Tag Archives: sports

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Robin Barr

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Robin Barr. March 26, 2019. Calkins Creek Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781684371785.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 650.

Set in Philadelphia during the Great Depression, this middle-grade historical novel tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy and his best friend as they attempt to stop a wall from being built at Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, that would block the view of the baseball field from their rooftops.

In 1930s Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola live across the street from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Their families and others on the street make extra money by selling tickets to bleachers on their flat rooftops, which have a perfect view of the field. However, falling ticket sales at the park prompt the manager and park owner to decide to build a wall that will block the view. Jimmy and Lola come up with a variety of ways to prevent the wall from being built, knowing that not only will they miss the view, but their families will be impacted from the loss of income. As Jimmy becomes more and more desperate to save their view, his dubious plans create a rift between him and Lola, and he must work to repair their friendship.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Anti-Polish sentiment

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 13))
Grades 4-7. His whole life, 12-year-old Jimmy Frank has been able to see into Philadelphia’s beloved Shibe Park from his bedroom window. But when the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics fears sales on the rooftop bleachers atop homes like Jimmy’s are cutting into profits, they plan to erect a wall. The Great Depression has already tightened Jimmy’s family’s finances and the so-called “spite wall” is sure to further jeopardize their well-being. Jimmy is willing to do just about anything to stop the Athletics from building the wall, but is his partner in crime, his neighbor and BFF Lola, just as willing? Or is the spite wall also erecting a wall in their friendship? This appealing historical middle-grade novel is perfect for fans of beloved baseball-centered novels like Linda Sue Park’s Keeping Score (2008). Barr knows her baseball history and brings rich detail to mid-1930s Philadelphia. While the plot may follow a predictable arc, sports fanatics will eat up the appended material. A sweet debut about friendship and the love of the game.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2019)
Twelve-year-olds Jimmie and Lola will always be best friends forever. That’s Rule No. 12. Shibe Park’s very short right-field fence is across the street from the flat-roofed houses where they live, allowing them to see all the home games of their beloved Philadelphia Athletics from a unique perspective. Homeowners set up bleachers on the roofs (Rule No. 11), charging a small fee for fans who can’t afford stadium tickets, which provides essential income for the families struggling in the Great Depression. Now Mr. Shibe wants to build a high spite fence to block their view, which will endanger their economic survival. Influenced by his other rules involving responsibility and commitment, Jimmie comes up with several harebrained schemes to stop Mr. Shibe while staying constantly watchful of the Polinski brothers, frightening neighborhood bullies (Rule No. 19). Lola abets him in his schemes, but when the dangers seem to outweigh any benefits, their friendship is nearly destroyed. Barr carefully constructs a well-paced adventure, involving some real events in a very specific time and place, while making Jimmie’s worries about negotiating that world completely accessible to modern readers. All the characters, assumed white, are well-developed, even the real Connie Mack and Jimmie Foxx. Quotes from the 1934 Sporting News that head many chapters further illuminate the actual events. The wall gets built, but friendship endures. Life lessons, baseball, and good friends; it’s all here. (author’s note, photographs, resources) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Jennifer Robin Barr is the author of two how-to books for adults. Goodbye, Mr. Spalding is her debut middle-grade novel. She is drawn to writing about little-known nuggets of history. She lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Her website is jenniferrobinbarr.com.

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Heronie by Mindy McGinnis

Heronie by Mindy McGinnis. March 12, 2019. Katherine Tegen Books, 432 p. ISBN: 9780062847195.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA

A captivating and powerful exploration of the opioid crisis—the deadliest drug epidemic in American history—through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a visceral and necessary novel about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.

But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking, Underage smoking, Accidental death by overdose

 

