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Monday, October 7, 2013

Hoop Genius, written by John Coy and illustrated by Joe Morse. Carolrhoda Books, Lerner. 2013. $19.95 ages 7 and up

"Naismith felt like giving up but couldn't. The boys in the class reminded him of how he'd been at their age - energetic, impatient, and eager for something exciting. He needed a totally new game where, to avoid tackling, no running with the ball was allowed. He remembered playing Duck on a Rock as a boy."

Have you ever played Duck on a Rock? I had never heard of it, so I had to do some research to see what I could find out about it. Check this out:

One of the things about buying books that deal with popular-at-the-moment players and teams is that they can too often be out of date too soon, almost as soon as they are published. Players change teams, statistics are ever-changing. In a sports book like Hoop Genius, nothing changes.

It is the well-told tale of how basketball came to be. It is a history book that marks the invention of the game, and offers young readers a chance to see what led James Naismith to devise a brand new sport for the rowdy young men who made up his gym class:

"The students hated the boring exercises and gymnastics they'd been doing over and over. So Naismith decided to try something fun..."

It took a number of failed experiments and a concentrated effort to find an activity that would work with this particular group. Mr. Naismith needed to survive a very trying assignment; of necessity, he worked to design a new game that would hold their attention, inspire their competitive spirit and not lead to injury. It was to be his last experiment! All it took was a soccer ball and two peach baskets, a set of rules and two nine player teams. It worked so well that:

"By 1936, basketball was so popular around the world that it became an Olympic sport."

The story is told without a lot of fanfare, giving the facts in a straightforward manner. By doing this, the author ensures that it is easy to remember exactly what happened. The endpapers are the two pages of the first draft of the rules of the game. Joe Morse (Casey at the Bat, Kids Can Press) has created stellar images that reflect a time in history that is authentic and fully impact the telling.

An author's note and short bibliography add interest and might just encourage young readers to look more closely at the development of the game that is so popular today.


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