Elem. – Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

Bryant, Jen, and Frank Morrison. Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-4197-4108-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 3-6.

“Whenever Elgin played, people stopped what they were doing and watched.” Elgin Baylor had that kind of effect on the game of basketball, but that was not all. As he grew and played, he also learned and watched what was happening in the world around him. He saw civil rights leaders bravely and peacefully standing up (or sitting down) for change. When Elgin finally made the NBA, he was still facing many forms of discrimination, and now it was his turn to act. “Sometimes you have to sit down to stand up.” The lessons from this poetic biographical picture book by the stellar Jen Bryant are sure to land with young sports fans; meanwhile, the stretched artistic oil paintings portray a man that seemed larger than life in an ever changing time. Just watch and see the impact this book could have on your young readers!

THOUGHTS: Elgin Baylor may not be a household name for young fans, but if they stop and discuss it, they will see how the work of LeBron James, Jackie Robinson, and others are intertwined with his leadership and talent. The timeline at the end offers its own intertwined path between civil rights events and Elgin’s career. A very worthy addition to picture book biographies.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

MG – Black Brother, Black Brother

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Black Brother, Black Brother. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 978-0-316-49380-2. 239 p. $16.99. Grades 4-8.

Donte Ellison is a biracial 7th grader at the exclusive Middlefield Prep. Treated unjustly because of his skin color, he is suspended from school for something he did not do. His older brother Trey is beloved at the school, and many wish Donte could be more like his lighter skinned brother. Looking for a place to belong, Donte joins a local youth center where he meets a former Olympic fencer, Arden Jones, who runs the programs for the kids. Donte, who has never been an athlete, starts training with Jones, and soon finds his niche as a fencer. But when Donte and his team have to compete against his school’s team, and the racist captain of the team whose family is the school’s largest donor, Donte has to confront his emotions, his bully, and the racism that surrounds his sport.

THOUGHTS: This book addresses many tough issues in a way that is completely appropriate for middle grade readers.  At times I felt the book did not delve into the topics as much as I would have liked, but I think middle grade readers would not feel the same. Parker Rhodes is becoming a must purchase middle grade author!

Realistic Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

Donte Ellison attends Middlefield Prep and when the book opens, Donte is getting in trouble for something he did not do. Donte is biracial (with one Black parent and one white parent), and he has a brother who is much lighter skinned compared to Donte. Trey has not had nearly as much trouble as Donte has, in dealing with classmates and teachers. Donte decides he wants to learn how to fence, so he can confront one of the bullies, the school’s fencing team captain.

THOUGHTS: This book weaves beautiful storytelling with lessons about racial justice as well as a commentary on the school to prison track that many young Black students face. A must own for every upper elementary through high school collection.

Realistic Fiction          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

MG – World’s Greatest Soccer Players (Series NF)

World’s Greatest Soccer Players. SportsZone, 2020. $20.95. $167.60 for 8. 32 p. Grades 3-8. 

Kortemeier, Todd. Harry Kane. 978-1-532-19062-9.
Decker, Michael. Chicharito. 978-1-532-19061-2.
Kortemeier, Todd. Christian Pulisic. 978-1-532-19067-4.
Nicks, Erin. Cristiano Ronaldo. 978-1-532-19068-1.
Nicks, Erin. Lionel Messi. 978-1-532-19063-6.
Decker, Michael. Luka Modric. 978-1-532-19064-3.
Nicks, Erin. Neymar. 978-1-532-19065-0.
Decker, Michael. Paul Pogba. 978-1-532-19066-7.

This reviewer read Harry Kane in the World’s Greatest Soccer Players series.  This series highlights some of the greatest current players in the world’s most popular game.  Each book in the series tells the story of each player from their childhood through their professional career.  Includes many colorful photos, side bars with even more player information, a glossary, and an index.  Reinforced Library Bound covers.

THOUGHTS: Great addition for a library looking to update their sports biography section with current athletes.

796.33 Soccer          Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

Elem. – History of Sports (Series NF)

Abdo, Kenny. History of Sports. ABDO Books, 2020. $20.00 ea. $120.00 set of 6.  24 p. Grades K-3. 

History of Basketball. 978-1-532-12738-0.
History of Baseball. 
978-1-532-12737-3.

History of Football. 978-1-532-12739-7.
History of Golf. 978-1-532-12740-3.
History of Gymnastics.  978-1-532-12741-0.
History of Soccer 978-1-532-12742-7.

