Summer is the season for recreational reading, outdoor activities, fun, sports, and, this year, the Summer Olympics. In The Horn Book Guide, there’s never a shortage of sports-themed books, from high-interest bait for reluctant readers to entertaining diversions for voracious ones. The following sports-books-done-right for upper-elementary and middle-grade readers are all recommended in recent or forthcoming issues of the Guide.
Fitzmaurice, Kathryn A Diamond in the Desert
258 pp. Viking 2012. ISBN 978-0-670-01292-3
Gr. 4–6 In 1942, Japanese American boy Tetsu attempts to find dignity and purpose while living within the humiliating confines of the Gila River Relocation Center. Helping build a baseball field in the inhospitable desert provides some emotional relief; playing the game well further eases his anger. Informed by real-life memories of Gila River’s baseball team members, this novel delves deeply and affectingly into the human condition. Reading list, websites.
Florian, Douglas Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings
32 pp. Harcourt 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-68838-1
Gr. K–3 Fifteen poems (sixteen if you count the back cover) center on a baseball team’s season. Each entry features Florian’s signature wit and brevity: “With greatest greed / I take my lead. / My greatest need / Is speed” (from “Base Stealer”). The poems are set against double-page spreads with summery mixed-media illustrations featuring rubber-limbed baseball players—both male and female.
Freitas, Donna Gold Medal Summer
232 pp. Scholastic/Levine 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-32788-6
Gr. 4–6 Top gymnast Joey loves her sport and can’t understand why her best friend would quit just to have a social life—or why Joey’s older sister quit after winning Nationals, or why their parents find competitions too stressful to watch. A former competitive gymnast, Freitas provides an absorbing look at the challenging but rewarding life of a thirteen-year-old athlete.
Gutman, Dan The Day Roy Riegels Ran the Wrong Way
32 pp. Bloomsbury 2011. ISBN 978-1-59990-494-8
Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Kerry Talbott. A grandfather narrates the true story of Roy Riegels, the football player who ran the wrong way and cost his team the 1929 Rose Bowl championship. Digitally enhanced illustrations reflect the juxtaposition of past and present as Grandpa’s story alternates with an old-time radio announcer’s call of the game. An author’s note reveals how “Wrong-Way Riegels” moved on from his famous mistake.
Lang, Heather Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion
40 pp. Boyds 2012. ISBN 978-1-59078-850-9
Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. From the hardships of her Georgia childhood through the 1948 London Olympics at which she won gold and became a legend, this biography stands out for the lesser-known details it includes (e.g., Coachman’s dance performance aboard the London-bound ship). Cooper’s grainy sepia-hued pastels are striking; endnotes with more about Coachman and the historic 1948 Olympics support the thorough text. Websites. Bib.
Lupica, Mike Game Changers
207 pp. Scholastic 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-44315-9
Gr. 4–6 Talented, tough eleven-year-old Pop Warner football player Ben dreams of being quarterback of his team—but he’s short. As the season wears on and quarterback Shawn (the coach’s son) flounders, Ben proves he’s ultimately the right guy for the position. This story of football, friendship, and learning to be true to oneself is full of satisfying sport