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Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Senior Mickey Catalan is a talented softball catcher with a bright collegiate future ahead. She’s a little socially awkward, but she’s beginning to navigate romantic relationships while relying on the easy camaraderie with her teammates and her best friend, star pitcher Carolina. Then Mickey and Carolina are both injured in a car accident, and Mickey’s broken hip seriously jeopardizes her athletic future. Determined to play again, Mickey falls into the trap of opiate addiction in a rapid and wholly believable descent. McGinnis begins with a shocking scenario: Mickey wakes to find her fellow-addict friends dead after shooting bad drugs. The rest of the story unfolds in flashback. There’s nothing subtle here—from the double entendre title that sets the tone on—but McGinnis creates fully dimensional characters. Even the drug dealers have complex and interesting back stories. There’s also no romanticized happy ending, just the realistic portrayal of how easy it is to develop an opiate addiction and the very real consequences of addiction. A timely and important message for teens everywhere.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
A compassionate, compelling, and terrifying story about a high school softball player’s addiction to opioids. A promising life can be upended in a minute. One moment star catcher Mickey Catalan, who is assumed white, is living an ordinary life, talking about boys and anticipating a winning season with her best friend, pitcher Carolina Galarza. The next moment her car is upside down in a field, and their promising softball careers are in danger. Mickey’s divorced parents and Carolina’s tightknit Puerto Rican family are rooting for them to recover before the start of the season. After enduring surgeries, they are each given opioid painkillers, yet only Mickey spirals into addiction. From the novel’s opening line, the reader awaits the tragic outcome. What matters are the details—the lying, the stealing, the fear about college scholarships, the pain confronted in the weight room, and the desperate desire to win—because they force the reader to empathize with Mickey’s escalating need. Realistic depictions of heroin abuse abound, and the author includes a trigger warning. The writing is visceral, and following Mickey as she rationalizes about her addiction is educative and frightening. Even more frightening are the descriptive passages that reveal how pleasant the drugs make her feel. By the end, readers understand how heroin can infiltrate even the most promising lives. A cautionary tale that exposes the danger of prescription medications by humanizing one victim of America’s current epidemic. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, a post-apocalyptic survival story set in a world with very little freshwater, has been optioned for film my Stephanie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films. The companion novel, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST was released in 2014. Her Gothic historical thriller, A MADNESS SO DISCREET won the Edgar Award in 2015.

Her website is www.mindymcginnis.com

Teacher Resources

Heroine on Common Sense Media

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Lizzy Legend by Matthew Ross Smith

Lizzy Legend by Matthew Ross Smith. January 8, 2019. Aladdin, 240 p. ISBN: 9781534420243.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.6; Lexile:.

A basketball-loving girl makes a wish to never miss a basket in this charming middle grade novel that pushes girl power to the max!

Lizzy Trudeaux loves basketball. She doesn’t have much by way of money, but she has access to the community court, a worn ball named Ginger, and she practices constantly. After fighting to join the boy’s team at her school, Lizzy is finally given the opportunity to show off her hard-earned skills.

When she answers what she believes is another bill collecting phone call, Lizzy receives a magical wish: the ability to sink every shot. Pure Swish. Now eviscerating the competition in the boy’s league is small potatoes—she has the skills to dominate in the NBA. With the help of her BFF Toby and some viral video action, Lizzy goes all the way to the Philadelphia Bells’ starting lineup, making history and taking names. Then, just as she’s about to go face to face with her hero, the best player on the planet, things begin to fall apart. But Lizzy isn’t a quitter and she’ll play her hardest for the love of the game.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fart shaming

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 4-7. Eighth-grader Lizzy Trudeaux falls asleep beneath a poster of LeBron James every night, and she never dreamed in a million years that she’d ever be able to actually play against him. But when a strange phone call prompts her to make a wish, she’s suddenly trading the blacktop near her home for the bright lights of a real basketball arena. She can’t miss a single shot—not even if she tries. Debut author Smith firmly roots this story of wish fulfillment in the contemporary basketball world, with all of the fast-paced excitement and chance for individual glory. Though tales of fame and fortune all too often pit BFFs against each other, Lizzy’s best bud Toby is instead along for the ride, nearly stealing every scene he’s in with his comic banter. Documentary-style cutaways to interviews with key players, along with short chapters and a balance of well-paced action and heart, give this sports story wide appeal. Hand to the kids who can’t stop arguing over Steph versus LeBron.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
Lizzy Trudeaux is the best basketball player in middle school. Unfortunately, the boys’ coach denies her the chance to play with the boys because coed teams are against the rules. Lizzy and her father live under a mountain of debt and unpaid bills, but she practices on the trash-strewn court near their home every chance she gets. Collections agents call Lizzy daily (they don’t care that she’s only 13), but one odd robocall changes her life: “You have been pre-selected for one free wish.” Rather than hang up, Lizzy blurts out her secret fantasy: never to miss another basketball shot forever. After that, every shot is a “pure swish”—made without touching the net—even from 30 feet with her back turned. Her best friend, Toby, an enterprising “Buddha-shaped black boy,” fast-talks their way into the Mack Center, home of the Philadelphia Bells, where Lizzy shows off her new skills for the coach. Before she knows it, she signs a 10-day contract (she is only 13) and becomes Lizzy Legend. The narrative, broken into four “Quarters,” takes place in the not-too-distant past, with Lizzy narrating engagingly from the present. It’s ludicrous—and a whole lot of fun, with memorable secondary characters filling out the cast. The book subscribes to the white default; aside from Toby, the only people of color seem to be a Sudanese pro ball player and Spike Lee, who has a cameo. Not quite a slam dunk but an enjoyable sports fantasy nonetheless. (Fiction. 8-13)

