Bats, Balls, Bikes...and Bruises? Sports | Series Made Simple

From the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl to the Final Four and the World Cup, sports inspire us and capture our imaginations. There’s plenty offered in these series to motivate readers.


From the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl to the Final Four and the World Cup, sports inspire us and capture our imaginations. We’re fascinated by the athletes’ stories and their performances. Participation in sports is healthy and builds character, with the added benefit of offering tie-ins to school subjects such as math, history, social studies, and geography. With soccer’s worldwide appeal in mind, for example, teachers can build lessons in history and geography around this summer’s World Cup tournament in Brazil. There’s plenty offered in the series here to motivate readers.

Preschool to Grade 4

PreS-Gr 2 –These well-crafted early readers present a clear introduction to cycling through simple sentences, straightforward vocabulary, and just over 200 words per title. Simple statements are well matched with oversize, colorful photos, which add appeal and support the message that “biking is fun.” Bicycle Basics explores bicycle history, while All Kinds of Bikes introduces a variety different kinds—from touring and racing bikes to BMX and tricycles. Bike Safety offers tips, such as looking both ways before crossing the street and wearing bright colors when cycling. Cheery photos depict family groups, and each book includes resources for further reading.

Kelley, K. C. Atlanta Braves. ISBN 9781 623239732. LC 2013947259.

––––. Boston Red Sox. ISBN 9781623239749. LC 2013947261.

––––. Chicago Cubs. ISBN 9781623239756. LC 2013947262.

––––. New York Yankees. ISBN 9781 623239763. LC 2013947263.

––––. Philadelphia Phillies. ISBN 9781 623239770. LC 2013947264.

––––. St. Louis Cardinals. ISBN 9781 623239794. LC 2013947265.

Monnig, Alex. San Francisco Giants. ISBN 9781623239787. LC 2013947290.

––––. Texas Rangers. ISBN 9781623239800. LC 2013947266.

ea vol: 32p. (Favorite Baseball Teams Series). chron. diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. 2014. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 3-5 –Each team is introduced through a thumbnail sketch of its history including high and low points, home stadium, and best players, though the rigid format hardly does justice to the 100-plus year history of teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cardinals. Mention is made of notable facts, such as the Yankees’ 27 World Series championships, and great players like Ernie Banks (aka “Mr. Cub”), who stayed upbeat despite the Cubs’ lack of winning seasons. Each team’s place within the Major Leagues is explained (“The Philadelphia Phillies are a team in baseball’s National League [NL]”). Text and graphics describe parts of a baseball diamond, and players’ clothing and gear are detailed in colorful photos. All are clearly labeled, but some information (such as “bat” and “team pants”) seems obvious. These books are appealingly designed, but the lack of depth will frustrate fans.

Grades 5 & Up

Basen, Ryan. Injuries in Sports. ISBN 9781624031236. LC 2013946565.

Bowker, Paul. Violence in Sports. ISBN 9781624019449. LC 2013946585.

Hudson, Maryann. Concussions in Sports. ISBN 9781624031205. LC 2013946575.

––––. High-Pressure Youth Sports. ISBN 9781624031229. LC 2013946563.

Khing, Tony. Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports. ISBN 9781624031243. LC 2013946562.

Miller, Tracy. Equality in Sports: Show Racism the Red Card. ISBN 9781624031212. LC 2013946561.

ea vol: 64p. (Issues in Sports Series). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. ABDO. 2014. lib. ed. $22.95.

Gr 5-9 –These books offer balanced treatment of issues taken from the headlines of current sports’ pages. For instance, Injuries opens with a look at Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins’ quarterback who chose to play in a 2013 playoff game despite a serious injury. Griffin’s decision, along with its possible consequences for his career, leads into a larger discussion of athletic injuries. All the titles offer color photos, informative sidebars that do not disrupt the textual flow, discussion questions, a glossary, and online and print resources. Most include excellent examples from a range of sports. While all are well written, the most successful titles are those with a narrow focus, such as Concussions. The books with the broadest focus do not fare as well, such as Violence in Sports and, in particular, Equality in Sports, which considers racism, sexism, and discrimination against differently abled and gay, lesbian, transgender athletes. Overall, these timely and well-crafted titles will be excellent student resources.

Graves, Will. Best MLB Hitters of All Time. ISBN 9781624031144. LC 2013945899.

––––. Best MLB Pitchers of All Time. ISBN 9781624031175. LC 2013945927.

Monnig, Alex. Best MLB Infielders of All Time. ISBN 9781624031151. LC 2013945894.

––––. Best MLB Teams of All Time. ISBN 9781624031182. LC 2013945886.

Smolka, Bo. Best MLB Catchers of All Time. ISBN 9781629681290. LC 2013945888.

––––. Best MLB Outfielders of All Time. ISBN 9781624031168. LC 2013945895.

ea vol: 64p. (Major League Baseball’s Best Ever Series). bibliog. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. ABDO. 2014. lib. ed. $22.95.

