The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Middle School Sports - December 2007

Selected by Nicole Wilhelm, annotated by Ying Yi Ong

Fiction Books

Auch, MJ. One-Handed Catch. Holt, 2006. Gr. 4-7.
Set in the 1940s, this is a story of how a young boy learns to cope after he loses a hand in an accident involving the meat grinder. Auch writes of his persistence in wanting to play baseball despite his disability, and the odds he overcomes in order to pursue his dream.

Baskin, Nora Raleigh. Basketball (Or Something Like It). HarperCollins, 2005. Gr. 4-7.
The sixth-grade North Bridge basketball team has some talented players, but all face their own problems. Michael and Hank's fathers live vicariously through their achievements, and Nathan's father does not want him to play sports. Anabel, Michael's sister, is overlooked by her parents despite her talents as they focus their attention on their son, and the most talented player Jeremy has been abandoned by his father. While his grandmother is supportive, she does not understand his troubles. Baskin works through each player's problems and while they are solved at the end of the novel, the conclusion leaves more for readers to think about.

Clippinger, Carol. Open Court. Knopf, 2007. Gr. 6-9.
13-year-old Holloway Braxton has been playing tennis for most of her life, and is nationally ranked on the junior circuit. After having been offered a place in the elite Bickford Tennis Academy, she finds herself re-evaluating her commitments and life. Can she be both a regular teenager, as well as a tennis prodigy? This book demonstrates an understanding of the joys associated with the game itself.

Deuker, Carl. Gym Candy. Houghton, 2007. Gr. 7-10.
High-school football player Mick Johnson is determined to succeed at the game, unlike his own father's failed NFL career. He starts by taking vitamin supplements, but eventually goes on to take dosages of steroids. His performance improves, but he suffers 'roid rage, depression and acne. When his secret is discovered, Mick attempts suicide.

Draper, Sharon M. Double Dutch. Atheneum, 2002. Gr. 5-9.
The students who are training for a major double dutch school competition all have their secrets. Delia cannot read, and Randy has been living alone for weeks after his dad took off. Their secrets, however, are soon to be revealed, since Delia has to take a state proficiency test and Randy has run out of money to buy necessities…

Esckilsen, Erik E. The Outside Groove. Lorraine/ Houghton, 2006. Gr. 6-9.
Casey LaPlante is getting tired of being invisible next to her brother, a stock-car hero. Despite her academic and athletic achievements, her parents still pay no attention to her. To try and gain some of her parents' affections, she decides to take to the circuit too. When she is good enough to pose a threat to her brother, Casey's parents forbid her from racing in case she steals the limelight from her brother. This is a journey of self-discovery for Casey as she battles internal conflicts and the desire to win.

Feinstein, John. Vanishing Act. Knopf, 2006. Gr. 5-8.
13-year-old amateur reporters Susan Carol Anderson and Stevie Thomas have been given assignments at the U.S. Open after their impressive credentials at basketball's Final Four event where they uncovered a scandal. Similarly, in this story, they are on the prowl for information after a young Russian tennis star was kidnapped en route to a match. Soon, Stevie begins to suspect Susan Carol's beloved uncle to be involved in the plot…

Feinstein, John. Last Shot: A Final 4 Mystery. Knopf, 2005. Gr. 5-8.
Eighth-graders Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson win the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association 14-and-under writing contest, and are offered a trip to the Final Four. In-between reporting, they overhear a conversation between a dark-suited man and star player Chip Graber from Minnesota State University. Chip is pressured to lose the final game against Duke with threats of a falsified transcript, and Stevie and Susan Carol are determined to save Chip and expose the scandal by doing some sleuthing of their own.

Fitzgerald, Dawn. Soccer Chick Rules. Brodie/ Roaring Brook, 2006. Gr. 5-8.
Tess Munro loves soccer, and when school sports funding hinges on getting enough votes for a tax levy, she works hard towards making it happen. Along the way, readers are treated to seven soccer chick rules dispensed, plenty of soccer action, and an amusing take on middle school life, including an enemy-turned-best-friend saga.

Gratz, Alan. Samurai Shortstop. Dial, 2006. Gr. 7-10.
1890—the Japanese emperor did away with the samurai class, and Toyo watched as his father helped his uncle commit seppuku—a ritual suicide performed by samurais when they are in disgrace. Toyo's father also expresses his desire to do the same, but not before he teaches Toyo the samurai code of bushido that would helped Toyo assist in his suicide. Meanwhile, Toyo has just entered an elite secondary school and has had to endure the hazing by seniors. Eventually, Toyo manages to stand up to them and wins a place on the baseball team. Toyo is able to apply his lessons in bushido to baseball, and helps to instruct his team by merging both modern and ancient techniques.