About the Author

Matthew Ross Smith is an author and writing professor from Philly. His debut novel, Lizzy Legend (Aladdin Books/Simon & Schuster), will be published in early 2019. His second novel is forthcoming in 2020.

When not writing, he’s also the Founder and Executive Director of The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project, a nonprofit that provides free biographers for people with Alzheimer’s.

Her website is matthew-ross-smith.com/books

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Cool Day in the Sun by Sara Biren

Cool Day in the Sun by Sara Biren. March 12, 2019. Amulet Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781419733673.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Holland Delviss wants to be known for her talent as a hockey player, not a hockey player who happens to be a girl. But when her school team is selected to be featured and televised as part of HockeyFest, her status as the only girl on the boys’ team makes her the lead story. Not everyone is thrilled with Holland’s new fame, but there’s one person who fiercely supports her, and it’s the last person she expects (and definitely the last person she should be falling for): her bossy team captain, Wes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 11))
Grades 8-11. Holland has always had to prove she was talented enough to play with the guys. Now, as a member of her high school’s boy’s hockey team, that means giving 100 percent on the ice, and trying to ignore any disapproving comments. Keeping her head in the game wouldn’t be so tough if the cocaptain Wes wasn’t always on her case. But when they bond over a love of ’80s music, she starts considering breaking her “no dating teammates” rule. Biren​’s (The Last Thing You Said, 2017) latest is a fun read that simultaneously puts the reader into the hockey world as an insider and an outsider. Holland and her teammates are introduced in a swirl of nicknames and maneuvers, while her struggle to feel completely at home is explored poignantly. Though what it means to be the girl on a boys team is a constant theme, it’s a last-act gut punch that really puts a spotlight on what female athletes have to deal with. A must-read for anyone who has had to defy expectations.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2019)
It’s not easy being the only girl on the boys’ varsity hockey team. It’s especially difficult when your arrogant team captain calls you a nickname you hate, townspeople are free with their opinions about how you shouldn’t be allowed to play with the boys, and your journalism teacher is riding you hard about the articles you’re producing. Holland isn’t having a great time of it, and when that same arrogant team captain turns out to be the piece that’s been missing in her life—well, love doesn’t exactly make things any easier. Now, in addition to having to prove herself over and over in terms of her hockey skills, she also has to prove that she isn’t getting special favors because she’s dating the captain. A fun romp of a teen romance via an exciting hockey season, this book has all the right ingredients—a spunky, multifaceted main character, a love interest who turns out to be a decent individual, and plenty of internal and external conflict. Some of the lines feel a little timeworn, but overall the plot whips along with verve, driven by fully embodied characters who chase after love like they’re chasing after a puck. The cast presents as white and includes a gay partnership. A teenage love story steamy enough to melt the ice in the rink. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Sara Biren lives just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and their two children. A true Minnesotan, she is a fan of hockey, hotdish, and hanging out at the lake. She enjoys seeing live bands, watching movies with her family, and drinking coffee. Her love of cheese knows no bounds.

Sara is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior, and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Her website is www.sarabiren.com

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Lu by Jason Reynolds

Lu by Jason Reynolds. October 23, 2018. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9781481450249.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 570.

Lu must learn to leave his ego on the sidelines if he wants to finally connect with others in the climax to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning Track series from Jason Reynolds. 

Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that—not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings—no one’s gonna outshine him.

Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way—literally and not-so-literally—and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means.

Expect the unexpected in this final event in Jason Reynold’s award-winning and bestselling Track series.