Gr 4-7 –These books capitalize on fans’ love of debating the merits of their favorite players and teams. Each introduces 14 players or teams in chronological order, along with brief listings of some honorable mentions. Each player’s career highlights are briefly recounted in two pages of text, supplemented by quotes, photos, and key stats. Players and teams from baseball’s past are featured, along with more recent favorites. (Outfielders, for example, includes Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Ichiro Suzuki.) The comparison helps young fans place their favorites in context, and there are helpful stats and information boxes. Most players profiled are obvious choices: Hitters includes All-Stars Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, among others. This series doesn’t break new ground, and many of its subjects have been featured elsewhere, but the attractive design and ever-popular appeal of this topic will make these titles a hit with fans.

Hoblin, Paul. Rock Crawling: Tearing It Up. ISBN 9781467721196; ISBN 9781467724548. LC 2013019983.

––––. Tractor Pulling: Tearing It Up. ISBN 9781467721233; ISBN 9781467724555. LC 2013022637.

Howell, Brian. Demolition Derby: Tearing It Up. ISBN 9781467721226; ISBN 9781467724500. LC 2013018992.

––––. Monster Trucks: Tearing It Up. ISBN 9781467721202; ISBN 9781467724517. LC 2013020696.

––––. Mud Truck Racing: Tearing It Up. ISBN 9781467721189; ISBN 9781467724524. LC 2013022841.

––––. Rally Car Racing: Tearing It Up. ISBN 9781467721219; ISBN 9781467724531. LC 2013025293.

ea vol: 32p. (Dirt and Destruction Sports Zone Series). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60. ebk. $19.95.

Gr 4-6 –With scenes of soaring, crashing, speeding vehicles, these books’ covers will easily convince young readers to give them a try. The readable prose has plenty to offer as well, with straightforward introductions to each sport. There’s a surprising amount of detail in the simply written text, supplemented by excellent graphics and photos. Each volume offers a spread that clearly labels the main features of each vehicle; for example, paddle tires with deep grooves help mud-encrusted trucks race faster. Readers will learn about rules and strategy, races and venues, as well as the origins of the sport. Anecdotes and quotes enliven the text, with thumbnail sketches of participants ranging from well-known rally car driver Travis Pastrana to George Toone, who is blind but participates in antique tractor events. These well-written books will appeal to a wide audience.

May, Pete. Players. ISBN 9781625881335. LC 2013029093.

––––. Teams. ISBN 9781625881342. LC 2013033517.

ea vol: 32p. (World Cup Expert Series). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Smart Apple Media. 2014. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 4-8 –These informative titles help set the stage for this summer’s upcoming World Cup competition. Teams begins with a succinct explanation of qualities that distinguish sucessful World Cup teams: quality of play, dominance, and leadership of key players. Ten teams are then introduced, starting with Hungary 1954 and ending with the most recent winning team, Spain, in 2010. For each team, the book recounts their World Cup record, key players, and season highlights. Though they were runners-up in 1974, the Netherlands team is included for their innovative “total soccer” style of play. Players focuses on 10 players, including Bobby Moore, Pelé, and Diego Maradona. The books follows a roughly chronological order and end with mention of three “stars of the future,” including Brazil’s Neymar and Colombia’s Radamel Falcao. The overall design, with its use of fact boxes highlighting key information and exciting photos, makes these titles highly readable.

Peters, Gregory N. The Best of College Basketball. ISBN 9781476585215. LC 2013 030187.

––––. Muhammed Ali: Boxing Legend. ISBN 9781476584393. LC 2013030177.

––––. The Negro Leagues. ISBN 9781 476580159. LC 2013030189.

––––. Serena and Venus Williams: Tennis Stars. ISBN 9781476580753. LC 2013030381.

ea vol: 48p. (Sports and Recreation Series). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Trailblazer. 2014. lib. ed. $31.32.

Gr 4-7 –These slim volumes load a lot of detail and information into small packages. Aimed at struggling readers, the books use simple sentences, words defined on the page, and well-chosen pictures to craft succinct overviews. Sidebars add interesting detail, and all offer stats, indexes, glossaries with phonetic pronunciations, and suggestions for further reading. The short, repetitive sentences veer toward choppy at times; nevertheless, these are readable introductions to Ali and the Williams sisters. The titles also touch upon how these athletes overcame discrimination. The Negro Leagues and College Basketball are also well done, though both would benefit from tighter organization. Thumbnail sketches of Negro League stars Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson and college greats like “Pistol Pete” Maravich are welcome; these, however, don’t follow chronological order, making them slightly confusing. Overall, these detail-rich volumes offer solid overviews.

These series match crowd-pleasing topics with the interests and academic needs of young fans. “Issues in Sports” is an excellent resource for report writers, with “taken from the headlines” topics and well-chosen examples supporting balanced discussions. The informative and exhilarating duo of books in “World Cup Expert” will excite fans of the upcoming World Cup championship, while “Dirt and Destruction Sports Zone” pairs crisp graphics and colorful photos with succinct overviews; this series will have a wide audience. “Spokes” offers a simple introduction to bike riding in an appealing picture-book format. Written with struggling readers in mind, “Sports and Recreation” presents a surprising amount of detail in a compact package. These series really hit it out of the park.

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