March Madness in the Bookshelves

Hello, my name is Tracy and I’m college basketball-obsessed. It’s been three minutes since I watched a men’s NCAA game, and I’m quite sure I’ll sneak away** from this post to check out another. I’d like to say my family is supportive of my attempts at recovery, but they’re not much more functional than me. And in the case of my 16-year-old son, I’d say he’s got it worse. At least I’m not constantly checking scores on my phone.

(Why yes, it is an ancient flip-phone. What’s your point?)

In addition to love-love-loving college basketball, I adore reading. Fortunately, there are lots of books out there for middle-grade readers who enjoy this sport. While I couldn’t find any books aimed at young people on the art and science of bracketology, I did find a broad array of fiction with basketball playing a prominent part in the story.

MASON DIXON: BASKETBALL DISASTERS by Claudia Mills

Tracy’s note: While author says she personally is “not tall, not very coordinated, and has no hustle,” Mills wrote a convincing story about a reluctant basketball player who makes funny observations on his way to becoming a player.

PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL by Nikki Grimes

Tracy’s note: Grimes does a beautiful job writing in verse about what it’s like to be a 12-year-old girl who lives and breathes basketball, and then experiences both physical and emotional changes that affect how she views the boys she used to only see as competitors.

BASKETBALL (OR SOMETHING LIKE IT) by Nora Raleigh Baskin


Tracy’s note: Being the mom of a long-time basketball player, this story, told from the point of view of three sixth-grade boys and one girl, rings absolutely true regarding parental expectations, highs and lows of competition, and the politics of team sports. While this book definitely would hook young readers, I think parents would also enjoy and benefit from these narrators’ insights.

STANFORD WONG FLUNKS BIG-TIME by Lisa Yee  

Tracy’s note: Stanford loves basketball so much he’s willing to be tutored in English by “the world’s biggest nerdball, Millicent Min” so that he can be on the team. I can relate, seeing as I have to get these blurbs evenly spaced before I can get back to my beloved games. Aargh!

THE REAL SLAM DUNK by Charisse K. Richardson

Tracy’s note: This story of 10-year-old Marcus and his twin Mia doesn’t contain basketball action, but instead delivers a message about how it’s okay to dream of being a basketball star as long as you have other dreams, too.

DRAGON ROAD by Laurence Yep

Dragon Road cover

Tracy’s note: I’m interested in reading this book about a 1939 Chinese American basketball team, but stopped when I realized the protagonists are recent high school graduates (the book was shelved in the juvenile section of  my library but is at minimum an upper middle-grade story). If I can find time between games, I’m going to continue reading this.

The NCAA brackets have now been set. I watched Selection Sunday with my two sons as the teams and initial match-ups were announced, and am giddy with anticipation. Happy March Madness, everyone! The first games aren’t until tomorrow so you still have plenty of time to pick up a book. Please add any other basketball-inspired books in the comments and also tournament favorites or predictions.

**I watched the last minutes of the Wisconsin – Indiana game.  Shhh!

Tracy Abell wishes her free throw percentage was higher because, you know, they’re FREE throws. 

10 Responses to March Madness in the Bookshelves

  1. Christin Macaluso

    I love this blog! I am a big college basketball fan. I make a bracket with my friends and watch the games every year. I am a huge IU fan and I would love to see them go all the way, but unfortunately I don’t think they will. As much as I hate Kansas, I think they have a good shot!
    Anyways, I like this blog because I believe that students enjoy reading more when they can relate to something and with March Madness a lot of the boys would enjoy reading books about basketball. However, I have never heard of any of the books listed on this blog.

    Tracy Abell Reply:

    @Christin Macaluso, Welcome, fellow college basketball fan! I hope IU goes a long way and brings you much happiness during the tournament. I haven’t filled out my bracket yet but won’t put Kansas too far along; I think Louisville is much hotter right now, but we shall see.

    As for the books I listed, I purposely wanted to include some that maybe hadn’t gotten exposure before because kids seem to already know about Mike Lupica and Matt Christopher books. However, I hope I didn’t scare off any potential readers!

  2. T. P. Jagger

    Tracy,
    Speaking of free throws. . . . The Million Dollar Shot by Dan Gutman is a fun, basketball-focused middle-grade, too. I could probably think of a few more such books I’ve read, but I still need to fill out my bracket. Gotta go!

    -T. P.

    Tracy Abell Reply:

    @T. P. Jagger, I didn’t come across that Dan Gutman book. I will have to check it out. Good luck with your bracket and may the Madness be with you!

  3. We have a March Madness school reading competition that you might like: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2013/03/school-reading-competition/

    Each class chooses an NCAA team at random and you get extra points depending on how far the team goes but the real points are earned by reading. Minutes count not pages or number of books. Our entire school is reading like crazy during the month of March.

    The Prize? Extra P. E. session!!!

    Tracy Abell Reply:

    @PragmaticMom, That’s an innovative idea, for sure. The picture of the “quietest play date ever” is very cool! My only question is if classes get assigned a team on March 1 and they end up assigned a team that didn’t make it into the tournament, does that affect how much they read? As in, do kids get discouraged because they don’t get extra points from their team doing well? Either way, I think it’s a fun way to promote more reading and P.E time. Thanks much for sharing!

  4. Claudia Mills is has written a bunch of MG books. I took a writing workshop from her. She knows the genre.

    Tracy Abell Reply:

    @Bruce Luck, I agree 100% about Claudia knowing the genre. And she’s not only smart but funny, too!

  5. The only one of these books I’ve read is Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time (along with all of Lisa Yee’s other middle-grade books).

    Mike Lupica wrote about basketball in Travel Team.

    I couldn’t even begin to predict who will win this year!

    Tracy Abell Reply:

    @Joanne Fritz, Stanford Wong is a great read, and I really enjoyed the others, too. I found a couple Mike Lupica and Matt Christopher books related to basketball but didn’t read those yet; my son read and enjoyed some of those when younger.

    I won’t make a prediction yet, and need to get my other work done before I can focus on my bracket! :)