Sequel to: Sunny

Part of Series: Track (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Marijuana

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 5-8. Lu is the man, the kid, the guy. The one and only. Not only was he a miracle baby but he is albino. He’s special down to his gold chains and diamond earrings, but he feels a little less once-in-a-lifetime when his parents tell him they’re pregnant again. On top of this sobering news, he’s leading the Defenders alongside a cocaptain who isn’t pleased about sharing the title; and he’s training for the 110-meter hurdles, choking at every leap. As the championship approaches, can he prove his uniqueness one final time? As with the prior titles, the final installment in the four-book Track series is uplifting and moving, full of athletic energy and eye-level insight into the inner-city middle-school track-team experience. While it must be said that Lu has the least distinct voice of the four narrators—and given that Reynolds has proven himself to be an absolute master of voice, that is disappointing—this story is not a letdown. Virtually every subplot is a moving moral lesson on integrity, humility, or reconciliation, and Reynolds wraps up his powerful series with a surprising ending, all while scattering rewarding details about Ghost, Patina, and Sunny to let the reader truly revel in this multidimensional world as it comes to a close.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
It is an eventful summer for Lu, the co-captain of the Defenders track team, whose swagger is matched only by his speed. Not only does Lu discover that he is going to be a big brother but he is also preparing for the track championship and competing in a new event—the hurdles. As he soon learns, running hurdles is not just about getting over them, but also about how you perceive them. Lu comes to realize that everyone has hurdles—some are physical (Lu has albinism), some are emotional, some are created by others, and some are self-created. As preparations for the big meet continue, Lu learns a secret about his father that has the potential to upend their close relationship, and he also must face a nemesis from his past. Will Lu clear all his hurdles? In this fourth and final installment of the Track series (Ghost, rev. 11/16; Patina, rev. 11/17; Sunny, rev. 7/18), Reynolds explores redemption and how the people we love and admire the most are not exempt from individual challenges; however, focusing on the bigger picture—family, community, teamwork—helps us to navigate and overcome what gets in our way. Reynolds takes great care in crafting multidimensional characters who face real dilemmas and demonstrate that our shortcomings do not ultimately define who we are. monique harris

About the Author

After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.

His website is www.jasonwritesbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Lu on Common Sense Media

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Lu Publisher Page

Quarterback by John Feinstein

Quarterback: Inside the Most Important Position in the NFL by John Feinstein. November 13, 2018. Doubleday Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780385543033.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A major new book from #1 New York Times bestseller and sports-writing legend John Feinstein, QUARTERBACK dives deep into the most coveted and hallowed position in the NFL – exploring the stories of five top quarterbacks and taking readers inside their unique experiences of playing the position and holding the keys to their multi-billion-dollar teams.

In the mighty National Football League, one player becomes the face of a franchise, one player receives all the accolades and all the blame, and one player’s hand will guide the rise or fall of an entire team’s season – and the dreams of millions of fans. There are thirty-two starting quarterbacks in the NFL on any given Sunday, and their lives are built around pressure, stardom, and incredible talent. Legendary bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein, in his most insightful book yet, shows readers what it’s really like to play the glory position and to live that life – mapping out a journey that runs from college stardom to the NFL draft to taking command of the huddle and marching a team down the field with a nation of fans cheering.

