Nonfiction Monday: Hoop Genius by John Coy
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Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball
By John Coy
Illustrated by Joe Morse
Carolrhoda Books (Lerner)
In Stores March 1, 2013
Often, sports books tend to fall into two categories: up-to-the-second titles about specific teams and players, or greatest of all time-type operations, that cover the records and best players ever. One thing that isn’t very common is a title that shows how a particular sport came to be. With Hoop Genius, that’s what we have. A picture book history of basketball by way of its inventor. It’s a good book to see.
Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Basketball was created not out of a spirit of fun, but one of survival. When young teacher James Naismith took over the rowdiest gym class around, he needed a way to keep the activity high, but with, you know, fewer injuries. Indoor football (not surprisingly) didn’t work. Neither did indoor soccer. Lacrosse? Nope. Naismith recalled the skill games of his youth and decided to invent a sport with no tackling and more accuracy. He got creative. A soccer ball. A peach basket. Before long, basketball was born.
The text is lively and to the point, making the most of the few words on each page. While I sometimes wished for more info (was it a high school or college gym class (it was college)? Where was it located (Springfield, MA)?), it makes for a book that works for even younger readers. While the title suggests it, this isn’t a Naismith biography – the focus is on the sport rather than its inventor.
Cool blues, violets, and greens dominate the illustrations. Morse (Play Ball, Jackie!) toys with proportions, giving the characters a slightly surreal quality. They capture an old-time feel but are crisp and bold, with fine shading.
More personal than a “who, what, when” recap, Hoop Genius puts readers at the birthplace of basketball. Here’s guessing it’s a story that they’ll remember.
Digital review copy from Netgalley.
Be sure to check out these Nonfiction Monday reviews from around the internet:
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Roving Fiddlehead reviews The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery
Great Kid Books reviews Hand in Hand
NC Teacher Stuff reviews Martin Luther King Jr.
The Swimmer Writer reviews Suzanne Collins
Readerbuzz lists her top nonfiction books of 2012
The Nonfiction Detectives review The House That George Built
Books 4 Learning reviews Seeing Symmetry
Supratentorial reviews a few Cybils nonfiction finalists
One Word at a Time reviews Monet Paints a Day
Reads for Keeps reviews BOMB
The Fourth Musketeer reviews A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Abby (the) Librarian reviews A Strange Place to Call Home
Jean Little Library reviews Little White Duck
Perogies and Gyoza reviews BIG
Booktalking#kidlit reviews Here Come the Girl Scouts!
Geo Librarian reviews Brothers at Bat
All About the Books with Janet Squires reviews Collecting Data in Animal Investigations
Story Snug reviews Dig, Dig, Digging
Sonder Books reviews Balloons Over Broadway
Bookends reviews Noah Webster and His Words
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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