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Nonfiction Monday: Hoop Genius by John Coy

The Nonfiction Monday round-up is right here (see below). If you’d like to be included, share a link in the comments.

Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball
By John Coy
Illustrated by Joe Morse

Carolrhoda Books (Lerner)

ISBN: 9780761366171
Grades 1-4
In Stores March 1, 2013

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

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:

Laura Salas reviews Colors of Insects and Bug Off!

True Tales & A Cherry on Top reviews Monet Paints a Day

Roving Fiddlehead reviews The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery

A Teaching Life reviews Mimi’s Village and Girls Think of Everything

Great Kid Books reviews Hand in Hand

Ms. Yingling reviews Food Dudes and Money Through History

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 scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Thanks for hosting! I have a review copy of Hoop Genius in my digital stack to read this month. John is so talented!

    I’m in with a pairing of bug books, my own Colors of Insects and Jane Yolen’s Bug Off, at http://laurasalas.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/bugs/

  2. Thanks for hosting Nonfiction Monday! And I very much enjoyed your review of Hoop Genius — I can’t wait to read it! At True Tales & A Cherry On Top, I’m featuring Monet Paints A Day by Julie Danneberghttp://jeannewalkerharvey.blogspot.com/2013/01/monet-paints-day.html

  3. Thanks for hosting! I’ve got The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery at http://rovingfiddlehead.com/kidlit/nonfiction-monday-the-price-of-freedom/

  4. Thanks for hosting today, at A Teaching Life, I’m in with reviews of a book about children’s health clinics in Africa and one about wormen inventors:

  5. Hi Travis! This sounds like a winner for our kids! I love the vision of a soccer ball and a peach basket . This week I’m thinking about our school’s celebrations for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day next week. I’m sharing Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Hand in Hand: http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.com/2013/01/hand-in-hand-ten-black-men-who-changed.html
    I’ve found it inspiring and begging to be read aloud. An excellent example of nonfiction for our older students in elementary school or middle school.

    Thanks so much for hosting!

  6. Have one of the Abdo Food Dudes books reviewed, as well as Money Through History at

  7. Thank you for hosting this week! Great timing for the release of this book. It will be good to share during March Madness. At NC Teacher Stuff, I’m featuring a new biography about Martin Luther King, Jr. from National Geographic Kids:


  8. Deb Nance at Readerbuzz says

    Thank you for hosting this week! Here are my favorite nonfiction picture books from 2012.

  9. Thanks for hosting Nonfiction Monday. We’re featuring a review of The House That George Built on the Nonfiction Detectives’ blog today.

    Cathy and Louise

  10. Thanks for the chance to link up. This article from the Books 4 Learning blog is about my picture book Seeing Symmetry:

  11. Hoop Genius looks great! I’ll have to keep a look out for it at our library.

    Thanks for hosting Nonfiction Monday. I have reviews of a few Nonfiction Cybils finalists to share.

  12. Thanks for hosting this week! I’m reviewing Monet Paints A Day at One Word at a Time today.


    Thanks, Carmen

  13. Thanks for hosting! I’d like to chime in with Bomb: the Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon at http://readsforkeeps.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/review-bomb-the-race-to-build-and-steal-the-worlds-most-dangerous-weapon/

  14. Hi, today I’m reviewing a new picture book biography, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, by Jen Bryant. Here’s the link:


  15. Hey, Travis! Thanks for hosting this week! At Abby the Librarian, I’ve got a review of A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ed Young: http://www.abbythelibrarian.com/2013/01/a-strange-place-to-call-home.html

    Have a great Monday!

  16. Thanks for hosting. I have a review of a memoir in graphic novel form, Little White Duck by Na Liu. http://jeanlittlelibrary.blogspot.com/2013/01/nonfiction-monday-little-white-duck.html

  17. Thanks for hosting! I always thought basketball was invented in Canada. I feel cheated by the heritage commercials. Ha!

    My contribution is for the younger readers, called BIG, and it’s about citizenship. http://www.perogiesandgyoza.com/2013/01/big.html

  18. Thanks for hosting this week! Girl Scout cookies are on sale now, so I’m in with Here Come the Girl Scouts! The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette ‘Daisy’ Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure by Shana Corey at Booktalking http://asuen.com/blog/?p=910

  19. Thanks for hosting.
    My selection is “Collecting data in animal investigations” by Diana Noonan.

  20. I have a nonfiction picture book recommendation for toddlers on my blog. Dig, Dig, Digging introduces very small people to different types of vehicles in a really fun way.


  21. Thanks for hosting, Travis! I’ll definitely be checking out this book.

    I’m still catching up on posting my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, so I chose a nonfiction review today, Balloons Over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet: http://sonderbooks.com/blog/?p=12555

  22. Looks great for boys! Pinning it!

  23. I can’t wait to read this book! I live in Lawrence, Kansas home of the University of Kansas were James Naismith coached and help build KU’s basketball program into what it is today. Sending in a request to add this book to our library’s collection right after I type this comment…

    • Rebecca,
      I illustrated Hoop Genius. I gave a Hallmark Symposium lecture at KU a couple of years back, quite an incredible campus. Lawrence was great to visit as well. You will see a nod to the Jayhawks in the final spread.


      • Looking forward to seeing it, Joe! As a KU alumni and Lawrence resident, I can assure you that your book is going to quite popular in my neck of the woods. Especially, around this time of year.