Ten winning sports books for kids (ages 5-14)

Whether you play sports with your kids or love watching games together, you’ll have fun sharing these books. You’ll find a balance of nonfiction and fiction and a wide range of sports. One thing I’m noticing is that I haven’t read as many novels with girls playing sports — clearly, that’s a goal for 2019!

Nonfiction

Baseball: Then to Wow! by the editors of Sports Illustrated Kids: Whether it’s looking at changes in equipment or comparing playing styles then and now, this high-interest book provides opportunities for fans to analyze different aspects of the game. Great layout, photographs and illustrations engage kids and help them see the progression of the game over the past 150 years. (ages 7-12)

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Although his athletic skills brought Ernie Barnes success as a professional football player, his true passion was art. He would quickly sketch scenes as he sat on the bench between plays. Barnes pursued his dreams, eventually becoming the official artist for the American Football League. (ages 6-10)

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Micha Archer: In 1966, Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, even though the authorities would not recognize her efforts. Despite the authorities’ rejection, she decides to run alongside the registered racers, determined to prove that the rules were wrong. An inspiring picture book biography of defying the odds. (ages 5-9)

Proud: Living My American Dream, by Ibtihaj Muhammad: U.S. Olympic fencing medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad shares her inspiring memoir, showing how faith, hard work and determination helped her reach her goals. She frankly talks about the many obstacles she faced, yet she comes across as both humble and realistic. She conveys the excitement of winning, and the frustrations and self-doubt she faced. Even though I know nothing about fencing, I couldn’t put this down. Ibtihaj is a true American hero. (ages 10-16)

Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become Stars, by Gregory Zuckerman with Elijah Zuckerman and Gabriel Zuckerman:  Names like Lebron James, Steph Curry, Tim Howard, & Dwyane Wade will pull in young readers. Strong, accessible writing and inspiring stories will keep them reading. Look for the second in this series, focusing on inspiring women in sports. (ages 10-14)

Fiction for young players

Pedro’s Big Goal, by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon (Picture Window / Capstone; ages 5-8; $4.95; 32 pp.). First grader Pedro LOVES playing soccer with his friends and dreams of playing goalie. Will he make it as his team’s goalie, or is he too small? Beginning readers will enjoy this fun, accessible series — perfect for 1st and 2nd graders. (ages 5-8)

The San Francisco Splash, by David A. Kelley, illustrated by Mark Meyers: The Ballpark Mysteries series is great for emerging readers who need short chapter books, and this local story does not disappoint. Cousins Kate and Mike love it when Kate’s sports-reporter mom brings them to a game, and here they start in kayaks out in McCovey Cove trying to catch fly balls. (ages 6-10)

Middle grade & young adult fiction

After the Shot Drops, by Randy Ribay: When high school basketball star “Bunny” Thompson transfers to wealthy private school, where he is one of a handful of black students. Bunny struggles to keep true to himself, stay close to his neighborhood friends, and make new friends at school. Meanwhile, his best friend Nasir struggles with feeling left behind and figuring out what to do when his cousin starts getting into trouble. The conflicts escalate, on the court and off, with an explosive climax. Hand this to fans of The Hate U Give and Ghost(ages 13-18)

Ghost (Track #1), by Jason Reynolds: BOOM! Third time reading this and it still pulls me straight through each time. A 5th grader told me: “I loved how you feel like you’re Ghost. You get mad at someone, then forgive them. It feels like your emotions are building up until Ghost takes the shoes. Then they break when his coach brings him back to the store.” Catch others in this stand-out series: Patina & Sunny. (ages 9-14)

Rebound, by Kwame Alexander: My students clamored to read Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, and this prequel is outstanding, with Chuck Bell–Josh & Jordan’s father–taking center stage. Kwame creates a great cast of characters in Rebound, with Charlie’s family and close friends. I especially love that two of his close friends are girls. CJ is brainy, sassy and sweet. Roxie can play ball better than most of the boys. Full of humor, heart and poetry slam in comics (!!), this novel in verse is really about how we can hold onto hope even though we feel storm-beaten and shattered. (ages 9-14)

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©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books