Haven, Paul. Two Hot Dogs with Everything. Random House, 2006. Gr. 4-7.
Danny Gurkin is the Sluggers most devoted fan, despite its only ever winning the season once in its 108-year history (at the beginning). He is also the most superstitious, dictating what he is to do, wear, and eat (two hotdogs and a variety of toppings) depending on who is in the game. Not content with doing all that, he visits the crumbling mansion of team founder Manchester Boddlebrooks, and is presented by the ancient caretaker with a bubblegum flavor that was never released to the market. Soon after chewing the gum, Danny sees the team's fortunes reverse and he is determined that the gum is responsible for its good-luck. Meanwhile, billionaire Diamond Bob, owner of the rival team Tornadoes, is also certain that Danny holds the key to the Sluggers' luck…

Hicks, Betty.Busted! Brodie/ Roaring Brook, 2004. Gr. 4-7.
Stuart must be the most busted child in school. His widowed mom has rules for everything, and although he did not misbehave, he has already been grounded, and his phone, computer, and video-game privileges taken away. When his mom threatens to make him quit soccer, Stuart decides to take action by setting his mom up with his soccer coach. Their romance takes off, but Stuart suffers unexpected consequences both on and off the soccer field.

Jennings, Patrick. Out Standing in My Field. Scholastic, 2005. Gr. 4-6.
Ty Cutter is named for Ty Cobb, but has none of his talents on the field. While Ty and his teammates are painfully aware of his shortcomings, his father-cum-coach seems oblivious to them, and Ty is forced to play every game. His narration of his experiences to his sister, an excellent player on the team, is told between the play-by-play and Ty eventually comes to term with his own desires right about the time the book ends.

Lipsyte, Robert. Yellow Flag. HarperTeen, 2007. Gr. 8-10.
Kyle Hillebrand gave up driving to pursue his love of the trumpet, and assumed he could get away with minimal censure from his family. He is able to do that, until his elder brother Kris suffers a concussion which puts Kyle back in the wheel. He manages to help the team win a sponsorship, but when a healthy Kris starts trying to get Kyle to stay in driving for good, Kyle has to choose between driving and playing the trumpet.

Lupica, Mike. Travel Team. Philomel, 2004. Gr. 5-8.
Talented Danny Walker has been cut from the seventh-grade basketball school team because he is short. Or at least that's what Coach Ross, the nemesis of Danny's dad, says. Mr. Walker was a very talented basketball player whose career was cut short by an accident. Unwilling to see his son's talents go to waste, Walker brings together a team that eventually takes on their arch rivals in a climatic game.

Murdock, Catherine Gilbert. Dairy Queen. Houghton, 2006. Gr. 7-10.
D. J. Schwenk does everything on her family farm almost single-handedly when her brothers are at football camp and her dad is recovering from surgery. Brian, from a rival football team, is sent by his coach to help out at the farm and learn football strategies from D.J.—she grew up helping her brothers train for football. When D. J. starts training Brian, she realizes that she too, likes football. The summer that D. J. and Brian spend together is a journey of growth for both of them, and Murdock manages to create an environment where a farm girl can be a football player as well as date one.

Murdock, Catherine Gilbert. The Off Season. Houghton, 2007. Gr. 7-10.
This is a sequel to Dairy Queen, and readers notice D. J. Schwenk improving in her career and still dating Brian. However, a plethora of troubles are about to head her way. She notices that Brian wants to make out with her but not be seen with her in public, her farm faces charges of bankruptcy, she has to choose between football and basketball, and her brother Winn has suffered a spinal cord injury during a football game…

Peet, Mal. Keeper. Candlewick, 2005. Gr. 6-10.
When journalist Paul Faustino interviews the world's best goalkeeper El Gato, he expects to be regaled with tales of how his talents developed. While El Gato does that, he also does much more when he relates a tale of growing up in the middle of a jungle, and being coached by a ghostly apparition on a magical clearing to become the greatest goalkeeper ever known.

Reilly, Matthew. Hover Car Racer: Crash Course. Simon, 2005. Gr. 6-9.
14-year-old Jason Chaser and his 12-year-od navigator brother, Bug, have received invitations to the prestigious Race School, where they learn to train for the all-important Sponsor's Event. They soon find out that someone has been sabotaging their hover cars, causing them to rank last in the standings. If they do not find out the culprit soon, they will lose their chance to compete in the Sponsor's Event.

Tulloch, Richard. Weird Stuff. Walker, 2006. Gr. 5-7.
Brian is not much of a soccer player, and less of a writer. One day, however, a strange thing happens—Brian scores a match-winning soccer goal. Shortly after, another strange thing happens after he borrows a pen from his nemesis Nathan. Brian finds himself writing very well, but only in the area of romance! This happens even during a science test he takes, and Brian cannot wait to return the weird pen, until he realizes his crush is more interested in writing than in soccer.

Non-Fiction/ Biography

Bruchac, Joseph. Jim Thorpe: Original All-American. Dial/ Walden Media, 2006. Gr. 6-10.
Bruchac writes a fictionalized autobiography about superstar athlete Jim Thorpe, who participated in baseball, football, the pentathlon and decathlon. He notes Thorpe's accomplishments and defeats, strengths and weaknesses, and also narrates the loss of Thorpe's Olympic medals after he falsely confessed under pressure to playing pro sports without his school's permission. Bruchac provides a good bio of an excellent sportsman.

Lipsyte, Robert. Heroes of Baseball: The Men Who Made It America's Favorite Game. Preiss/ Atheneum, 2006. Gr. 5-8.
Lipsyte presents an overview of what he thinks are America's greatest baseball players. While it includes perennial favorites like "Big Al" Spalding, he also includes others that may seem contentious, like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, which Lipsyte backs up with his own opinions. This book provides a good introduction to baseball and the players who made it America's favorite game.