History of Baseball gives a brief history of baseball, from the beginning to current times. The game of baseball is briefly explained; however, it is not an in depth explanation. There is a table of contents, glossary, and an index, as well as a page with a QR code that can be scanned for additional information. There are several full color photos found within the book  to demonstrate the different aspects of baseball that are being discussed.

THOUGHTS: This is a great introductory resource to help students learn how to use nonfiction books. This will definitely help any student who is not familiar with baseball to do research; however, it is extremely simple at times. Overall, this is a nice addition to an elementary nonfiction collection but not necessary.

796 Sports          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

Elem. – Sports Zone Series NF

Sports Zone. Capstone Press. 2020. $20.99 ea. $167.92 set of 8. Grades 3-6.

Chandler, Matt. Boys’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57425-8.
—. Football: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57357-2.
—. Gymnastics: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57358-9.
—. Tae Kwan Do: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57431-9.
Williams, Heather. Basketball: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57356-5.
—. Girls’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57427-2.
—. Hockey: A Guide for Players and Fans 978-1-543-57359-6.
—. Soccer: A Guide for Players and Fans. 978-1-543-57429-6.

Girls’ Lacrosse: A Guide for Players and Fans is an immersive resource filled with a wide variety of lacrosse information, specifically for girls who would want to play this sport. This book contains the history, rules, gear required, strategies, and even additional information on this subject. While there is crossover between boys and girls in this sport in terms of rules and regulations, this book specifically discusses rules and information meant for females who would play this sport. This book is a great resource for those who are interested in learning more about lacrosse!

THOUGHTS: I appreciate the great detail, photographs, captions, and glossary items found within this book. It is very visual and appealing, all the while providing information. This book was well written in discussing how the rules vary between male and female lacrosse, informing the reader that there are many similarities, but there are some differences. A great read for anyone, male or female, who may be interested in this sport.

796.36 WIL          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

YA – We Are the Wildcats

Vivian, Siobhan. We Are the Wildcats. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2020. 978-1-534-43990-0. 352 p. Grades 8 and up. 

The Wildcats are strong, they’re fierce, they’re close, they’re five-time state field hockey champions. Except last year, last year they came in second. Mistakes creeped in and rocked the girls to their very core. Who are they if they aren’t winners? Every year girls must re-try out for the team, even if they’ve made it before. Tryouts are grueling, and Coach is intense, picking only the best of the best. Those who make it are skilled enough to call themselves Wildcats. Traditionally, the night after tryouts, those who make the team participate in a secret midnight ceremony hosted by the captain to receive their varsity jerseys. But this year won’t quite go as planned; this year Coach decides he knows best and the girls end up chasing something they never thought they would. Happening over a 24-hour period, the Wildcats learn what it means to be a team, one that has to stick up for themselves no matter what.

THOUGHTS: We Are the Wildcats is an empowering story about trust, camaraderie, and sportsmanship (or should I say sportswomanship). There are too few truly empowering sports novels for young women, and just like Michigan vs. The Boys this book has forever won a place on my shelf.

Realistic Fiction          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

MG – World’s Greatest Soccer Players (Series Nonfiction)

World’s Greatest Soccer Players. SportsZone, an imprint of Abdo Publishing, 2020. $20.95. $167.60 for 8. 32 p. Grades 3-8. 

Decker, Michael. Chicharito. 978-1-5321-9061-2.
—. Luka Modric. 978-1-5321-9064-3.
—. Paul Pogba. 978-1-5321-9066-7.
Kortemeier, Todd. Harry Kane. 978-1-5321-9062-9.
—. Christian Pulisic. 978-1-5321-9067-4.
Nicks, Erin. Cristiano Ronaldo. 978-1-5321-9068-1.
—. Lionel Messi. 978-1-5321-9063-6.
—. Neymar. 978-1-5321-9065-0.

This reviewer read Harry Kane in the World’s Greatest Soccer Players series. This series highlights some of the greatest current players in the world’s most popular game. Each book in the series tells the story of a player from their childhood through their professional career. Books include many colorful photos, side bars with even more player information, a glossary, and an index. Reinforced Library Bound covers.