Feinstein builds his profile around five NFL starting quarterbacks – Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Doug Williams. With incredible inside access, we get the full quarterback experience…being drafted #1 overall, pushing through grueling injuries, winning Super Bowls, being named a starter on multiple teams, being the first African American QB to lead a franchise to a title. Feinstein shows us exactly what it’s like in the locker room, huddle, heat of battle, and press conferences, through spectacular moments and embarrassing defeats. He explores the controversies of a league embroiled in questions of substance abuse and racism, TV revenue, corporate greed, and the value placed on player health. And in the end, Feinstein addresses the ways in which each quarterback – some just a year out of college — is handed the keys to a franchise worth billions of dollars, and how each team’s fortunes ride directly on the shoulders of its QB. This is Feinstein’s most fascinating behind-the-scenes book.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Being a starting quarterback in the NFL is arguably the most challenging position in all of professional sports; too much credit for wins, too much blame for losses. In this exploration of what it means to be an NFL quarterback today, Feinstein, New York Times best-selling author of A Good Walk Spoiled​ (1995) and numerous other in-depth analyses of various sports, focuses on five current or former quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Doug Williams, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The five have had very different careers, but, taken together in Feinstein’s telling, they reveal much about the game and the position of quarterback. Smith was a number-one overall draft pick and has had a solid career. Fitzpatrick, a Harvard grad, was almost the last pick in the same draft and has been a journeyman, playing for seven teams since 2006. Flacco won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, and Williams overcame a long-held prejudice against African American quarterbacks to become a Super Bowl MVP. Fitzpatrick’s career, thought the least distinguished, may be the most interesting. He’s been a successful starter, but he also went three seasons without ever getting into a game. As Feinstein relates the five careers, he also touches on the larger, league-wide issues of player health, substance abuse, racism, and, of course, team management, both good and bad. Another must-read from a master of long-form sports journalism.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
A QB–centric look at how football works, on and off the field.Quarterbacks are vital to any gridiron contest. You know that, writes sports journalist and commentator Feinstein (The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup, 2017, etc.), “because there are two people the media must listen to after a game: the head coach and the quarterback.” Quarterbacks usually take their time giving the media their piece of the story, but in the author’s opening vignette, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is quick to get to the microphones following a charged division game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in October 2017. Asked to explain the Ravens’ loss, Flacco said, “I sucked. We sucked as an offense, and I’m the quarterback, so I’m responsible. It’s pretty simple.” Well, yes and no: Some of the QBs Feinstein mentions in this leisurely stroll down the field are a little less quick to fall on their swords, while others are exemplary in many ways. One of the author’s chief subjects, for instance, is Doug Williams, a rarity in his day, the first African-American quarterback to bring home the Super Bowl; if racism figured in the 1970s, it certainly hasn’t gone away in the decades since. Neither has the tendency of some clubs to treat players as cogs in the big moneymaking machine, as with Ryan Fitzpatrick, asked to take a pay cut following a career-best throwing season for the Buffalo Bills, then axed for failures not of his own making—save that he was the captain on the field. “When things go well, everyone loves you,” he tells Feinstein. “When they don’t, people fall out of love in a hurry.” The author ably gets to the heart of the game, and if little of what he writes will come as news to discerning fans, there are some fine set pieces featuring battle-weary players and devious front-office types. A worthy offering for fans of the modern, increasingly embattled game.

About the Author

John Feinstein is the author of more than thirty books, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled. He is also the author of numerous kids mysteries. His first young adult mystery, Last Shot, won the Edgar Allen Poe Award. John also works for The Washington Post, The Golf Channel, Sirius XM Radio, and Comcast Sportsnet.

Her website is jfeinsteinbooks.com.

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Quarterback Publisher Page

The United States of Sports by Bill Syken

The United States of Sports: An Atlas of Teams, Stats, Stars, and Facts for Every State in America by Bill Syken. December 4, 2018. Sports Illustrated Kids, 240 p. ISBN: 9781547800001.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.4.

The United States of Sports takes kids on a first-of-its-kind journey across the U.S. with stops in every state in the union. Super cool maps with unique hand-illustrated icons show where all the great sites can be found, including arenas, stadiums, halls of fame, championship golf clubs, the greatest ski mountains, Olympic cities, and more. Each state’s Greatest Moments and homegrown heroes are pro led, and we wouldn’t forget to run down all the numbers! Championships, pro teams, famous events, and more— spread by spread—it’s the book to pore over this season.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

 

About the Author

After reporting for several newspapers, Bill Syken spent eight years as a staff reporter and editor at Sports Illustrated, where he continues to work as a writer and editor for its books division. He earned a B.A. in English from Columbia University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri. He lives in Philadelphia.

His website is www.billsyken.com

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The United States of Sports on Amazon

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Attucks!: Oscar Robinson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose

Attucks!: Oscar Robinson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose. October 23, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Girou, 212 p. ISBN: 9780374306120.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1110.

The true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indiana, masterfully told by National Book Award winner Phil Hoose.

By winning the state high school basketball championship in 1955, ten teens from an Indianapolis school meant to be the centerpiece of racially segregated education in the state shattered the myth of their inferiority. Their brilliant coach had fashioned an unbeatable team from a group of boys born in the South and raised in poverty. Anchored by the astonishing Oscar Robertson, a future college and NBA star, the Crispus Attucks Tigers went down in history as the first state champions from Indianapolis and the first all-black team in U.S. history to win a racially open championship tournament—an integration they had forced with their on-court prowess.
From native Hoosier and award-winning author Phillip Hoose comes this true story of a team up against impossible odds, making a difference when it mattered most.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Strong language

 

