From The Guide: Good Sports Books

The following reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. To find even more good sports books, look to the Guide subject index and the Guide Online fully searchable database. For more information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please visit

Berman, Len The Greatest Moments in Sports
138 pp. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky 2009. ISBN 978-1-4022-2099-9

Gr. 4–6 Sportscaster Berman selects twenty-five athletic accomplishments from sports including baseball, football, hockey, and horse racing as the “greatest moments” in sporting history. Each readable entry, packed with bits of trivia, is enhanced by photographs that heighten interest. An accompanying CD includes replays of live broadcasts of eleven memorable events. The book will have decided appeal for sports lovers.

Gratz, Alan The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings
308 pp. Dial 2009. ISBN 978-0-8037-3224-7

Gr. 4–6 Interlinked short stories set between 1845 and 2002 offer snapshots of nine generations of a New York City family of German Jewish immigrants and their involvement with America’s favorite pastime, baseball. With an impressively cohesive mix of sports, historical fiction, and family history, Gratz has crafted a wonderful baseball book that is more than the sum of its parts.

Koertge, Ron Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs
170 pp. Candlewick 2010. ISBN 978-0-7636-4435-2

YA Writer/first baseman/eighth grader Kevin (Shakespeare Bats Cleanup) takes on more challenging poetic forms as well as romantic complications. Baseball, of course, remains a fixed point, as his team heads to the playoffs. Koertge’s pleasing variety of verse is a seamless fit for his story and characters. Kevin’s ponderings of form and style unobtrusively help inform readers less familiar with poetic technique.

Korman, Gordon Pop
263 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2009. ISBN 978-0-06-174228-6
le isbn 978-0-06-174230-9

YA Sixteen-year-old Marcus is determined to make the football team. He meets Charlie, an older man with an “enthusiasm for smashmouth football,” and soon discovers that his fun-loving but erratic practice partner is an NFL veteran with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Through their unique friendship, Korman realistically presents both the thrill of playing football and the sport’s possible long-term health risks.

Murdock, Catherine Gilbert Front and Center
256 pp. Houghton 2009. ISBN 978-0-618-95982-2

YA Giving up football to focus on basketball, D.J. (Dairy Queen; The Off Season) must decide whether she’s up to playing for a Big Ten school. She also contends with romantic attentions — and conflicting feelings. Murdock imparts with uncommon realism the particulars of farm life, high school relationships, and college decisions, showcasing unexpected dramas of everyday characters making mundane but essential life decisions.

Stewart, Mark and Kennedy, Mike Swish: The Quest for Basketball’s Perfect Shot
64 pp. Millbrook 2009. LE ISBN 978-0-8225-8752-1

Gr. 4–6 This book explores basketball’s shooting stars and the development of hoop shots from the two-handed set shot to the dunk. The text also explains how the twenty-four-second rule transformed a largely defensive sport into a fast-paced, high-scoring offensive game. Especially interesting are chapters highlighting the “weirdest” and longest shots. Excellent color photos of basketball action are well integrated with the text.

Stewart, Mark and Kennedy, Mike Touchdown: The Power and Precision of Football’s Perfect Play
64 pp. Millbrook 2009. LE ISBN 978-0-8225-8751-4

Gr. 4–6 There are lots of facts for fans to play with in this straightforward look at football’s top-scoring play. After a brief history, the book describes spectacular touchdowns, famous footballers who scored with special flair, and unforgettable fumbles and wrong-way runs. The NFL’s record touchdown makers as of 2008 are also listed. Photos appear on almost every page.

Weaver, Will Checkered Flag Cheater
198 pp. Farrar 2010. ISBN 978-0-374-35062-8

YA Trace Bonham (Saturday Night Dirt; Super Stock Rookie) returns as a teen pro Super Stock driver. As his success continues to grow, doubters question its legitimacy, including Trace himself who wonders if his own engine is being juiced. Once again, Weaver’s authentic car talk and sympathetic characters work in tandem, keeping this series moving on the right track.

Williams, Suzanne Morgan Bull Rider
245 pp. McElderry 2009. ISBN 978-1-4169-6130-7

YA Though fourteen-year-old Cam comes from a family of champion bull riders, he prefers skateboarding to rodeo. When his older brother, Ben, returns from Iraq partially paralyzed, Cam picks up the reins to face a bull named Ugly. The book is a well-executed story of a family battling the pain of loss.

Wyshynski, Sue Poser
261 pp. Walker 2010. ISBN 978-0-8027-2063-4
PE ISBN 978-0-8027-2094-8

YA Eager to fit in at her new surfing-crazy California school, clumsy Tallulah is quickly outed as a poser after she lies about her wave-riding skills. Katie, a dorky but talented new friend, eventually helps Tallulah out of “the darkest depths of poser hell” by teaching her how to surf. Plenty of humor, action, and surf lingo help this high school drama stand out.

From the January/February 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
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