(A version of this article first appeared in Kingston Neighbours magazine, March, 2022.)
The Olympics have just finished, youth sports have resumed, and March Madness is well underway, so sports may be a popular topic at home and school these days! Besides the health benefits of playing sports, they also teach kids valuable life lessons like the importance of perseverance, teamwork and sportsmanship. What better way to reinforce those lessons than with some inspiring sports fiction? Here are some of my favourite books and authors!
Jake at Gymnastics, by Rachel Isadora — With its bright pictures, this preschool book captures the exuberance of early gymnastics classes.
The Hockey Sweater, by Roch Carrier — How could I not include this humorous Canadian classic that epitomizes the rivalry between the Leafs and the Canadiens?!
Kid Coach, by Rob Justus — Dad is winning his wrestling matches but losing friends until Kid Coach helps him realize that true champions “make everyone feel like a winner.”
Saturday Is Swimming Day, by Hyewon Yum– A gently told story of one little girl’s journey to overcome her anxiety and learn to swim.
The Stone Thrower, by Jael Ealey Richardson — This colourful book tells the childhood story of the author’s father, Chuck Ealey, a Black quarterback who led the Hamilton Tigercats to a Grey Cup win during his first CFL season in 1972.
Junior Fiction Sports Series
Camp Average series, by Craig Battle — The hilarious attempts to undermine the uber-competitive new camp director at Camp Avalon, nicknamed Camp Average, will have middle schoolers howling with laughter and racing to finish this 3-book series.
Shred Girls series, by Molly Hurford — Bike enthusiast Hurford inspires girls to explore their athleticism on 2 wheels as they follow the BMX, mountain biking and bikepacking adventures of Lindsay, Ali and Jen.
The Zach & Zoe Mysteries series, by Mike Lupica — Follow 8 year-old twins, Zoe and Zach Walker, in this early reader series as they solve sports mysteries from missing good luck charms to damaged lacrosse nets.
Haikyu!! series, by Haruichi Furudate — A fast-paced, 45-volume manga series for teens all about Shoyo Hinata, a boy determined to become the best volleyball player ever.
Popular Sports Authors
Tim Green — A former NFL player, Green has written a number of sports-themed fiction for middle and high schoolers, including the Football Genius and Baseball Great series. He also co-wrote the Baseball Genius series with Derek Jeter, former MLB shortstop.
Mike Lupica — A sports journalist, Lupica has also written dozens of stand-alone and series books about sports for youth, including the Game Changers series, The Batboy, Travel Team, in addition to his Zach & Zoe Mysteries series for younger kids.
Jake Maddox — Although not an actual person but a pseudonym, Jake Maddox has produced hundreds of high-interest sports books geared towards reluctant readers across many different series, including: Jake Maddox Sports Stories, Jake Maddox Girl Sports Stories and Jake Maddox Adventure.
No matter which sports your kids are passionate about, there are inspiring sports stories out there for them. Sports fiction highlights the positive aspects of sports while also helping kids become even more motivated, engaged readers.
- Tim Green Books, https://www.timgreenbooks.com/.
- Mike Lupica Official Website, http://www.mikelupicabooks.com/index.html.
- The Official Website for Haikyu!! Manga – Viz Media, https://www.viz.com/haikyu
- Stone Arch, https://www.capstonepub.com/about-us/our-imprints#stonearchimprint.