Book Trailer

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Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Anyone who’s seen Hoosiers has an idea how crazy Indianans are about basketball. What it doesn’t hint at, though, is the story Newbery Honor Book author Hoose tells—that not only was Indiana, and its capital, Indianapolis, nuts about b-ball, but that the success of a black high school, built in the 1920s at the instigation of the Ku Klux Klan, would through its hardwood success drive integration in the 1950s in a place known as “the South of the North.” Crispus Attucks High School didn’t even have an adequate gym, nor were they initially allowed to play other public schools, but in the early 1950s, things slowly began to change. The 1954–55 team won the state championship, finally overcoming bad officiating and gaining the respect of the still largely segregated city. As Hoose puts it, “Attucks varsity were becoming activists for racial justice by excelling at something that was dearly prized by whites.” The story of triumph covers personalities as well as history: Oscar Robertson, the NBA basketball great, was the centerpiece of a team led by Ray Crowe, a remarkable coach. Their backgrounds and what drove them are woven into the exciting descriptions of games. Excessively readable, this should appeal to sports fans and those looking for a good book about the civil rights era. Exemplary notes and sources will push readers—adults included—to learn even more.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2018)
Acclaimed author Hoose (The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, 2015, etc.) returns to his home state with the true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indianapolis, anchored by one of the greatest players of all time. Recently honored with the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Oscar Robertson is known for his accomplishments both as an athlete and advocate for NBA players. However, few know the story of how the Naptown basketball savant was able to lead his segregated high school to back-to-back state championships. Hoose does a brilliant job of portraying the surrounding historical context, exploring the migration of black families from the South to Indiana, showing how Jim Crow practices were just as present in the North as in the South, and describing the deep groundswell of support for basketball in Indiana. The inspiration for the book was the Big O himself, who told Hoose that the Ku Klux Klan “did something they couldn’t foresee by making Attucks an all-black school. The city of Indianapolis integrated because we were winning.” Could basketball have served as a pathway to racial progress within the Hoosier state? Attucks! doesn’t pretend that we’ve outlived the racism of the American past, all the while showing readers how being grounded in one’s self-worth and committed to the pursuit of excellence can have a lasting impact on a community. A powerful, awe-inspiring basketball-driven history. (biographies, sources, notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Phillip Hoose is the widely-acclaimed author of books, essays, stories, songs, and articles, including the National Book Award winning book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice.

A graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Hoose has been a staff member of The Nature Conservancy since 1977, dedicated to finding and protecting habitats of endangered species.

A songwriter and performing musician, Phillip Hoose is a founding member of the Children’s Music Network and a member of the band Chipped Enamel. He lives in Portland, Maine.

His website is philliphoose.wordpress.com/

Teacher Resources

Attucks! Educator’s Guide

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Swing by Kwame Alexander

Swing by Kwame Alexander. October 2, 2018. Blink, 448 p. ISBN: 9780310761914.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 610.

Things usually do not go as planned for seventeen-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since third grade, Sam, will never take it past the “best friend” zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool.

To go from lovelorn to ladies’ men, Walt introduces Noah to a relationship guru—his Dairy Queen-employed cousin, Floyd—and the always informative Woohoo Woman Podcast. Noah is reluctant, but decides fate may be intervening when he discovers more than just his mom’s birthday gift at the thrift shop. Inside the vintage Keepall is a gold mine of love letters from the 1960s. Walt is sure these letters and the podcasts are just what Noah needs to communicate his true feelings to Sam. To Noah, the letters are more: an initiation to the curious rhythms of love and jazz, as well as a way for him and Walt to embrace their own kind of cool. While Walt is hitting balls out of the park and catching the eye of the baseball coach, Noah composes anonymous love letters to Sam in an attempt to write his way into her heart. But as things are looking up for Noah and Walt, a chain of events alters everything Noah knows to be true about love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. Alexander (Rebound​, 2018) and Hess (Animal Ark​, 2017) struck gold with their collaboration on Solo ​(2017), and this spiritual successor follows the same free-verse format. While quieter overall than Solo, the quality of the poems and distinct characterization is still there. High-school junior Noah explains, “My best friend / Walt Disney Jones / is obsessed with jazz, / baseball, / dead famous people, / and finding cool, / if it’s the last thing we ever do.” Walt (aka Swing) is Noah’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to winning over his lifelong crush, Sam. Unfortunately, she has Noah firmly in the friend zone. On a serendipitous trip to the thrift store, Noah finds inspirational love letters written by an enigmatic author named Corinthian. With some meddling from Walt, Noah crafts artistic found poems from the love letters and leaves them for Sam to find. Ultimately a nuanced examination of changing friendship dynamics and first loves, this novel packs a punch into its shocking and extremely powerful ending torn straight from today’s headlines.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2018)
Seventeen-year-old Noah struggles with the feelings he has for Sam, a childhood friend, and is encouraged to express himself by an ebullient buddy. Noah and his friend Walt Disney Jones, aka Swing, are linked by a love of baseball. Swing is also obsessed with jazz and tries to make Noah a devotee as well. Along with their various personal dramas—Swing’s new stepfather, the romantic advice Noah is receiving—someone has been planting American flags around town, leaving folks to speculate who and why. At a thrift store, Noah purchases a travel bag as a birthday gift for his mother and inside he finds long-hidden love letters. They encourage him to put his feelings on paper, but Swing forces his hand by anonymously giving his writing to Sam, causing a rift between them. Then, out of nowhere, everything changes, and the innocence of their lives is shattered as their friendship troubles are put into perspective by something far more serious. The free verse tells a story as complex as the classic jazz music woven throughout. Noah is the narrator, but it is Swing, with his humor, irresistible charm, and optimism, who steals the spotlight. All the secondary characters are distinctive and add texture to the narrative. Swing is African-American, while Noah is white. Despite the easy flow of verse, there is a density to this story with its multiple elements. Lively, moving, and heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book; Booked, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

His website is www.kwamealexander.com.

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Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton

Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton. July 17, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 288 p. ISBN: 9781250102324.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

A funny, feminist teen story about knowing when to train . . . and when to fight.

Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously – until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She’s the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting . . . but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction. So she goes back the next week, determined to improve.

Fleur’s overprotective mum can’t abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring, why won’t she join her pilates class instead? Her friends don’t get it either and even her boyfriend, ‘Prince’ George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite – but it’s Fleur’s body, Fleur’s life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training. When she finally makes it into the ring, her friends and family show their support and Fleur realises that sometimes in life it’s better to drop your guard and take a wild swing!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. Fleur’s pretty sure she’s a bad feminist. She doesn’t stand up to people the way her best friend, Blossom, does. She even muted Emma Watson on Twitter. So when one of Blossom’s crusades takes them to a local boxing gym, Fleur surprises everyone, including herself, by signing up for a class. She’s even more surprised when she goes back the next week. She’s the only girl there, it’s the hardest workout she’s ever done in her life, and no one, from her Pilates-preferring mom to her orderly boyfriend, is thrilled that she’s courting concussions and packing on muscle. But for the first time in her life, Fleur feels strong and willing to fight for something. Here Easton offers up a cheeky, girl-centric counterpoint to his acclaimed Boys Don’t Knit (2015). Lighthearted and irreverent, this British import is a feminist sports story rooted in humor. Readers will enjoy watching smart-mouthed Fleur gain confidence as a boxer and as a young woman, and the always-popular underdog sports narrative will attract many readers.

Publishers Weekly Annex (July 16, 2018)
A teen boxer’s dry sense of humor, as well as her quirky friends and small English town, charm in this empowering coming-of-age story. Sixteen-year-old Fleur lacks true passion about most things in her life, but when her best friend, Blossom, a fired-up feminist, enlists her to help with a protest over gender restrictions at a local boxing club, Fleur signs up for a class on a whim and slowly comes to love it. Her stodgy boyfriend, her anxious and protective mother, and even Blossom don’t understand Fleur’s commitment to her new interest, and at times-such as when she’s sweating profusely and nearly puking-Fleur’s not sure about it herself. But as the weeks pass, what started as a lark becomes the most serious thing in Fleur’s life, rippling out across all her relationships, as she trains hard and sets the goal of stepping into the ring for a match. Fleur’s newfound strength, both physical and emotional, and her changing attitude toward herself build to a satisfying final round. Ages 13-up.

About the Author

T. S. Easton is an experienced author of fiction for all ages and has had more than a dozen books published. He has written under a number of different pseudonyms in a variety of genres. Subjects include vampires, pirates, pandemics and teenage agony aunts (not all in the same book). He lives in Surrey with his wife and three children and in his spare time works as a Production Manager for a UK publisher.

His website is www.tomeaston.co.uk

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