THOUGHTS: This series is a great addition for a library looking to update their sports biography section with current athletes. (Title Reviewed: Harry Kane)

796.33 Football (Soccer)                 Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

Elem. – Bike & Trike

Verdick, Elizabeth, and Brian Biggs. Bike & Trike. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-41517-1. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Switching to a “big kid bike” is a rite of passage for children, but what about the emotions that the vehicles go through?? Bike is new and shiny and ready to roll, while still having lots to learn. Trike is trusty and experienced, though a bit beat up and too small. When the two first meet in anthropomorphic fashion, they go through some initial reactions. Then a race challenge brings out further emotions, and eventually a Bike & Trike find mutual respect and come to a satisfying conclusion. Verdick and Biggs have hit on an emotional ride that will have reader’s ready to hop on and enjoy!

THOUGHTS: As a social emotional discussion book, there is plenty to unpack here. However, it is just as useful as an entertaining read for bike lovers. Perhaps my favorite extension would be a writing lesson to imagine what stories the rest of the things in any child’s garage (or basement or closet…) might tell if they could share and grow like Bike & Trike.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

MG – Golden Arm

Deuker, Carl. Golden Arm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. $17.99. 978-0-358-01242-9 . Grades 5-8.

Sixteen-year-old Laz Weathers may be slow, but he sees his future baseball prospects pretty clearly. His solid pitching gets no real training and won’t get noticed in his small, poor district. His own weak academics, his stutter, and his ‘tics’ in response to anxiety don’t do him any favors, either. It’s Laz’s younger half-brother, Alberto, who people respond to, and who will speak up when Laz can’t or won’t. But this summer, Alberto’s father has returned and moved in with their mom in their trailer park, causing initial resentment and adjustment by both boys. Laz convinces Alberto to stick with the scrappy baseball team led by Coach L—, who coaxes and cajoles thirteen youths to join the team, then badgers coaches of established teams to compete. Thanks to Laz’s pitching, they often win, which gets him noticed. Laz learns that his family must move (the trailer park will be razed for a high-rise) and that his district will eliminate baseball for his senior year. This allows Laz to join another team, if they’ll have him. A coach who noticed his “golden arm” will give Laz a chance, but can he leave when Alberto is being drawn into drug dealing? Just when Laz has the perfect chance to shine in a championship game, Laz learns his brother is in serious danger from his drug-abusing friends, and it doesn’t matter if Alberto has used, sold, or not–he’s the immediate target. Laz’s choices show his character and alter everything for his future.

THOUGHTS: Deuker shines with baseball scenes and infuses each interaction with tension and a sense of doom. This is hard to put down and will pull in baseball fans and non-fans (the sports writing is that superb). Readers will root for Laz, even as they see everything stacked against him. When the novel ends, I found myself wondering about a sequel showing Laz’s choices in a tough environment over the next 5-10 years, and how his integrity will be tested. This powerful, timeless novel melds baseball with the pressures of class status, mixes dreams with hard reality, and the result is a first-choice novel not to be missed.

Sports Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Talkin’ Sports (Series Nonfiction)

Talkin’ Sports. The Child’s World, 2020. $20.00 ea. $160 set of 8. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

Buckley, James. Talkin’ Baseball. 978-150383-571-9.
—. Talkin’ Basketball. 978-150383-574-0.
—. Talkin’ Lacrosse. 978-150383-576-4.
—. Talkin’ Motor Sports. 978-150383-577-1.
—. Talkin’ Soccer. 978-150383-573-3.
Gigliotti, Jim. Talkin’ Football. 978-150383-572-6.
—. Talkin’ Golf & Tennis. 978-150383-578-8.
—. Talkin’ Hockey. 978-150383-575-7.

“Play sports? Watch sports? Talk sports!” That’s the tagline for this series highlighting special sports terms, insider phrases, comical or descriptive terms, and player nicknames. Fans of these sports will want to check up on their lingo–historical and modern-day–and add some understanding to their use of it as they go. They may even think of plenty more to add to the mix. For example, “The slugger ripped a frozen rope into the gap and pulled up with a two-bagger.” Baseball translation: “A powerful hitter smashed a line drive (further defined) between two outfielders (further defined) & ran to second base.” These books will cause laughter, and comments such as, “that’s right” or “I didn’t know that was why…” as fans feel a bit more at home watching, playing, and talking sports. For the uninitiated, these books can solidify the lingo.

THOUGHTS: A fun series suitable for upper elementary and middle school. ( Titles reviewed: Talkin’ Baseball and Talkin’ Football.)

796 Sports          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD