begins the book with a picture of a chain-link fence and a sign that states “Whites Only”. And so begins the challenges of Aaron to succeed in spite of the bigotry in Alabama. The sepia tones of watercolor, and the wisp of words throughout, might make this book a Caldecott nominee.
After-School Sports Club: Time for T-Ball, by Alyson Heller, and illustrated by Steve Bjorkman, is the perfect beginning reader on a subject of high interest.
Now for some football books, Wild Card, by Riki & Ronde Barber, along with Paul Mantell, is a story about overcoming difficult challenges (like balancing school work and athletics) and succeeding. These two well known NFL twins know how to write a story to keep ages 8 to 11 interested.
Eddie and the Jets, by John Attanas, is about 6th grader Eddie, and how he deals with his buddies on his football team, The Jets, and life in general. It’s about learning how to get along and the storyline is most interesting and enjoyable.
There are some thinnish poster-type magazine books published by Scholastic and backed by the NFL about the players. All are quick yet informative reads: Super Bowl Super Teams, Super Bowl Fireworks, Perfect Passers, Rising Stars, 2010 Playmakers and Game Breakers.
For the basketball lovers, Long Shot, by Chris Paul, and illustrated by Frank Morrison, is one of those picture books that all ages can learn from and enjoy! The author is an NBA All-Star, but is short for professional basketball.
In fact, he was told that he was too short for high school ball. Here is a book that teaches persistence, goal-setting, not giving up and the importance of family. I love it!
Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, by Lisa Yee, is a fiction book about a boy with big expectations on the basketball court. However, problems ensue with school and family that he finds resolution with humorous connotations.
And finally, here is a book for soccer lovers. Goal, by Min Javaherbin, and illustrated by A. G. Ford, takes place in a poor area of South Africa. The boys gathered to play this universal game of soccer play with excitement and joy until some unexpected bullies attempt to take over. This book begs for discussions on bullying, team-work and poverty. But it also opens the conversation of team sports and the joy of games. The oil paintings are magnificent and capture the essence of expression on each face portrayed.
Holly Evans Newton is an award winning reviewer with over 10 years of experience of searching for the best and most appropriate books for kids.