Many of this year’s 10 best sports books, reviewed in Booklist between September 1, 2015, through August 2016, tackle
serious challenges off the field as well as on. These should score a
place in every collection. —Julia Smith
All American Boys. By Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. 2015.
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, $17.99 (9781481463331). Gr. 9–12.
Two teenage boys, one black and one white, are inextricably
linked through an act of police brutality. The incident divides their community, and their
basketball team becomes a microcosm of split loyalties.
The Bandit of Barbel Bay. By Sam Bosma. Illus. by the author. 2016. Nobrow, $19.95
(9781910620106). Gr. 6–10.
Mages Mug and Wiz seek to reclaim their stolen treasure in a high-stakes game of
beach volleyball. With dynamic, manga-style artwork, this action-packed graphic novel is a
Booked. By Kwame Alexander. 2016. HMH, $16.99 (9780544570986). Gr. 5–8.
When a ruptured appendix keeps Nick from playing in a soccer tournament, a passionate school librarian takes the boy under his wing. Newbery winner Alexander blends
poetry, humor, and insight into a relatable sports story.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear. By E. K. Johnston. 2016. Dutton, $17.99 (9781101994580).
At an end-of-summer cheerleading camp, Hermione is drugged, raped, and impregnated. Taking cues from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, this fierce and gorgeously drawn
story focuses on living life despite trauma.
Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends. By David Stabler. Illus. by
Doogie Horner. 2015. Quirk, $13.95 (9781594748028). Gr. 3–6.
In this outstanding, cartoon-illustrated collection of sports stories, Stabler examines the
childhoods of 16 athletes who grew up to leave indelible marks on their fields.
Lily and Dunkin. By Donna Gephart. 2016. Delacorte, $16.99 (9780553536744); lib. ed.,
$19.99 (9780553536751). Gr. 5–8.
In this sensitively written friendship tale, transgender Lily and bipolar Dunkin face more
serious challenges than most middle-schoolers, particularly when Dunkin goes off his
medication after making the school basketball team.
Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber. By Sue Macy. Illus. by
C. F. Payne. 2016. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, $17.99 (9781481401203). Gr. 2–4.
This beautifully illustrated and well-researched picture-book biography introduces
sports-journalist Garber as a woman of integrity who followed her passion in the face of
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville. By Pat Zietlow Miller. Illus. by Frank Morrison. 2016.
Chronicle, $16.99 (9781452129365). K–Gr. 2.
Alta, the fastest runner in Clarksville, finds her title challenged moments before Olympian Wilma Rudolph is scheduled to visit her town. Themes of competition and teamwork
emerge against a lively 1960s-era backdrop.
Tumbling. By Caela Carter. 2016. Viking, $17.99 (9780451473004). Gr. 8–11.
Over two extreme days, 12 elite gymnasts compete to make the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. Carter alternates between five diverse girls as they are pushed to their
What a Kick: How a Clutch World Cup Win Propelled Women’s Soccer. By Emma Carlson
Berne. 2016. Capstone/Compass Point, $33.99 (9780756552930). Gr. 6–9.
Part of the Captured Sports History series, this riveting title examines the iconic photo
of Brandi Chastain celebrating her winning goal for the U.S. Women’s National Team in
the 1999 Women’s World Cup championship game.
TOP 10 SPORTS BOOKS FOR YOUTH
action. Speech balloons add bits of comedy
throughout the concisely worded text. The visual simplification of the scenes makes it easier
for viewers to focus on specifics, while the
bold background colors unify sections of the
book. Appearing on purple, the initial spread
introduces the teams, equipment, and rink.
The first period of play, which explains terms
such as face-off, pass, and checked, takes place
on a blue background. On orange, the second
period includes breakaway, goal, and penalty
box, while the third, with a teal background,
looks at offside, hat trick, and overtime. In between periods, a Zamboni smooths the ice
upon a yellow backdrop. With basic information and stand-out visuals, here’s a useful
addition to the popular Sports Illustrated
Kids Rookie Book series. —Carolyn Phelan
Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still.
By Karlin Gray. Illus. by Christine Davenier.
2016. 40p. HMH, $17.99 (9780544319608). 796.44092.
The story of Nadia Comaneci gets a treatment as energetic as the gymnast herself.
Born in a Romanian village, Nadia “couldn’t
sit still.” She skated, rode bikes, and climbed
trees. To harness some of that energy, her
mother signed her up for gymnastic lessons,
where she was spotted by famed coach Bela
Karolyi, who took her under his wing. Was
she good at first? No, but her dedication took
her all the way to the 1976 Olympics. In a
delightful passage, author Gray explains the
gymnastic scoring: 1 (terrible) to 10 (perfect).
Nadia performs an amazing routine, but then
receives a 1—or so it seems. The scoreboard
was only wired to go as high as 9. 9 because no
one had ever before received a perfect score.
Sprightly watercolor illustrations are both
strong and springy, capturing Nadia’s literal
and metaphorical ups and downs as she works
hard, fails, and picks herself up. The book
ends with a now world-famous Nadia heading
home to her village, and a note details her latest triumphs, defection to the U.S., and later
life. —Ilene Cooper
The Art of Holding On and Letting Go.
By Kristin Bartley Lenz.
Sept. 2016. 262p. Elephant Rock, paper, $12.95
(9780996864916). Gr. 8–11.
Cara Jenkins loves the unusual life she lives
with her parents and close family friend,
Uncle Max. While traveling the world so
that the adults can conquer the planet’s
most formidable peaks, Cara has made a
name for herself in the arena of competitive rock climbing. But tragedy strikes on
Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, and Cara is
sent to live in Detroit with grandparents she
barely knows. She struggles to deal with her
bewildering grief and her anger at her parents. Detroit is the last place she expects to
heal, but her transformation is convincingly
handled in this eloquent debut. The novel is