Tag Archives: sports

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. 

Announcing: The Midgrade Football League!

Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens for winning a football game during last night’s Destiny’s Child reunion concert. I have always admired the Ravens for being the only literary-themed franchise in professional sports, and they get bonus points for picking a dark, 19th-Century poem filled with themes of heartbreak and death.

literary football

Also considered: the Longfellow Waysides and the Miltonian Lost Paradise.

This championship team and its three authorial mascots (ravens named Edgar, Allan, and Poe) have inspired me to imagine a league of our own with names based on works of middle-grade literature. These might include:

Atlantic Division

  • The Connecticut Tesseracts: Named after the four-dimensional constructs in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
  • The Washington Bridges: Named for the titular construction project in Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson.
  • The Mixed-Up Files of New York: Named after this blog (and also From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg).
  • The Mississippi Thunder: Named for a farmhand in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
  • The West Virginia Beagles: Named for the dog in Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

Pacific Division

  • The Seattle Yonders: Named for A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck, and based in a city that’s a long way from Chicago.
  • The California Whipping Boys: Named for the character in The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman.
  • The Green Lake Holes: Named for the products of hard labor found in Holes by Louis Sachar.
  • The Alaska Wolves: Named for the pack encountered in Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.
  • The Seoul Shards: Named after the pottery pieces in Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard.

Have ideas for additional teams? Leave them in the comments!

Greg R. Fishbone is the author of the “Galaxy Games” series of midgrade sports and sci-fi from Tu Books at Lee & Low Books. Visit him at http://gfishbone.com.